Team Building – Winning & Losing As A Team

This part of the Summer of Culture blog series


There have been written a lot of books about team building and the psychology behind this. There are a lot of courses, seminars, talks about this complex topic and I don’t think this post can explain all of it. I just want to share some tips for teams and team leaders what to look after, how to measure happiness, to think about recognizing the achievements & how important it is to manage a crisis.

Special days

Companies are often celebrating their wins with an annual party, a summer party with the family or a christmas party. These are great to get to know some private stuff about your colleagues. Also doing something special day with the team like river rafting or climbing are good exercises for getting to know your team mates in different situations. It helps us for our daily work to know the strengths and weaknesses of the people we’re collaborating with. It also makes us happier because our work get recognized and we are getting out the daily routine.

Sunny days

As agile software developers we are doing a retrospective after each sprint. We’re looking back to talk about what went wrong, what went good and how we want to fix the wrong parts in the future. Then off to the next sprint. STOP. We should celebrate! I loved the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when I was young. Ferris is taking a day off from school and having fun. The most famous quote from the movie is this:
“Life moves pretty fast; if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it!”
origin_53506972This is it. When we’ve finished a bigger feature (maybe after a few sprints), when we successfully migrated the database or when we redesigned our app: We should stop, and celebrate. Maybe people just bring some cake with them and meet with the stakeholders for 2 hours. You could also do an offside or invite the team for an evening in the pub. In the times of continuous delivery we tend to forget these things.

kudosBut also care about the small things; when people did something great like fixing that annoying 3 year old problem with the database connection or giving a presentation about a book they read the last vacation about Design Thinking. At Atlassian each employee can give Kudos to others without permission from their manager. You just fill out a ticket, give the reason why someone should get Kudos and pick a present like cinema tickets, amazon gift card or a bottle of wine. The rest is organized by our HR team. It’s a great and simple way to recognize and thank people for being awesome.

Rainy days

Sometimes we fuck things up. We deploy the newest version and our 400 users can’t login anymore or some services stop working and we can’t find out why. If you’re a developer you probably went through this. If it’s a real crisis and there is a lot of pressure on you to fix this as fast as possible it’s good to stop the current sprint, get everyone at a table and divide the work. Don’t point with fingers on people like: “It’s the performance team that fucked it up, so they need to fix it”. Be not only transparent to your users but also to other teams. Give daily status reports so everyone in the organization or department knows that you and your team is working 100% on fixing the problem.

After rain there will be sunshine again. If you went through a crisis and handled it well, your team will be much stronger afterwards, knowing that they can deal with problems without letting each other down.

Is it sunny or rainy?

We can tell the weather by looking out of the window. But it is extremely hard to tell if your team is happy. You can not look inside of everyone & it’s hard to recognize slow trends. We wanted to create an easy anonymous way to measure the happiness of the team.

MoodApp_Screen1In an Atlassian ShipIt day we developed an iPad app where people can express their current mood. You can do statistics and see how happy your team is in total and react if the mood is going down like talk to them & fix things before these grow into real big problems. Now iPads showing this app are at every exit in the Atlassian office asking “How do you feel today?’ or ‘Was it a productive day?’ or something else. Just one question!

We win as a team & we lose as a team!

We know as a team we will have sunny days as well as rainy days. No surprise. We just have to be sensitive to recognize them so they don’t get covered under the daily work and people get frustrated that their work don’t get recognized or they’re  putting out fires without help from other teams or team members.

Photo credit: simonech via photopin cc

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