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Collaborate and communicate

When building and shipping, it’s important to balance the input coming from the various subject matter experts on your team. Your teammates need to be heard, and you need their expertise. You will balance their voices and use that perspective to find a path that minimizes technical and design debt. When you have a clear idea how to proceed, make sure the team understands why. If there are gray areas, embrace them and leverage the team’s expertise to get through them. The team should always know where they are going and understand why any trade-offs are being made. You should not hide trade-offs or tough decisions from your teammates, even when there is no direct action for them to take.

Considerations: What it looks like when this is done well

  • The project team and key stakeholders understand the state of the project at all times.

  • The project team and key stakeholders understand the iterative, incremental, and user-centric approach.

  • The project team and key stakeholders have a shared understanding of high quality work (using design principles, accessibility standards, etc.) and holds the work to these standards.

  • The project team and key stakeholders have a shared understanding of where, when, and how to communicate with each other.

  • Key stakeholders know how they can contribute to the project as well as how to effectively give feedback to the project team.

Activities: How to get there

  • Align on timeline expectations, avoiding hard deadlines/milestones while holding the team accountable to a delivery cadence and progress towards an objective.

  • Establish and schedule recurring core ceremonies/meetings and make sure the team understands the value of such meetings and is participating in them.

  • Send a concise Shipping Update/Newsletter to all team members and stakeholders to communicate regular delivery and progress, as well as notable dependencies and risks.

  • Document a “Definition of Done” with your team to articulate baseline acceptance criteria and ways of working together that will be true for all functionality you build.

  • Define, document, and validate team best practices—including unit tests, integration tests, and functional tests—at every sprint.

  • Regularly reflect/retro on what’s working well and how the team can improve.

  • Demo completed work to stakeholders after every sprint to solicit their feedback.

  • Create 1:1 space to surface sensitive objections or confusion.

  • Share kudos often and openly.

Incorporation: What to do next

  • Proactively look for signs of team or stakeholder misalignment and work to remedy the situation.

  • Coach the partner to gradually take over more team management and communication responsibilities.

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18F Product Guide is a product of GSA’s Technology Transformation Services, and is managed by 18F.

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