Moving to Hybrid Teams

The day is coming where parts of my team will be returning to the office. However, the days of expecting everyone to be in seat 5 days a week are probably over for a while and the definite reality of hybrid teams is something we need to prepare for.

Hybrid teams have members working in very differing situations, with differing levels of autonomy, ability to socialize and access to the team leader. It will be a key activity to ensure that all team members are treated equally and fairly, regardless of their work arrangement, moving forward. Especially since everyone will be dealing with vulnerabilities, both those back in the office and those remote partially or fully.

Here are some key steps I am planning for, based on advice from this Forbes article.

Relaunching the Team with a Kickoff: As a leader who started remotely almost a year ago, I feel an acute need to meet my team in person and celebrate with them. This will also be an opportunity to kickoff this new chapter in the team’s life.

Level the Playing Field: Ensuring everyone has equal access to me will be key. Team meetings will be fully remote, with on-site folks logging in from their desks. I’m keeping a calendar to track how much face-to-face I get with people and I’ll be looking for opportunities to connect in multiple ways.

Over-communicate: I’ll be honest, I am a little tired from the volume of communication is going on now, but going hybrid means I will need to double-down on my efforts here. I’ll be keeping my consistency meetings, my team meetings, my skip-levels, the over sharing of things I find interesting. I’ll also be looking for ways to recharge myself so the exhaustion level feels a little less.

Understand the individual work styles: It is time to update the communication charter.

Establish New Hybrid Team Rituals and Norms: Learn from what has gone right and create some new rituals. I will be looking for some real innovation from the team here.

Deliberate inclusivity will be critical as we enter this new phase. Planning now as we get ready will lead to better results. Now is the time to start updating your team ground rules.

Here is my current agenda for the team kickoff, developed using SessionLab.

ActivityDescription
Breakfast 
IntroductionReview Agenda
9 Dimensions Team Building Activity9 Dimensions is a powerful activity designed to build relationships and trust among team members.

There are 2 variations of this icebreaker. The first version is for teams who want to get to know each other better. The second version is for teams who want to explore how they are working together as a team.
Break 
Team Self-AssessmentThis is a structured process designed for teams to explore the way they work together. The tight structure supports team members to be open and honest in their assessment. After reflecting as individuals, the team builds a collective map which can serve as the basis for further discussions and actions. The assessment is based around 6 dimensions. Each one encouraging the team to reflect and analyze a different and crucial element of their behavior.
Lunch 
SpyA simple game that will have everyone running within minutes. Very effective to fight the “after-lunch” dip.
Engineering Your Team OSThis is designed to work as a standalone workshop or as a companion to the Team Self-Assessment tool. Using reflections and insights on your working process, your team will ‘update’ its operating system by making deliberate choices about how to work together. The goal is gradual development, not a radical shift. You will design an ideal-state for your team and slowly work towards that.
Break 
3 Action StepsThis is a small-scale strategic planning session that helps groups and individuals to take action toward a desired change. It is often used at the end of a workshop or program. The group discusses and agrees on a vision, then creates some action steps that will lead them towards that vision. The scope of the challenge is also defined, through discussion of the helpful and harmful factors influencing the group.
Review Action ItemsEnsure actions are assigned and trackable
Dinner 

Team Feedback

Research on feedback in teams recognizes the importance of continuous reflection and feedback mechanisms to team success and generally finds that the feedback process is an ongoing dynamic system of performance management rather than an isolated event. Feedback is critical to teams learning.

Four characteristics make feedback effective:

  • Type of feedback: Feedback can describe performance or processes behaviors. Performance feedback contains information about individual or team performance to reinforce good performance or repair poor performance by identifying areas for improvement. Process feedback is information regarding the way one performed a task and did or did not reach expected results.
  • Feedback level: Feedback can target the team as a whole (i.e., team-level feedback), individual team members (i.e., individual-level feedback), or both. In the latter, team members receive information about how the team behaves as a whole along with information about their individual contribution.
  • Feedback valence: The positive or negative evaluation of one’s performance in relation to the goal or standard. In teams, potential benefits of negative feedback might be explained by the activation of goal-striving iterative cycles.
  • Feedback source: Objective (e.g., a measure of delay of delivery) or subjective (i.e., opinion of a source). Feedback-subjective sources can be classified as (a) sources from outside the team (e.g., manager, researcher, expert, and customers) and (b) sources from inside the team (e.g., the team leader debriefing about the feedback or team members who give feedback to each other).

Feedback quality is determined by how specific, well timed, regular, non-threatening, shared, directed at teams it targets, and fairly distributed among team members the feedback is. When feedback meets these criteria, it has been found to be most effective.

Most feedback models state that feedback can only be powerful when individuals attend to and perceive this feedback as being relevant, meaningful, and useful. Conversely, if team members perceive feedback as being unrelated to actual performance, irrelevant, or inaccurate, or do not pay attention to cues presented in the feedback, they are likely to disregard, discount, or reject this feedback. If feedback perception is favorable for team members, and if individual perceptions are externalized in the team and shared among team mem-bers (i.e., team perception), teams as a whole will likely engage in interactions during which they will collectively make sense of the feedback and plan changes accordingly.

We live in the age of culturally heterogeneous teams, defined as two or more individuals from different cultural backgrounds who pursue a common goal, work on interdependent tasks, require social interaction, share responsibility for a team product, and have clear differentiated responsibilities and roles. Teams with members from various cultures can provide a broader range of perspectives, task-related knowledge, abilities, and skills. However, culturally related individual differences in social behavior, communication, and cognition can greatly increase the complexity of intra-team dynamics.

Indirect Accountability

The kind of accountability most of us are familiar with is direct accountability: a role is assigned a task and is directly accountable for their result. The role understands the quality, quantity, timeframe, and resource constraints of the deliverable and has the authority to implement plans to achieve it. When completing a RACI this is what we mean by accountability.

Ideally, the individual with direct accountability has the context to understand the limits in which they must work and sufficient knowledge about all of the factors that must be considered to make good decisions. However, that’s not always the case, and for this reason, organizations need to establish lateral roles of indirect accountability to ensure these factors are brought to the attention of the role with direct accountability.

Indirect roles are responsible for initiating action toward directly accountable roles. Indirect roles may be responsible for:

  • Informing: being aware of the factors surrounding the direct and initiating contact to offer advice and recommendations.
  • Persuading: persuading the direct to adjust their actions when there is a risk of undermining process control or when multiple roles fail to work together effectively.
  • Instructing: ordering the direct to stop when working outside of limits and/or take prescribed action to mitigate a catastrophic event.
  • Responding: Provide the direct service and support

Often these indirects are accountable in a supporting process.

Whiteboards as Artifacts

In “An Ode to the Whiteboard, Corporate America’s Least Appreciated Office Tool” Rob Walker says “And even for more workaday whiteboards, there’s an additional factor that the pandemic era has actually underscored: the value and appeal of whiteboarding as an analog, tactile experience.”

He then goes on to compare the whiteboard to a campfire, a gathering place that drives collaboration and creativity.

Whiteboards are a great visual artifact of quality culture.

Whiteboard are shared spaces for problem-solving and innovation.

They form an important part of visual management.

Share your thoughts on whiteboards in the comments!

Team Ground Rules

All teams need ground rules. Ground rules, the agreed behaviors of the team, should be short, sharp, unambiguous, and unanimous. The best ground rules follow the goldilocks-principle – they exist but are not unrealistic.

Ground rules are worthless unless implemented. A light set of ground rules which have been fully implemented is always better than a heavy set of ground rules not implemented or observed.

This means that any violations must be dealt with early on, or else the ground rules are not worth the paper they are written on.