How to improve Team Productivity, Efficiency & Happiness — Part #1 Fixing Team Alignment

Hi there, I’m Sascha, Founder of Questmate 👋😊 For about 10+ years now, I’ve got to build & scale several highly effective product teams while running my own startups, Doctape & Questmate. I’ve also been fortunate enough to learn how to crush executing as a team of teams under the direct guidance and enablement of top-gunning leaders 🏀 like Mike Cannon-Brookes 🧢 and many others.

This blog series is my way of paying it forward, by sharing what I think are the most effective and practical strategies for:

  1. Building highly effective & scalable teams.
  2. Empowering each and every member of your team to do the best and most rewarding work of their lives.

Every step along the way I will also share some of the favourite apps and resources that have helped me and my teams streamline our processes while keeping our focus on what actually matters: delivering high-quality outcomes on ambitiously set goals.

So in case you and your team already know about the existence and purpose of any of the practices I’m bringing up, feel free to scroll directly to the “goodie bags” 🍭🍬🍫 at the end of each section below.

Photo by Aundray Cheam featuring Andrew Wakeling, Mike Cannon-Brookes & myself having a team alignment discussion back in the days at Atlassian. 

Alright then, let’s tune into some awesome music and get started! 🚀

Part #1 - Fixing Team Alignment

Before anything else, you want to ensure that all of your team members are rallying behind the same goals. Only then will they know how to contribute to these goals, and how their work connects with the rest of the team’s work.

To achieve this outcome, you and your team want to get three levels of alignment in place:

Let’s talk about what these things are, what their purpose is, and how you can get them set up together with your team in no time.

1. Define and share your Team’s Mission Statement 👩🏼‍🚀

The very first thing you want to get in place (in case you haven’t yet, of course) is a Mission Statement for your company and/or team.

It all starts with one “simple” question: What change in the world is your team going to make, and how will you achieve it? Or put differently: What’s your purpose? How will your team help others to get “X” done in more efficient, faster, and easier ways?

If you don’t have this figured out and written down somewhere in a way that everyone, from your team members to customers, can see and rally behind it, you’ll have less success trying to help every team member get on the same page 😬

Lucky for you though, this is also where our first goodie bag comes into play…

Goodie bag #1:

The resources above should give you a great starting point in getting your Mission Statement up and running.

And while your Mission Statement should be the very first thing you get in place, you shouldn’t rush it. Also, remember this will inform all the other things you want to get in place below it.

So start today and don’t forget: Make sure to make it clear, but also inspirational, bold, and easy to follow!

2. Set Objectives & Key Results 🎯

Now that got your Mission (& Vision) Statement is in place, it’s all about execution; Ideas are worth nothing without execution. I bet you heard that one before.

So let’s start by setting some ambitious and measurable goals for your team. This is what many teams refer to as OKRs these days. OKRs stands for Objective & Key-Results and is pretty much just that. 

  1. What goals do you and your team want to achieve for the upcoming month?
  2. How will your team determine success?

The key 🔑 is to set outcome-focused goals rather than output-focused goalsOutcome-focused goals are measurableand can be tied much more easily into a higher-level objective like “landing 1000 new paying customers.

“Write n number of blog posts.” vs “Get ranked #1 on Google for keywords xy & z.” (output vs outcome).

When planning your OKRs, I highly recommend distilling things down to a single objective per team, with at most 2-3 key results. When you have a hierarchy of a team of teams, then the objectives should cascade upwards to ultimately support the organization’s singular objective. You can read more about the reasoning behind this in Christina Wodtke’s excellent book on “Radical Focus”.

And that brings us to my favorite tool for getting OKRs in place out of many that I’ve got to use far is Tability!

Screenshot of Tability example OKRs.

The thing that makes Tability stand out from the crowd is how simple it is to pick up. It also scales seamlessly as you go from being a small team to becoming a team of teams over time.

Naturally, that makes Tability a perfect fit for our next Goodie bag, along with a couple of other resources that go into a bit more depth. So here we go…

Goodie bag #2: Set some outcome-focused goals with your Team (OKRs)

If you only have the bandwidth to look at one of the following goodies today, make sure it’s Tability. It’s easy to get started and also comes with some templates for you to start with!

3. Run Daily Team Standups / Check-Ins 🧍🏿‍♂️🧍🏼🧍‍♀️

Now we’ve covered how to achieve high-level (Mission Statement) and mid-level (OKRs) alignment, let’s talk about the best way to ensure alignment on a day-to-day basis for you and your team: Daily Standups.. or simply: Check-Ins!

Before we go deeper on how to actually run them effectively, let me take the opportunity to clear up one of the biggest misconceptions about standups:

Standups are not a reporting tool! Simply sharing all the things you worked on and will work on next has pretty low to no value in itself.

The actual value of standups is the opportunity they provide for everyone to reflect on their work individually, but more importantly, as a team. They empower teams to:

That’s why you often find me referring to standups as what they actually are: reality checks for teams!

Now that we got this out of the way, let me tell you about the quickest way to set up and nail your standups… 🥁

(Disclaimer: Shameless self-promotion ahead! 🙊)

That’s right. Next to many other use-cases we and others are using Questmate for, is using it for organising your daily standups 😎

Goodie bag #3: Schedule daily team reality checks (Daily Stand-ups)

Wrapping up 🌯

That’s it. That’s all there’s to know for you and your team to establish a common view and alignment on everything you’re setting out to achieve.

And yes, you might have noticed by now that I used the words “you and your team” a lot in this post? Well, that’s because nothing in this blog is actually just up to you to figure out, it’s a team effort.

The earlier you start involving the rest of your team in getting all of the above in place (start by sharing this blog post!), the earlier you can work together on getting all the things you might be missing in place, and start crushing execution as a team!