Managing Multiple Dependency Teams
How do you prepare for managing multiple teams across different locations?
It’s an unwritten expectation for many of us that work in larger companies that we will work on projects with multiple dependency teams. Many will also face the challenge of engaging teams based in multiple different countries, and it’s not something that we are inherently prepared for. We often find ourselves in an exciting, but challenging, situation.
I found myself in this exact position recently. Our scenario is possibly a common one that many PMs working in a large business will find themselves in: a high-value feature is being delivered by our team in conjunction with two other dependent teams working on additional SDK components. We are all pulling in the same direction and have the same goal; however each team works independently, with their own processes and systems, as well as being based across multiple different countries and time zones.
Some things that I have found useful when working with teams from other parts of the business and countries include:
Limiting communication channels
This might sound counterintuitive when working with teams remotely, but it is very easy for the number of different chats and separate conversations to grow slowly over time. Each new bug or problem that is raised often warrants a new chat being created and before you know it, you have a list of defunct conversations that make no sense.
Keeping organised channels not only keeps your inbox tidier, it also helps ensure that all the relevant people are involved in any decision-making conversations. Which ties nicely into the second piece of advice…
Double checking relevant people are involved
When different teams are all working on different parts of the same project, the amount of inter-dependency can be incredible. It’s easy to fall into the trap of having a conversation and assuming it only impacts the people involved in the conversation; however, it’s crucial that you loop relevant representatives from each team into conversations to ensure there’s no hidden dependency or knock-on effect.
While no one wants to be that person who CCs the entire world into their conversation, it is important that everyone across the teams knows when updates are happening. Remember: most people would rather have the minor inconvenience of being involved in a conversation that eventually leads to no work for them, than be excluded from a conversation that eventually leads to a previously undisclosed requirement.
Introducing shared resources
When teams work with different processes and systems, it’s easy to assume there’s no crossover. Even though it is a bit of a chore, taking some time to understand what can be shared and what applications can be linked will help massively in the long run. Don’t just assume that the current ways of working are there for a reason - often it’s just that no one has taken the time to investigate.
On our end, we found that a shared Jira board (shout out to our ADL Beth for the implementation!) led to increased productivity and communication. It’s a simple addition that means there is one source of truth, perfect for navigating the endless chats highlighted earlier in the article.
Always be considerate
Despite working for the same business, teams will often have different working practices and cultures. This might seem like a basic piece of advice, but ensuring you adhere and respect the agreed practices of each team is crucial, especially as pressure mounts.
Respecting time zones when it comes to break periods and end of the working day, avoiding last-minute requests, even ensuring communication is clear and concise for team members for whom English is a second language - these are all small but vital things to keep in mind.
Another aspect to take into consideration when leading across multiple teams is to avoid showing favouritism. When managing across different teams, remain pragmatic and democratic in how you manage processes and communication, so that no one team feels as if it is making more sacrifice than others when pulling in the same direction.
Remember: Thread the needle between ‘organisation’ and ‘micro-management’
It’s crucial to the project that you remain on top of communication and keep everyone organised, motivated and pulling in the same direction. Equally important, however, is to ensure you avoid falling into the ‘micro-management’ realm.
Offer suggestions, improvements and ideas, but try not to dictate. Give options and empower those around you to make decisions. Always remember: you are making improvements on behalf of everyone, not just yourself or the team closest to you.
Do you find yourself working across different teams in high-pressure situations? What do you do to help ensure efficiency?
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