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Building Winning Teams

A recent NextGen in Business conference on multi-generational organisational cultures had some great speakers with fresh takes on developing high performance teams and cultures.

In 2002 Atlassian was founded in Australia, and now has 2,500 employees across 6 countries. They are renown for their success in the tech sector as well as their unique, innovative and very successful workplace culture. Their three keys to building a best place to work are:

  1. Stress values over culture.
  2. Follow the data and make incremental improvements.
  3. Openness above all else.

Dominic Price, Head of R&D and Work Futurist at Atlassian focused on the latest best practice for leading teams and how the functioning of the team impacts on the culture of an organisation. He had some interesting statistics:


78% of people don’t trust team mates


59% say it’s poor communication
29% say it’s lack of accountability

He provided the example of the decline of Blockbuster movie hire stores and the rise of Netflix, and how quickly the fortunes of both changed between 2004 and 2010. In 2004, Blockbuster was worth close to $6 billion, six short years later it was bankrupt whereas Netflix went from (close to) zero to hero in the same period with a value of $2.2 billion in 2010. Their changing fortunes can be attributed to the agility of the organisations- as Price quoted, “The best way to predict the future is to create it” (Peter Drucker)


Efficiency Model

Price’s view is that we need to be aiming for effective teams rather than efficient teams. The efficiency model used to work but it does not any longer. Essentially, organisations and teams need to be more agile and leaders need to empower individuals and teams to make decisions at the coal-face and to operate with a growth mindset.

Create process and standardisation Provide plays and guardrails
Written centrally and mandated Crowdsourced and shared laterally
Eliminate variability Embrace variability where valuable
Engineered for predictabili Freedom for rhythm & cadence
Focus and measure outputs Focus on outcomes
Command & Control Empowerment
Centralised decision-making Decision-making at the coalface
Large monolith teams Small, nimble teams with high agility
Hierarchy Autonomy
Strong functions and departments Cross functional team


Healthy Project Teams

Price had a great example of the 8 attributes of healthy project teams:

  1. Full-time owner – There is one lead who is accountable for the result of this project. This needs to be someone whose time is at least 80% dedicated to it and who can champion the mission inside and outside of the team.
  2. Balanced team – Roles and responsibilities are clear and agreed upon. The project has people with the right blend of skill set. Acknowledge that team members can change by stage.
  3. Shared understanding – The team has a common understanding of why they’re here, understand the problem or need, are convinced about the idea, confident they have what they need and trust each other.
  4. Value and metrics – It’s clear what success means from a business and user’s perspective and there is a unique value proposition in place for the target users and the business. Success is defined, with a goal, and how success will be measured.
  5. Proof of concept – Some sort of demonstration has been created and tested that demonstrates why this problem needs to be solved and demonstrates its value.
  6. One-pager – The project is summarised in a one-pager and shared with anyone so they understand the purpose of the project and it’s value
  7. Managed dependencies – Clear understanding of complexity, infrastructure involved, risks, resources, effort and timeline. Clear understanding of who we depend on and who depends on us.
  8. Velocity – The team is making incremental progress by shipping concrete iterations to stakeholders (and even better, to production), learning along the way and implementing lessons learned resulting in greater success.

Labs v Factories

Factories Labs
Process driven Idea driven
Old ideas Use data
Status quo Test assumptions
Fear culture Embrace failure
No feedback Get feedback
Command & Control Run experiments

Are your teams operating effectively? Harrison Human ResourcesTM conducts HR Health Checks to help align business strategy with people capacity and capability and workplace culture.

Contact Harrison Human Resources on 1300 001 447.


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