Building responsive teams

4 min read
Margaret Kelsey
  •  Jun 17, 2015
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Between the fragmentation of mobile devices, responsive web design, and the dawn of wearables, we’re in the midst of big changes that are fundamentally transforming work roles.

Last week, we hosted a webinar with Nick Schaden, web platform lead at the popular save-it-for-later service, Pocket. Nick explained how to focus your design/dev team on goals (instead of roles) for deeper collaboration and better responsive product development, particularly for multi-device products.

Have some time to dive in? Watch the full recording directly below.

Otherwise, read on for a quick recap.

What makes a team responsive?

A responsive team is well-equipped to handle the multi-device world we live in. Breaking with the traditional mold where the designer hands off their design to the developer, responsive teams collaborate throughout the process.

Coworkers are specialists, but with overlapping skills.Twitter Logo Designers learn how to code in order to understand the limits of their platforms, and developers learn aesthetic and UX skills. Overlapping skills make for better communication.

Because of the changing roles and skills of the team, there’s a need for new communication and collaboration techniques. Nick outlines 2 helpful answers.

1. Standups
A standup is a daily meeting where everyone stands in a circle and answers 3 questions:

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What will you do today?
  3. What impediments are in your way?

This meeting should never run longer than 15 minutes.

Traditional in agile/scrum methodology, standups can be very limited in who participates and how they participate. Nick argues that cross-functional standups can be much more effective, as the meetings become less about roles and more about the goals of the team.

For tips and tricks on how to implement standups in your team and what benefits to expect from them, watch the video recap above.

2. Self assignments

Traditionally, managers give assignments after deciding how to distribute work in a team. With self assignment, management still sets the priorities for a limited time period. Then, they have an open meeting with a smaller team. Management presents priorities, but it’s up to the team to decide which tasks to take on.Twitter Logo

When Nick switched to a self-assignment system, he found that the distribution of work in the team didn’t vary significantly, but the feeling of ownership increased dramatically.

Small adjustments, big gain

None of what Nick suggests requires reinventing the wheel—just a minor adjustment of things you’re probably already doing. You don’t need to change your team’s structure or adopt a drastically different system of work. Just tweak, see if it works, and repeat.Twitter Logo

Both of these collaboration techniques empower workers through the feeling of equality. The benefits are far reaching—and the status boost team members feel can lead to higher levels of autonomy and happiness.

We think Jonathan summed it up pretty nicely:


Collaborate in real time on a digital whiteboard