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Pattern for staying connected with your team at work

Use daily updates as a tool for staying on top of what your people are doing and thinking. Daily updates are brief descriptions of what the person did that day, what they are planning to do the next day, their problems, their questions, and their observations. They typically take about five minutes to write and do wonders for staying in touch.

I wrote about the concept of a Pattern Language in: A Pattern Language for Effective Thinking. If you are not familiar with the concept of a Pattern Language I suggest you check out that post. It will provide you with valuable background about patterns and how a pattern language works. It's only a 5 minute read.

2x2x2 is a simple workplace collaboration pattern that I am using with my direct reports. I will present the pattern using the template introduced in the post referenced above.

For now this pattern stands on its own, it is not yet part of a pattern language. I am not even sure it will have a place in the emerging pattern language for effective thinking, even though one could argue that effective communication and collaboration is a crucial enabler of thinking as well. Thinking should not be defined as a solitary activity. Collaborative thinking is powerful and most certainly cannot take place without effective communication.


Name

2x2x2

Aliases

None

Context

You are leading a team of direct reports. People on your team are working on multiple parallel topics with some level of overlap and/or interdependency across the portfolio. 

You are looking for an efficient way to ensure that everyone on the team (including yourself) stay in sync with each other on key topics and challenges. You want to foster an environment where people can identify integration needs between each other's work and can spot opportunities to proactively support each other. As the leader of the group you would also like to get a good understanding of team progress and challenges without burdening yourself or the team with too much administration. This is especially difficult with a virtual team, but can be a challenge even if the whole team is co-located.

Forces

  • Everyone is super busy.
  • It is just too easy to get out of synch with each other, not knowing who is working on what. This can lead to rework, conflicting solutions, misaligned decisions, and could even impact morale and team output.
  • People are already overwhelmed with information. They don't have the time to read/write long status updates.
  • It is difficult to find the balance between "wasting all our time in meetings and status updates" and not sharing enough with each other.
  • Traditional weekly status reports are bulky, take a long time to prepare, and often end up in the drawer.

Problem

What is an efficient and effective way to stay connected with each other on the team when everyone is busy with their own priorities?

Solution 

Adopt the practice of weekly 2x2x2's preferably sent on Friday (or the last working day of the week). 2x2x2 messages are succinct weekly updates about the top 2x achievements, disappointments, and concerns / challenges experienced by members of the team.

On Friday each person - including the manager of the team - is to send a message (an email or else based on the platform of choice, e.g. Yammer, Slack, etc.) to all other team members containing 6 short bullet points. Each bullet point should be one, maximum two sentences long, should specifically identify the result achieved, the blocker encountered, and the risk or concern perceived. Statements should be authored with enough detail for the less informed team members to understand, but should avoid being too verbose as that will be burdensome for the others to read.

Engage in conversation around the 2x2x2 emails. As the leader of the team demonstrate desired behaviors by regularly responding to your team with reflections on their 2x2x2. Avoid Reply to All unless the response is meant to inform everyone. Put relevant people into contact with each other triggered by the 2x2x2. Promote the practice that team members read and reflect on each other's 2x2x2's. Provide regular feedback about the quality of the 2x2x2 messages. Are they focused enough? Are they too long or too short? Are statements outcome oriented? Are the bullet points relevant?

Resulting Context

2x2x2's offer an excellent light-touch approach to staying in touch within the team. They are also an excellent discussion starter in Weekly 1-1's to explore results and challenges further. By archiving 2x2x2's they also provide an outstanding summary of the year when it comes to performance reviews. As a result of a 2x2x2 practice team members will feel more connected and informed.

Rationale

Distilling down a week of work to 2x2x2 sentences requires prioritization. This ensures that the important successes/misses/challenges bubble to the surface. Having to send 2x2x2's each week builds a habit of prioritization and a focus to make certain that there are at least two meaningful results that can be shared at the end of the week, as well as to ensure disappointments and challenges are genuine.

2x2x2's also create a culture of transparency where not only the manager is informed, but team members know about each other's performance. This not only fosters serendipitous identification of collaboration opportunities between team members, but also establishes a healthy level of peer to peer competition.

The solution is similar to daily updates recommended by Ray Dalio in principle 81a) of his book Principles. A weekly 2x2x2 however provides a bit more perspective on progress which may be lost when discussing achievements, plans and impediments day by day.

"81a) Use daily updates as a tool for staying on top of what your people are doing and thinking. Daily updates are brief descriptions of what the person did that day, what they are planning to do the next day, their problems, their questions, and their observations. They typically take five minutes to write and do wonders for staying in touch.

Known Uses

I have seen this pattern being successfully used in Royal Dutch Shell, and within MOL Group.

Related Patterns

Weekly 1-1 can benefit from 2x2x2's as these latter provide context and input to the conversation. Daily Standups could be an alternative, though it is preferred to also have weekly or bi-weekly Sprint Reviews when practicing Daily Standups.

Sketch

N/A

Author(s)

Zsolt VicziƔn

Date

Created: December 7th, 2020

References

Example



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