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Tactics for Managing Cross Team Complexity

Ricardo Clerigo

VP Product at Flyt

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Problem

Teams who work together, win. Easier said than done. Most of the work we do, both with our teams, but also across the organization, can be boiled down to emotional humans solving complex problems. But what are some ways to get better at that?

Actions taken

Here are five tactics we use to deal with complexity across teams as Flyt:

  1. Rhythm - Having rhythm means having a routine. Once you've setup a rhythm around the work you'll do, communicate that clearly to everyone involved. Development sprints are rhythm, monthly releases are rhythm, next 90 day goals are rhythm. When you don't have rhythm everything needs a meeting to happen. No rhythm means anyone can interrupt, everything's urgent, and the deadline is always set to yesterday.

  2. Plays - At Flyt we encourage folks to move from "E to P". From entrepreneurial to purposeful. From winging things as they go, to becoming purposeful about getting better at them. It's the big difference between amateurs and pros (amateurs value isolated performance, pros value consistent results). To get consistent results, we coach teams to document "how they do what they do" in a playbook. These are not long descriptions of how to go about the work but simple bullet points about what's important to get done by everyone that's involved. We have plays around communication, hiring, most stages of our product lifecycle, customer requests, dedicated teams and more. At Flyt all our plays are put together in a Playbook that's available to everyone in the company.

  3. Checklists - The checklist should be understood not merely as a list of items to be checked off, but as an instrument for the improvement of communication, teamwork, and safety culture within teams. You can't read off a checklist and fly a plane. Start treating checklists as templates for the working agreements and communication rituals that different teams need to do so we all do a great job.

  4. Boards - Write down one idea per post-it, in big legible letters and stick each post-it on the table in front of you. Try laying the same post-its out in a wall / board, left to right, top to bottom or however they make sense "in a visual space". Get the work out of your head and into a board is the easiest hack to get clarity I know of.

  5. Issue watchers - Using whatever issue tracking tool you have (we use Asana), add everyone that wants to be involved as a watcher or follower of that task and share the link. No more tapping on the shoulder for status updates.

Lessons learned

  • If you're finding that things seem a bit ad-hoc, you're probably not managing complexity by establishing a sense of rhythm around you, your team, other teams or what you do. No rhythm means everyone has their own expectation of when to participate and when it's ok to expect results. When you setup rhythm, teams know when it's time to provide input, and also when to expect outcomes from you.
  • Plays on a playbook do 2 things: (1) Because we give plays names, everyone starts to talk about them as "things we do" and we start to see alignment around what we mean when we say "we're running the X play". Play names get used in conversations, and to discuss if we did or did not run it at a certain time (or worse, if we kind of ran it, but didn't fully commit); (2) Plays allow us to have something to update when we do retrospectives with the teams and try to learn how to do them better. This is how we move from E->P.
  • Checklists are not tools to get things done — they're tools to manage complexity.
  • If what you're doing is going to take more than a 2–3 days to complete, and/or it involves a bunch of people to do well, then inevitably you're going to benefit from tracking your work. Everyone can work confidently knowing that they'll get updated when dates change, blockers arise or when the work is finally done.

Source: 5 Tools to Manage Complexity Across Teams


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Ricardo Clerigo

VP Product at Flyt


Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementSprint CadencePerformance MetricsLeadership TrainingTeam & Project Management

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