Home of the happy integration consultants
I work in the integration unit in one of its consultancy teams. The consultancy teams have been in existence in one form or another, almost unchanged, for many decades. We have developed a culture that supports development and working together. Our culture is not some glued-on empty words; it has evolved naturally over time.
The secret of a great spirit
I have been asked on a couple of occasions what the "secret" of our great spirit is. I believe that our spirit is down to the long-term iterative development of our activities. We work together in own teams - I believe that this is big part of our good spirit.
In our integration unit, we have several consultancy teams of a similar size. We have learned over time and through several iterations what kind of a team works best (for us):
- It's the right size.
- It’s autonomous and has a balanced mix of competencies.
- The team sits together and has the autonomy to respond to its clients and take care of them.
Client accounts are assigned to the consultancy teams, and the teams have autonomy in deciding how to manage their clients. With autonomy comes responsibility, but it is this responsibility that most people find motivating: we are trusted, and we are given the freedom to decide how best to serve our clients.
Consultancy teams must have a common goal, which is the result of the whole unit. In the past, we have experienced that team-specific objectives only lead to "piling on" and partial optimisation, which does not produce the best possible result for the whole unit. We also try to keep the vision of the whole unit clear in the minds of everyone in the integration unit. This will make it easier for teams to make the right choices on the way towards a common goal.
Collaboration and knowledge sharing across team boundaries
Of course, teams also work together. In larger projects, work often needs to be shared across team boundaries, and we try to share information across the whole unit in any case. Architects, service and project managers, and developers from different teams fairly regularly present projects they have worked on and best practices they have experienced. Best of all, the initiative for these presentations often comes from the consultants themselves, with no one telling them or asking them to present what they have done.
Team leaders also play a key role in sharing information: we want to ensure that our working practices remain consistent across the unit and that we are able to collaborate within the whole unit when necessary. This is why team leaders meet regularly to share news from their teams.
An open culture of discussion
Even for us, life is not always a party and integration is not always flowing smoothly. We mess up sometimes, too, and our current team model is the result of several iterations. But fortunately, our culture encourages people to give open feedback on things that don't work and to improve the way we work. I call this an atmosphere of positive nit-picking, and I think it's perhaps the most essential thing for the spirit of the unit.
Everyone should have the courage to speak their mind, and the supervisor or team leader should not be so intimidating or distant that people are afraid to tell them about things that are bothering them.
We often have long discussions in the unit chat, and we hold monthly a joint Q&A session where anyone can come and talk about what is bothering them. These Q&A sessions have been very popular. And when people get the feeling that something is being done about problems, they continue to give feedback. And the wheel keeps on turning.