How to Get Shit Done with other Teams

productivity Jul 27, 2020

Without being blocked by them.

Do you have to collab with other teams to get anything done? Does this make you want to scream into the void constantly? If so, this is for you.

I gave this as an internal talk at Auth0 and everyone loved it, so here you go!.\ You can watch the video, or read below.

watch my talk here, or read the article

Background: I'm a Growth Strategist at Auth0, and my job = constant experimentation so that I can drive serious growth. This involves working with product, other marketing teams, sales, operations, and leadership on a regular basis.

I have made pretty much every mistake under the sun when it comes to working with other teams. Impactful experiments got backlogged by over six months, they've been permanently cancelled right before launch, or leadership axed them because I didn't convey the value well enough.

It seems like everyone, no matter what their role is at a company, has problems working with others effectively.

I don't want you to repeat the same mistakes!

I googled how to fix this, but google gave me a lot of inspirational cat pictures and told me:

  • Synergy 🤮
  • Basic Communication 🙄
  • Alignment with the Stars 🤷‍♀️

None of it was actionable. And we can do better than that! Let's jump in.

Working with other teams is a love story 💖 with three distinct phases:

  1. Getting to know the other team on a deeper level.
  2. Make them want your project over any other project.
  3. Don't stop holding hands until the project is complete.

1. Get to know the other team on a deeper level

You might be working with these teams for years to come. It's easy to forget that team members are made of real people who want to be seen and understood.

Fall in love with the other team a little bit. What are their goals as an individual within their team? What are their team's goals as a whole?

We often assume that others are like us and their goals are aligned with ours, but when I've assumed I know another team's goals, I've been wrong probably 100% of the time. If my goal is increasing enterprise revenue, their might be user experience, or self-service revenue, or brand awareness.

But what if you've been working with with a particularly difficult team for a year or more and your relationship is strained and you're not starting at the beginning? Even if you have a strained relationship with a team right now, it is never too late to take a step back and say, I want to get to know you better. Everybody loves hearing that, and everybody wants to talk about themselves. You can always realign and come back and be on the same page.

So ask the other team, how do they measure success? What are they 'graded' on?

How much notice do they need in order to take on projects of different sizes? Some teams are very flexible, other teams can't take a single project that's not on their roadmap before the quarter begins. Even if a project is really important, there are some teams that can't squeeze it in.

How long does it take a team to complete projects of various sizes?

People tend to underestimate the work it takes to complete a job. We've all done this, where we hand over a project to another team, we think it's going to take a week, and say, 'Have fun with this!' And they're like, "No, this is a quarter long project." And we're like:

It also shows respect when you ask about their time frames. We've all had things thrown at us by other teams and they have no idea what goes into our processes, so treat others like you'd like to be treated.

Who decides which projects get prioritized?

You're working with Jamal. You think Jamal gets to decide if he wants to work on your project. But maybe it's Jamal's boss's boss that decides, or maybe it's someone that's not even on Jamal's team!

I've been very surprised at who the decision maker is on some of these projects. And when I don't ask, my projects don't get put into the roadmap.

A lot of this stuff is common sense. But we don't do it. So it's helpful to take a step back and remember,

When working with other people, moving too fast in the short term can seriously slow you down in the long run.

If you don't understand the other team's goals and success metrics, not only will it hold up your current project, but it will hold up every project you have with that team in the future. The other team won't feel understood will feel like you're unwilling to work with them, and that relationship is going to get strained until you fix it. That could be years of projects that don't get done on time. A little bit extra work now will make you so much quicker in the long run.

Make them want your project over any other project.

A lot of other teams want to work with this other team. So how are you going to make them want you?

Plan ahead. You should have asked them about their timelines, and know when you should pitch your idea with that team. Pitch them even earlier. As soon as you know about your project, bring it up, the sooner the better. The other team will feel respected and you'll have a much better chance of your project to moving forward.

Again, do you know who the key decision maker is, and do they know about your project? If the answer to either is no, the chances of your project making it on the roadmap are very slim.

Talk to the decision maker clearly and concisely. Make the value of your project obvious.

How you're screwing this up:

  • You assume the other team can understand the value your project through reading your mind. You understand the value of my project, and I just assume they'll understand too. They're thinking, "WTF is this thing and why should I care?"
  • You pitch your idea... while also telling them what you had for breakfast and what your dreams were as a child. Keep your project pitch short and sweet, and make sure it aligns to their goals.

If your project is tied to revenue, make a forecast. It's a great concise way to really convey the importance of your project.

Make their lives easier while pitching your project

  • Mock things up for them
  • Present a project plan
  • Scope the entire project as much as you can.

If you don't, the other team isn't going to really fully understand your project, and they might not even put it on their roadmap. Making it easy is going to make them want to work with you because you've got your stuff together.

And finally, you're not going to be able to change their goals, their timelines, or the way that they work as a team. So accept the other team as they are and work with them instead of trying to change them. They'll be more likely to work with you on future projects, too.

Don't stop holding hands until the project is complete.

The other team has prioritized your project! 🎉 Launching on time is as simple as holding hands and not letting go until the project is complete.

Work with the other team to come up with a scope and a timeline for both teams. It's up to them to create a timeline, but when you understand how their timeline is broken down into stages, you can help keep them accountable.

Get a timeline commitment in writing with a rough ETA.

If you don't get something in writing, maybe that person will leave the company, or switch teams, or forget, and then you won't have any proof that your project was even committed to. 😱

Put follow-up reminders on Google Calendar, especially if you're not launching for months.

If you're launching next quarter and you don't remind them of this, they're probably going to forget. It's not one of their priorities. This is one of your priorities. And then your next quarter project becomes a next year project, or maybe it will never happen.

So just put it in communication reminders in your calendar and then you don't have to think about it.

And finally, stick to your commitments and gently ensure that they are sticking to theirs. Any long term relationship consists of having trust in the other team and in being consistent. When you stick to your commitments, it lets them know, this person's actually getting it done. I have to get my side done too.

Pretty obvious stuff right? It's just stuff that we need to remember to actually do!

So you've done all these steps, you've launched your projects and now you're ready to ride off in the sunset with them.

I think we all want to be that cute couple in the park, who's holding hands at an old age. And since you're going to be working with these people for years to come, that's doable. All you have to do is just keep holding hands with them.

Maybe once a year, once a quarter, or once a month, have a cadence for you to ask them the questions in step one: has the way you define success changed, and have your processes changed?

As long as you stay aligned, you're going to have a beautiful lasting relationship with them.

So we have achieved true love. We have figured out how to work with other teams, and life is beautiful.

Tomorrow you're going to wake up and you're going to forget everything you read here and you're not going to implement anything that I just told you.

So I made a handy checklist that you can use anytime you work with a team in the future.

Here it is. It has a simple to-do list of everything you need to work with another team. All you gotta do is duplicate it!

And now, whenever you work with another team in the future, you're never going to mess it up because you don't have to remember anything I told you. It's beautiful.

And that's what I got. Thanks for reading!


PS- if you want to see more great advice like this, find me on twitter, I post all of my best stuff there. :)

Madison Taskett

I'm a tech growth marketer and indie maker in Austin, TX 🌮. This blog is a daily look into my mind. It's raw, honest, and reflective, and I try to post daily.