“The best clients, to my mind, don’t say that whatever you do is fine, they’re intertwined in the process. When I look back, it’s hard to remember who had what thought when. That’s the best, most satisfying work, whether a large building or a house.”
— Peter Bohlin, Architect (2011) A Genius of the Storefront, Too

Peter Bohlin is the architect that worked with Steve Jobs to build the Apple Stores all around the world. The article by James Stewart is interesting, but for me that sentence above is the most interesting one.

When working together people are able to communicate better, avoid communication overhead and create consensus quickly. It’s obvious right? But so often within companies and teams this is taken as granted, and this happens both when there’s a positive outcome or a negative outcome.

When it’s positive, it just happened, so we usually don’t think that the project went smoothly thanks to this. When it’s negative, we just don’t think it was a problem of creating the environment for the team to communicate and collaborate effectively, because we expect that part should just happen. The justifications in the negative case are often external, we blame other things: we communicated badly, the specs weren’t clear enough, the client didn’t approve this in time, and so on. However, to a closer analysis, many times the issue was a team issue, missing a good and healthy collaboration space.

A few questions that could help you to see if you have a healthy team environment are:

  1. Do I find effortless to communicate with others?
  2. Am I able to get a clarification even for tiny doubts?
  3. Do I chat even about non-related things with my team?
  4. Am I isolating my work from others?
  5. Do I know what each other is doing?

It’s even more interesting because if you think to the effectiveness of Agile, Lean and similar approaches from this perspective you notice that there are many techniques that in fact are just tricks to facilitate the communication and collaboration within the team. Why is the product owner included in the team itself? Why do daily stand-ups exist? Why are kanbans so effective?

Does your team has a healthy collaboration environment?
From this perspective, why do you think it works?