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Q&A from our recent webinar on the future of teamwork

Jacob Shepard
Atlassian Team
Atlassian Team members are employees working across the company in a wide variety of roles.
March 5, 2019

Do you ever wonder how you can unleash the full potential of your teams and optimally scale your enterprise?  Here at Atlassian, this is something we think about a lot.

We recently held a webinar with Dom Price, Work Futurist at Atlassian, focusing on the future of teamwork in the enterprise. Teams are a critical component to an organization's ability to innovate at scale and succeed, but understanding the challenges scaling presents and navigating the complexities of today's business world can be difficult. Watch the webinar on-demand to learn: 

  • The trends impacting enterprise organizations and teams
  • The current state of teamwork
  • How to organize and develop the people in your enterprise
  • What practices are effective

As you could imagine, we had a bunch of great questions regarding teams, teamwork, practices and more. Here is a roundup of some of the Q&A we had during the webinar that we weren't able to get to! We'd love to hear any other questions, thoughts, or ideas in the comments below! 



Q: How do you prevent groupthink?

A: At Atlassian, we celebrate value and recognize cognitive diversity as a key component of effective collaboration. It's important to create an environment that allows for diverse ideas to be shared, and also allows respectful dissent. We purposefully hire for values and build a naturally diverse workforce. Part of our interview process includes a values interview. This part of the interview is done by someone from a separate team than the one the individual is joining. This is done to separate technical capability from values capability. We look for potential, someone that can live our values, and add to our culture. We want people to join Atlassian and challenge and provoke us, help us evolve.


Q: How do you go from a traditional hierarchy to a distributed teams model?

A: Moving from a hierarchy model to distributed teams is a great opportunity for any modern organization and allows them to build around speed, agility, and adaptability. One of the first things to do is stop looking at an org chart as a linear map of seniority, and start looking left and right across the org at individuals skill sets. Build from this to create a flexible an effective team-centric model where people are no longer bound to the same department for life, but rather moved from team to team as needs change or new projects arise. Here at Atlassian, we like to think of our company as a team of teams that is continually evolving and forming depending on our goals. This creates more organic team interaction and knowledge transfer, and shared practices become second nature. Teams can then be assembled and dismantled on the fly based on needs and demands. 


Q: In moving from a hierarchy to a network organization, how do companies measure performance?

A: Here at Atlassian, we measure performance by building in accountability and using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) for goal setting. Each department and team sets quarterly OKRs, which ladder up to our company-wide goals. At the end of each month, teams update their OKRs with status updates and share out, keeping visibility and accountability high. We then measure whether the OKR's were met or not. Additionally, the OKR model keeps us effective by ensuring we focus on the right things, outcomes vs outputs.


Q: For an organization with multiple teams across the globe, when initiating a large change that needs to be global, would you start locally and then expand or start globally from the beginning?

A: Unfortunately, there is no perfect way of doing this, but the good news is there are advantages to both models. Some changes work best when you try them in a small team, prove them out, and learn what works and what doesn't before you roll it out to the rest of the organization. With that said other changes need the whole organization aligned to be effective, and going for the big bang rollout globally from the start can help. Either way, it's important to always be conscious of local customs and rituals that might be compromised by going global first.


Q: You talked about taking information out of silos and sharing it across teams and work areas (the Amadeus example) – how did they do that?  Any specific examples, tools, applications that can help facilitate this?

A: At Amadeus, team members started watching and commenting on each other's work (using Confluence) - increasing collaboration and agility throughout the organization. Here at Atlassian, we believe in an OPEN company, and to help facilitate this we rely heavily on the use of Confluence too. In Confluence, we can create, collaborate and keep all of our work in one spot making it accessible to all. We can improve work by jointly editing pages, giving feedback via inline or page comments, or at-mentioning teammates. It is this collaboration and shared knowledge where the best work can be done. Another great example of a customer using our tools in this manner is ANZ Bank.


Q: On shared services and interconnected teams: does moving to inner-source models of repository ownership help manage communication complexity? 

A: Communication complexity is rarely a tool problem, and more often than not, a human problem.

The key to simple communication is:

  • Know your intent
  • Know your audience
  • Pick the best medium for your audience to consume (which might not be the easiest for you!)
  • Message check to understand how your audience consumed the message.


Q: What advice do you have for upgrading the skill sets of the operational folks for whom a large part of their days was consumed by tasks that have been automated? 

A: We recommend four straightforward steps to start out:

1: Help these individuals understand what skills are valued and in demand

2: Develop personalized learning plans

3: Give them space and freedom to practice new skills

4: Rinse and repeat


Q: You often hear studies done on "high performing teams," for Atlassian what attributes were considered to deem teams high performing?

A: This can depend on what kind of team we are looking at. First and foremost we are big believers in healthy teams lead to high performing teams. The attributes in the Health Monitors call out what we believe make for high performing Project, Leadership, or Service Teams. We often run these plays internally across many of our teams.  Additionally, we've also looked into the research on the 5 Dysfunctions of a team, and Google's work on Psychological safety.


Q: You spoke about the Team Playbook, how can you get buy-in on using the plays from your managers? Other than providing a "report" showing the benefits. Any advice...?

A: The best results we have seen are where teams just try it out. There is nothing to buy, so it costs no money, and therefore there is no monetary hurdle, all you need is 1 hour. So try it, and if it feels valuable, try it again. In our experience, we've strayed away from "reporting," as that's when people inadvertently look for teams to "get more green" and have better health, when the reality is that external factors can impact the team at any point and cause it to feel unhealthy. 


Q: Any tips regarding the people, tools, process triangle? How do you ease the "change" on the people?  When do you balance trying to involve the people vs some people being the obstacles themselves?

A: Change is always hard, but being honest and open about the change can alleviate some of that. The legendary Patty McCord from Netflix often talks about how people can take the truth much easier than spin. Yet many change programs are full of spin, fancy words and charts, and not much truth.

The common theme in successful change programs is having a strong and well-communicated purpose which really explains "why" you are doing "what" you are doing.


Q: You talk about efficiency and effectiveness of teams and what to optimize on, but what if you need both efficiency and effectiveness?

A: Every organization in the long term needs both efficiency and effectiveness. The challenge we have seen in most enterprises is that they've historically over-indexed on efficiency and getting faster at things, focusing on output. They have not put enough effort or focus on effectiveness, doing the right thing (ex. staying relevant), and focusing on outcomes. Like anything in life, balance is important, and the trick is to work out which environment you are in, and deploy the right technique for the situation.



Again, we'd love to hear any other questions, thoughts, or ideas in the comments below! 

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Sarah Wright
I'm New Here
I'm New Here
Those new to the Atlassian Community have posted less than three times. Give them a warm welcome!
March 6, 2019

I recall hearing about open/growth mindsets. Two the questions above relate, upgrading skill sets and people obstacles. I don't have any answers but wanted to share that my first grader is being actively taught these skills at school! WIN!

Now how to get those skills into an enterprise system....

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