Aligning team priorities posted on 07 April 2024

Teams are set with different missions – e.g. building a reliable infrastructure, shipping new features, staying compliant with privacy regulations etc.. These different missions can result in tensions when teams need to collaborate.

These tensions can be healthy and your leadership should be able to tie-break as needed. With that being said, escalating to directors/VPs is time consuming and I personally try not to use this recourse if possible but instead align teams myself.

I am reasonably successful at this job (but my peers can confirm) using these approaches:

  • I provide as much context as I can about my priorities. Sometimes other teams don’t think your project is important enough mostly because they lack context (e.g. benefits of the project, other alternatives etc.)
  • I am true to my core values. I’m transparent and honest – e.g. while there are projects I wish I would like to see moving forward, I never make up some fake deadlines/priorities. While this doesn’t immediately help, in the long run people understand how I operate and will trust my information and assessments more.
  • I remind people that we are all on the same boat and have to row together in the same direction. This is done through explicit reminders but also just more polished communication. For example I won’t write “yes but I need ” but something along the line “yes, I agree with your point and share your pain. We still have to figure out together a path forward for though”. Similarly, I try to avoid wording sentences as “we vs another team” – I use mostly “we” as “the company”.
  • I do my homework – I’ll try to learn what is the work needed from the other teams, how it can also help them etc. The easiest way to convince a team to do some work is to show them how valuable it is for them first.

If things don’t work out, escalating is fine but my take is that in a healthy organizations, escalation should be rare and for difficult prioritizing questions where there’s no right/wrong answers.

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