Embrace A Shared Cadence to Avoid Silos

Christy Ennis-Kloote
3 min readMar 15, 2021

--

Complex product and service projects require internal silos to be broken. When everyone is focused on their own piece of the puzzle, they lose the ability to see how it all fits together. Disparate teams also lack intimacy and don’t have shared experiences, shared vision, or relationships to fall back on. This means when tough times do arise, teams don’t have a practiced cadence or shared instinct for effective communication — making difficult problems more difficult.

One multi-platform product my team worked on had five different partners at different companies, all initiated as separate requests from a prestigious customer. The partners worked as separate delivery teams with different cadences focusing on UX design, UI design, mobile development, cloud development, and firmware development. Waterfall-esque requirements from the customer, provided to separate teams, made for slow builds and integrations. There was frustration all around at the pace and ability to see progress. This meant teams had assumptions and misses on what the other teams were doing. We believed partners came with the same maturity in developing digital products as their historically well crafted physical products. It turns out, this was their first launch in this space and even with very competent partners, it was a challenge. While we played well with others, we respected boundaries imposed–to a detriment.

We could have saved undue stress by applying baseline practices for healthy habits of communication. These practices increase cross-collaboration and are unique to the team composition.

Keep it brief
First, start simple with minimally disruptive requests for time from someone representing every aspect of the work and don’t seek perfection. Set dependable time together and share what you are working on and any barriers you have to achieving those goals, clarifying any assumptions. Typically, teams do this through a call-in format called a stand-up, but even a text post shared regularly in any messaging platform for everyone on the team to see can work well.

Make it real
Next, and even more fundamental to agile development, build a rhythm and make a commitment to incremental demonstrable delivery (typically every two weeks). For example, stakeholders looking for evidence could see how changes in a mobile experience engages customers. That data can be aggregated to look for information — informing where to pivot next. These pieces of evidence can help everyone not only see but feel progress towards an objective.

Reflect
Lastly, for long-term goals and larger releases, include regular points to pause and reflect on the orientation of where the team is in reference to the goal so there is time to course correct. This is a longer meeting to plan the work for the next 2–4 sprints. The longer meeting needs to be in an open format with space to invite discussion around the larger dependencies that might impede the work.

Setting a shared cadence promotes regular contact across cross-functional teams. You will get to know each other by building a secure space to encourage transparency, like it did for us. It creates tighter feedback loops keeping everyone current and oriented to the same near goals as a team. Regular meetings and habits will bring incremental change that can shift the direction over time to achieve a truly impactful product before it is too late.

You can’t influence impact on customer experience if you are not there to advocate for customers. So whether you are an outsider just coming through short-term or someone who’s been with the product since inception, you have agency to choose how you participate. Embrace and invest in the whole team. They’ll help you see what you can’t to achieve better design outcomes together.

--

--

Christy Ennis-Kloote

Local UX Leader and Managing Director, Experience Design @Argenta Park Kalamazoo, MI