Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

The 3 Principles of Productive Teams


For government IT programs, costs for coordinating and communicating across multiple teams can become overwhelming. As the number of teams goes up, a program becomes more expensive.

Particularly with large software programs, conventional coordination mechanisms decrease productivity dramatically and can cause program failure. But environments with multiple teams can actually boost productivity and effectiveness by adhering to three simple principles of productivity:

  1. Accountability begins by letting each team know its responsibilities and giving teams the resources necessary to carry out those responsibilities efficiently. In exchange for this support, each team agrees to make and keep commitments. When teams say what they’ll do, then do what they say, much coordination overhead is eliminated.
  2. Transparency means providing timely, accurate and salient information about each team’s activities. Coordination costs nearly disappear when team members, peer teams, service support groups, governance and management have equal access to information that is self-service 24/7. This is the principle behind information radiators. Pushing salient information incurs a fraction of the cost because it eliminates the resources consumed with answering, the confusion caused by multiple conversations and the time spent waiting for answers. For this approach to work, data must be mined directly from the work itself—it does not come from independent reporting activity.
  3. Collaboration leverages accountability and transparency to achieve higher productivity. Collaboration means working together to perform a task. It does not mean attending meetings or teambuilding activities. Collaboration is radically simplified when the right people from each team are interacting at boundaries defined by dependencies to achieve specific outcomes—for example, between a team and the product owner, infrastructure, management or compliance.

Establishing and maintaining proper accountability, transparency and collaboration is the first element to achieving high productivity in multi-team environments. These principles have helped teams achieve 100 percent success on hundreds of programs.

Lawrence Fitzpatrick is president of Computech Inc., a Bethesda, Md.-based information technology consulting firm serving U.S. and international government clients. 

(Image via Introwiz1/

Close [ x ] More from GovExec