Creating Effective Teams: The “Do Not Disturb” Team Policy

In the pursuit of building the perfect team, Google once conducted an intriguing study, called Project Aristotle after Aristotle’s quote, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. The goal was to find: “What makes a team effective at Google?”.

Team norms are the unwritten rules that shape a team’s behaviour and establish its culture. They define how individuals interact, communicate, and work together towards shared goals. While it may be tempting to focus solely on assembling a team with diverse personalities and skill sets, research suggests that team norms are equally, if not more, crucial for driving success.

Psychological Safety: The Cornerstone of Effective Teams

Google discovered that personality types were not the defining factor for an ideal team. Instead, they unearthed the significance of team norms – the unwritten rules that govern and guide a group. Among the various norms they identified, one critical element emerged as the foundation for team effectiveness: psychological safety. This concept encapsulates the idea that team members must feel valued, listened to, and secure enough to express their opinions without fear of retribution.

The concept of psychological safety is paramount to team success. When team members feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to take risks, voice their ideas, and engage in open and honest discussions. Psychological safety creates an environment where individuals can express their opinions without fear of judgment, ridicule, or negative consequences.

The “Do Not Disturb” Policy

In today’s open office environments, constant interruptions and distractions can hinder productivity and disrupt team dynamics. The “Do Not Disturb” policy aims to address this challenge by promoting focused work and respecting each team member’s time and concentration.

Here are a few key principles of the “Do Not Disturb” policy:

1. Autonomy and Problem Solving

Before reaching out to the team or a specific colleague, individuals are encouraged to attempt solving problems independently. This not only empowers team members to develop their problem-solving skills but also encourages self-reliance and resourcefulness. By taking ownership of their challenges, individuals can gain valuable insights and knowledge along the way.

2. Leveraging Digital Communication Channels

To minimise unnecessary interruptions, teams can utilise communication platforms like Teams or Slack. These tools provide a space for asking questions, seeking assistance, or sharing updates without disrupting others’ workflows. By utilising these channels effectively, teams can strike a balance between collaboration and individual focus.

3. Team Meetings and One-on-One Discussions

While independent problem-solving is encouraged, collaboration remains vital for team success. Team meetings and one-on-one discussions serve as designated times for addressing questions, sharing progress, and seeking guidance. By consolidating discussions within these scheduled interactions, teams can maintain productivity and ensure that everyone has an opportunity to contribute.

4. Meeting-free Day

Designating a weekly meeting-free day allows for uninterrupted work, boosting productivity and creativity. This day provides a break from formal meetings, enabling deep focus on important tasks without constant interruptions. It is especially beneficial for collaborative departments, eliminating the need to switch between tasks and improving efficiency.

In Summary

Building effective teams goes beyond assembling individuals with diverse personalities and skills. The power lies in establishing team norms that promote psychological safety and productivity. Google’s research has shown that team norms have a far greater impact on team effectiveness than individual personality traits. Psychological safety, with its emphasis on valuing team members’ opinions and creating a secure environment, forms the foundation for successful collaboration.

By implementing the “Do Not Disturb” policy, teams can minimise distractions and interruptions while encouraging autonomy, problem-solving, and effective use of digital communication channels. Through a combination of focused work and designated collaboration time, teams can strike a balance that enhances productivity and respects each team member’s contributions.

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