Why My Team Is Thriving At Work

Why My Team Is Thriving At Work

This has been a hell of a year. COVID has put a stress on most working people, if it left them employed at all.

I’ve been working at home since March, and there is no sign of returning to the office. Yet our team is thriving. Someone recently asked me why I thought that was the case. And here are the reasons:

We Have Daily Meetings

Even before COVID, we had daily standup meetings. The purpose was threefold: let the team know what we’re working on, so any conflicts or extra information can be conveyed; let our boss know what we worked on the day before so he can monitor progress; and to let our boss know of any sticking points that he could help resolve (or the steps we were taking to resolve them ourselves).

We have continued this while working remote. Not only do we get all the benefits of the in-person meetings, but it means we see our teammates every single day. It provides a strong sense of connection.

We Quickly Converted Things Digital

Even though my team is a subset of IT, there were a lot of things that we didn’t do digitally. We did a lot of brainstorming and kept track of tasks on the physical windows of the building (it works when you don’t have white boards). We also kept track of all the features we did on a rolling whiteboard so that everyone knew what was outstanding and what was ready to be released. Our standards for the system were written on huge sticky notes posted to the outside of the cubes.

We quickly converted all of these things to digital tools. We were the first team in the organization to move to Microsoft Teams, and we moved within the first week of working from home. All of our standards went into the wikis in teams. Our deployment and feature list went into a spreadsheet that lives on Teams. Everything we did on the physical windows was typed up and put into the files area of Teams.

It was this quick conversion that allowed us to keep moving at our pre-COVID output level.

We Have Clear Tasks

Even before COVID, our manager was very clear about what each of us was working on. These tasks are set out in Microsoft DevOps – which is made for developers but is a good task-based project management system. Each request is filled out with lots of details, along with clear language about what we are trying to accomplish.

This has not changed. But we’ve expanded. We routinely have small 5- to 10-minute meetings between each person and the manager at the start of each task so that we can go over what the scope of the task and any information that might not be clear. At the end of the meeting, the team member knows exactly what needs to be accomplished.

We Have Clear Priorities

The work I do has a lot of shifting priorities. Something I am working on can be suddenly pushed to the back burner as we work on providing information for the board or auditors.

Our manager maintains a list of everything that needs to be worked on, and assigns it to us when the time has come to work on it. Then within the 6-10 tasks for each person, it is ranked so we know what exactly is top priority.

If we are ever unclear, we ask the manager for our sprint planning, where he lays forth in what order we should be working on things for the next two weeks.

Our Manager Values Our Time

My manager is a rarity. His policy is that his developers need to be developing, not attending meetings (outside of our team design meetings). That means he takes on the bigger meetings, and brings us back the details.

It also means that he has a firm grasp of what is being requested, and can keep us from being inundated.

In return, we value his time. I recently put a three hour meeting with our team on his schedule every Friday afternoon so that he could have uninterrupted time to work on the things he needs to accomplish. It had been consistently hijacked by a lady whose meetings ran 50 to 100% over time and had no value to my manager (she keeps asking him to do her job).

We Can Quickly Meet

In the office, we would do a lot of quick design meetings. All it would require is turning around in our chairs. We can’t do that remotely. We transitioned to using Zoom for these quick meetings.

My manager has his own company-paid-for Zoom account, and we are free to use it. Rarely are the meetings he has on his account, so we have free access to meet quickly.

Sometimes these meetings are just to ask clarifying questions. But other times it’s because we need his approval to move ahead with a work-around for something we found in the code. A quick text to the team, we all hop on Zoom, and we’re done in five minutes.


Our team practices, which transitioned to all digital, have helped us thrive. By having video meetings daily, clear priorities and well-defined tasks, we have kept up with our workload and have continued to succeed.