Inside Envato

What does a high performing community team look like?

Coaching is a relatively young practice at Envato. We are a small team who work to support the delivery teams of Envato Market, fostering best practices in Agile and fostering high performance.

Usually we work with the developer teams, but earlier this year the Community team invited me to facilitate some context setting work for them to kickstart 2016.

The Community Team is (as you may have guessed) responsible for supporting the Envato Community. The Envato Community is made up of independent creatives who come together to share ideas and success. The Community Team is made up of five individuals, two of whom work remotely from the Melbourne headquarters. The team was fortunate to have one of these workmates visit HQ for a week. Despite being equipped for and strongly supportive of remote workers, face to face communication is still of great benefit when doing groundwork. We took the opportunity to conduct a number of context setting sessions whilst the team was mostly in the same location.

What does a high performing Community Team look like?

The initial workshop took inspiration from the Product Dartboard activity documented by Janet Brunckhorst of Carbon Five in San Francisco. The aim was to let the team determine where they feel they are, on a scale of 0 to 5, on a number of attributes that are important to the success of the Community Team (three were different from those determined by Carbon Five – Effective Self Managers, Understanding of Community Membership and Company/Community Fit):

  • Clear roles – Roles and responsibilities match skills and abilities of the team. Team members understand what is expected of them.
  • Understand process – The team has a process and all members have a shared understanding of that process and a say in the evolution of the process.
  • Experts in our field – The team includes experts in the subject matter of the product.
  • Effective self-managers – Team members have a solid understanding of their individual capacity, prioritised the most valuable opportunities and focused on goals within their control.
  • Clear shared vision and strategy – There is a vision and strategy for the community and it has been clearly communicated. Team members have a shared understanding of what they’re trying to achieve and how to get there.
  • Talent is valued – Team members feel that the work they do is respected and their contributions to the work are valuable.
  • Challenge – Team members feel challenged by their work and think the work is important.
  • Debate and decide together – People on this team give their opinions and the team debates different options and makes decisions together.
  • Understanding of community membership – The team can articulate who belongs (or would belong) to our community and why.
  • Understanding of UVP – The team can articulate the unique value proposition for this community, i.e., the thing that will make members choose this over other options.
  • Company/community fit – Understanding of why the company exists and what company success looks like (how the world will be different if company changes it?) and the role the community plays in achieving this.
  • Metrics – We have identified the most important metrics to demonstrate that we are deepening relationships between community members and increasing engagement in a way that is unique and relevant to our community and result in tangible business return.

The team enjoyed the activity as it was a really great conversation starter for them to kick off the new year. As they’re a distributed team I put all the attributes, with their definition, into alongside the definitions of what the ratings meant. The team were asked to put their score in before the start of the workshop.

1 = Back of the napkin sketch: High level outline of purpose with little detail on parts and how they would work together
2 = Blueprint
3 = Prototype
4 = Functional
5 = Well-oiled machine: All parts in place and effectively coordinated towards achieving a clear and meaningful purpose

We then looked at each attribute individually and the distribution of individual scoring (diagram above) and the team discussed it to reach a mutually agreed score. The mutual scores of each attribute were used to create a spider graph (diagram below) of where the team considers themselves at the start of 2016.

Relationships in the ‘soup’

We followed the high performance team activity with a retro looking at the last quarter. Needless to say the previous activity influenced the retro but it did so in a positive way – it gave the team a deeper focus. Both this activity and the previous one unearthed a feeling that there is a difference in perceptions between the Community and Envato (the organisation).

We did a follow up session the next day mind mapping the problem with me asking 5-whys. We ran out of time (!) but the conversation was really great and they were starting to get to the core of their problem. As commented by one of the members “all roads essentially led to Rome”, each arm and leg of the road map often led to the same place.

A couple of weeks later I joined the team again to keep digging. All up, we looked at how the team views itself, how the team views the community, how the community views itself, how the community views the organisation, how the organisation views the community and finally how the organisation views the team.

It would be easy to keep delving into the mindmap so we took a diversion towards exploring potential actions. For this I ran ‘The Soup’ where the team was asked to consider where/when they can direct control, where/when they can direct influence and finally where they have to adapt to their environment.

Three months later

I’m finishing this blog three months after that last session. Now we have another coach at Envato, I’m excited that as of this week I’ll be working with the Community team on a regular basis. I look forward to seeing how the perceptions evolve.

Not unexpectedly, the landscape has changed since the team completed the context setting exercise earlier in the year. Envato has undergone some exciting changes and has a new focused strategy (more details coming soon). This will inevitably result in the Community team reassessing what they are doing. I can’t wait to take this journey with them.


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