Sitting Down with Other Teams


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In my experience, one of the most thought-provoking and stimulating sessions was when Sachin and Erin organized a "sit-down" between Changemakers and Ashoka U, so that Ashoka staff from both Changemakers and Ashoka U could simply meet and talk with one another.

I think in an organization like Ashoka that has many different types of activities and is very silo-ed in terms of the operations, metrics, business processes, and people it is imperative to put a "face" on our colleagues and to make sure we know one another on a personal level.

Sitting in this way was very interesting as well as engaging because I had known about Ashoka U but not really known exactly what they do and what kinds of challenges, products, processes they already have in place. 

Out of this discussion the most interesting idea that I heard about was a "Changemaker Schools 360° Scan" which Ashoka U uses to engage with campuses. To my mind that would be a great baseline product to implement within Changemakers, IF we were doing a "Changemakers Companies" project, because much of the work was already done and could easily be converted to a "Changemaker Companies 360° Scan". 

Regardless of potential outcomes, I think having sit-downs and regular cross-team interactions is helpful because it pushes my understanding of what is possible and helps me think how to leverage what assets we already have, rather than continually attempting to recreate.


Monica Flores

How do you define a Team of Teams (this isn’t a test!)? What is an example of one that you have experienced or seen?

Multiple individuals across Ashoka working together on an outcome that help advance a common cause. I've experienced an "Ashoka Huddle" that I thought was a good cross-blend of representatives from within Ashoka, other organizations, and private industry, all organized in support of a specific Fellow's needs.

TEAM COMPOSITION: Are there any specific roles and/or attributes that you believe are necessary for an effective Team of Teams?

A clear definition of a job description e.g. Program Manager and having an ability to matrix or cross-train so that a Program Manager within, say, Youth Venture, has the equivalent skills and training as a Program Manager within Changemakers. Ideally, we have a core group of people who are comfortable working at their specific level, across any team, AND we are able to have exposure to each other's work streams / partnership engagements / projects, so that people can feel like they have a way to both advance upwards as well as move laterally within the organization.

TEAM COMPOSITION: Please share any challenges you've experienced related to putting together a Team of Teams. How have you overcome these challenges?

Working as part of Changemakers Product Team, alongside Ashoka U, meant there were only a few individuals with understanding of database or data architecture thinking, attempting to understand a complex process (applying for the Commons) and still figuring out if there was need around a web-based tool to collect applications. Difficulty in understanding/communicating desired outcomes, as well as difficulty in supporting/building a lasting tool to help in those outcomes, were actually *not* overcome in this situation, as the team moved to a different system to collect applications.

TEAM COMPOSITION: Are there any successful approaches to creating a strong team that you would like to share?

We've seen some good overlap with one of the consultants (a coder) integrating fairly well with the redesign process. I think this is because the redesign process had a very well laid out set of steps/deliverables/desired outcomes that this coder could then "hop on" and participate in. I think this would work for projects or products that are well-defined. Team of Teams composition would be more difficult if we weren't sure what the desired end outcome would be, in which case we would want to first have individuals with a strong sense of what they want to have done, then staff up with "support" or "specialty" staff when that is articulated.

GOAL SETTING: In your opinion, how should we measure success for Team of Teams projects?

I think a good measure of success would be the numbers of opportunities for multiple Ashokans and external consultants or "outside" teammates" to participate, regardless of their "home" organization or team. Having an opportunity to coalesce and make very clear what the overall organizational goals are, as well as having explicit opportunities to make individuals know how their work fits in with those goals, would also be a measure of success.

GOAL SETTING: In previous Team of Teams efforts, please share any challenges in either setting or achieving project goals. How have you overcome these challenges?

For the Ashoka Forbes App, there were challenges in "wrangling" all the different parties who had an interest or stake in the project's launch. I find that the people actually doing the work should be allowed to focus on that -- also having accountability/requesting accountability is a difficult task in a place like Ashoka where one's effort to team-of-teams may not be recognized, budgeted for, or have a time allocation.

GOAL SETTING: Please share any successful approaches to goal setting for a Team of Teams project:

Incremental steps for a "pilot" of a small rollout is helpful. For the Ashoka Network Directory, even though we focused only on Ashoka United States new Fellows, it still was not helpful enought to push forward usage. For the Ashoka Forbes App, this was focused only on India new Fellows, and I think having more teams involved (Global Framechange, Changemakers Product team, India country office, Global Venture), we were able to have more of a collaborative environment (and more buy-in across parties) to push towards goals.

FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY: Do you have a successful approach for ensuring financial sustainability of Team of Teams projects?

Rather than hiring multiple external contractors, attempt to consolidate any of our resources into one "Databank" of resources.

COMMUNICATION: Please share any successful approaches to communicating across a Team of Teams:

Using a shared Google Doc to capture notes, as well as having regularly scheduled phone/Skype check-ins, was helpful to allow a common "address of record" for the project flow, as well as for existing individuals to maintain contact as well as offer new parties a chance to see the background and history. Having a single place to focus on "To-do's" and next steps is important to keep everyone aligned.

FEEDBACK: Please share an ideal feedback process:

At Changemakers the "small improvements" method seemed to work well, with each individual person receiving feedback from 3 others within their team.


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