Shared Understanding: Finding the "why" behind the "what" - Atlassian Work Life (2023)

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There was no "golden age" when running a team was easy. However, as more teams turn to remote or hybrid work models, creating and maintaining a sense of connection and common purpose among team members becomes increasingly challenging. Recent Atlassian research confirms that developing a "shared understanding" is critical to building a high-performing team that can handle uncertainty, communicate effectively, and achieve its goals. There is no such thing as the perfect team or the perfect leader, but we are here to help you get closer to that ideal.

(Video) Shape up your team by building a shared understanding | Team '23 | Atlassian

In essence, shared understanding means that the knowledge of each team member is integrated in three key ways: what the team is trying to achieve, why the strategy it chooses has the best chance of success, and what is the role and the responsibilities of each person in the mutual relationship. journey. This understanding is built through clear communication, active listening, and regular feedback and matching sessions.

With the ever-changing job landscape and economy, successful companies and teams will be able to quickly change direction and adapt to new demands. To do this, teams need practical ways to get that "strategic buy-in" from their leaders: understanding the underlying "why" behind the work, not just going through the motions of the "what." When team members engage regularly, they can take control of results and stay connected to changes as work progresses.

Specifically, team members with a strong shared understanding are more likely to:

  • Meeting stakeholder expectations
  • Use resources efficiently
  • develop new ideas
  • Take pride in and find a sense of purpose in your work.
  • Feel the surge of motivation, energy and enthusiasm.

In the fourth wave of the State of Teams study, conducted in January 2023 with thousands of knowledge workers, 52% of whom identify as team leaders, in Australia, Europe, the US and India, we found that around than 75% of people reported common understanding in their groups. Of course, another way of looking at it is that a quarter of the people had no common sense. and the results are not pretty.

Common understanding with management is key

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The data seems to tell a story of teams disconnected from their leaders: Many respondents seem to know what they personally need to work on, but it's not clear why. 82.9% believe that the roles in their team are clear and well defined, but only 65.9% believe that their team adequately develops an overall strategy to guide team activities. Transparency among leaders was low, with only 60% believing that they could see how decisions were made.

Most alarmingly, only 55% of those surveyed felt that their team wanted timely feedback from stakeholders on how well they were achieving their goals. They operate in the dark, and as a result, these leaders fail to achieve the expected business results.

Atlassian, of course, is not immune to these challenges. An initial analysis of internal research shows a clear correlation between clarity of goals and alignment with productivity. Check here for more information on this project!

Laying the foundation for team unity

Healthy and communicative teams are based on an open, flexible and adaptable culture. Before tackling common sense tactics, make sure the foundation is in place.

Support a culture of mental safety

When psychological safety is ensured, team members feel safe to speak up and take risks. If this is not the case, it is a serious obstacle to common understanding. For example, if team members aren't clear about their goals or strategy, they should feel comfortable talking to get that clarity. Without mental security, your team risks working in quiet chaos.

(Video) The magic of high-performing teams | Atlassian Presents: Work Life '22 | Atlassian

Take time for everyone to feel connected and encourage team members to speak up and share their opinions. Make sure that mistakes are treated as an opportunity to learn and not as a cause for punishment.

Communicate openly and transparently

Encourage team members to share their views, ask questions, and provide feedback. Use tools like chat, video calls, or shared documents to stay connected and up to date. When decisions are made, make sure they are made openly so that the entire team can quickly familiarize themselves with the change in direction and thinking. This will help your team integrate key concepts more smoothly into their work and get the results they want more efficiently.

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To help collaborative teams build a common understanding, we have developedpractical team building course. To get your team on the same page, follow a series of stepsPoradnik AtlassianGames: Free workshop resources to solve common team challenges, to create and reinforce the building blocks of shared understanding. All of these games come with templates so you can get started right away.

1. Define the purpose and goals of your team

Make sure everyone on the team understands what you're trying to achieve and why it's important. Heband posterit's a visual representation of your team's goal, metrics, and objectives that helps align everyone with a common understanding.

Next, you'll add logistics: introduce your team members, answer frequently asked questions, and share contact information. You now have a full page that you can share with your team's stakeholders and networks to clearly communicate what your team wants to achieve and how you plan to do it.

2. Be absolutely clear about who is responsible for what

RunPlay to be clear who is responsible for what in your team. There is nothing worse than tension among team members over responsibility for a decision or discovering that work has been duplicated. Doing everything by consensus is no better and can lead to decision fatigue and ineffective teams. Setting expectations as a team gives team members the autonomy to make decisions on the fly and direct their work toward achieving team goals.

3. Learn to work better together

People are unpredictable. We all have different values, work styles, and personal preferences. Add to that the complications of distributed work and things get really complicated. compositionEmployment contractsFor your team, define how the team works together and set standards for effective collaboration – enjoy clarity on which communication channels to use, when, and for what purpose. discuss your individual needs and preferences as a group. and organize your working model. Finally, as a leader, you'll set clear expectations about how to step forward when a critical decision must be made, and how you'll communicate those results and reasoning to team members so they can get back to focusing on doing their best work.

4. Check alignment

Hegroup networkThe game helps you identify the teams that are critical to the success of your goals. Take the time to understand the strength of your relationships, establish relationship owners, and begin to significantly improve your match. These steps will ensure that your team is connected to the right teams and that everyone is working toward the same goals in the most efficient way possible.

Also, don't forget to keep the side of the road clean. Schedule regular updates as a team to ensure everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals. Use tools likeEquipment Status TrackingAssess team fit and identify areas for improvement.

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5. Celebrate successes and learn from failures

It is good practice to recognize and celebrate your team's achievements and use failures as opportunities to learn and improve mutual understanding. run a monthlywith retroactive effectto collect this information with your team. Remember that change takes time and active management. We recommend making a deliberate plan for how you want to approach it.Change managementwith your team

Developing a shared understanding is critical to building an effective team in the rapidly changing, dynamic, and distributed work environment. By fostering open communication, alignment, and a sense of shared purpose, you'll build a team that's resilient, innovative, and motivated to achieve your goals.

And just as software development is an iterative process, our practices are constantly being reviewed and improved. We see our customers as part of our extended team, and we know that no company can handle these challenges alone. we actively invite youfeedback and collaborationto help us learn, iterate and improve together.


How do you develop shared understanding in a team? ›

If we give each other time to explain our thoughts with words and pictures, we build shared understanding. That's why externalizing our ideas is so important. We can redraw sketches or move sticky notes around and the cool thing is that we are really moving ideas around.

What is shared understanding among team members? ›

Having a shared understanding enables people to anticipate and predict the behaviors of their team members and the behavior of the group.

What is the importance of shared understanding in the workplace? ›

Knowledge sharing is important in the workplace because it enhances the collective ability of an organization's workforce to understand customers' situations, perceptions, and expectations, so the business can make customer-centric decisions.

How do you create a shared sense of purpose? ›

Instilling a sense of shared purpose
  1. Align leadership around your company's goals. Purpose begins at the top. ...
  2. Engage employees in the purpose journey. Help workers recognize what's meaningful to them, then encourage them to connect that to the company's purpose.
  3. Embed purpose in your customers' experiences.

What is the purpose of shared understanding? ›

Shared understanding is the ability of multiple agents to exploit common bodies of causal knowledge for the purpose of accomplishing common (or shared) goals.

How does shared understanding impact the whole organization? ›

Improving shared understanding is important among virtual teams so they can be effective. Having a shared understanding enables people to anticipate and predict the behaviors of their team members and the behavior of the group.

Why is it important to collaborate and share knowledge ideas in a team? ›

Why is collaboration important? Collaboration improves the way your team works together and problem solves. This leads to more innovation, efficient processes, increased success, and improved communication. Through listening to and learning from team members, you can help each other reach your goals.

What is one of the benefits of sharing knowledge in the workplace? ›

Better productivity. Since shared knowledge is accessible knowledge, employees spend less time searching for answers – whether they're buried somewhere in SharePoint or with their manager who's in back-to-back meetings all day. Employees can proceed with the task at hand in less time. Reduced costs.

What are 3 benefits of sharing information? ›

Jump to:
  • Collaborate and build collective knowledge.
  • Find better ways of doing things.
  • Build a community and learning culture.
  • Create better customer experiences.
  • Retain knowledge.
  • Connect remote employees to knowledge.
  • The feel-good factor.
Aug 21, 2020

Why understanding is important in a team? ›

Teams that know each other have better relationships, understand each other and play to one another's strengths. If you're looking to improve your working relationships, getting to know your team is a strong foundation to build from.

What are the shared goals of collaboration? ›

Collaborative goal-setting is a process where a group works together to identify and establish a shared goal or set of goals. In this process, everyone involved in the goal-setting process actively participates, providing input and feedback to ensure that the goals align with everyone's needs and expectations.

How do you help employees find their purpose? ›

Here are five ways leaders can help employees develop a stronger connection between their work and a purpose they can feel passionate about.
  1. Make sure they see the impact of their work. ...
  2. Be flexible about job roles and responsibilities. ...
  3. Never stop modernizing your leadership style. ...
  4. Personalize guidance and feedback.
Apr 28, 2022

How do you build a strong sense of purpose? ›

How to find purpose in life: 12 tips
  1. Develop a growth mindset. Having a growth mindset is linked to having a sense of purpose. ...
  2. Create a personal vision statement. ...
  3. Give back. ...
  4. Practice gratitude. ...
  5. Turn your pain into purpose. ...
  6. Explore your passions. ...
  7. Be part of a community. ...
  8. Spend time with people who inspire you.
Oct 19, 2021

What is the process of understanding and shared meaning? ›

Communication is defined as the process of understanding and sharing meaning (Pearson & Nelson, 2000). At the center of our study of communication is the relationship that involves interaction between participants.

What is information sharing and understanding? ›

Thus defined, the process of information sharing incorporates two major aspects, i.e., giving information to others, and receiving information that has been provided by the information giver. Similar processes are characteristics of knowledge sharing.

What are the benefits of shared values in an organization? ›

Having shared values at work means employees share common work attitudes and principles with their colleagues. This can help build a feeling of camaraderie and a shared interest in success. It can also reflect how an employee's personal values align with the organization and the work they're performing.

What is the benefit of shared vision to an organization? ›

The concept of shared vision is an important foundation for proactive learning because it provides direction and focus for learning. This, in turn, fosters energy, commitment, and purpose among organizational members. A shared vision helps to clarify an organization's direction on what to do and what to learn.

Why is knowledge sharing so important to a global organization? ›

The benefit of knowledge sharing in organizations is that employees with expertise pass everything they know on to others. That way, they turn it into an asset everyone can draw from, into collective knowledge their colleagues can apply to their work.

What are the three 3 important aspects of collaboration? ›

Ok, so what are 3 important skills for teamwork and collaboration...
  • Workplace communication.
  • Respect for diversity in the workplace.
  • Build trust with employees.

What are the five principles of effective collaboration? ›

The Five Principles of Collaboration: Applying Trust, Respect, Willingness, Empowerment, and Effective Communication to Human Relationships.

What is the most important part of teamwork and collaboration? ›

Research shows that organizations that emphasize the importance of communication in teamwork complete tasks quicker and efficiently than teams that don't. Effective communication allows team members to learn and understand their roles to avoid duplication of functions.

Which is a method to increase shared understanding? ›

Visual collaboration tools such as Kanban Boards are unquestionably better at boosting shared understanding compared to text-based and even forms-based tools. A clear picture is worth a thousand words or more and gets everyone on the same page quickly.

What is shared understanding? ›

Shared understanding is defined as the ability of multiple agents to exploit common bodies of causal knowledge for the purposes of accomplishing common (or shared) goals.

What are the benefits of shared understanding? ›

Shared understanding delivers a common source of truth – shared norms and beliefs – a culture that drives decision-making which is aligned with the mission.

What is the process of understanding and sharing? ›

Communication is defined as the process of understanding and sharing meaning (Pearson & Nelson, 2000). At the center of our study of communication is the relationship that involves interaction between participants.

What is shared understanding in the context of collaborative teams? ›

Importance of Shared understanding:

The most important part of the shared understanding is decision-making because the ideas or thoughts are shared among the group members. It will be easy for the people to accept it because they have discussed or accepted the thought or added their own perceptions to make it compete.

Why is a shared vision important to successful teamwork? ›

A strong shared vision also creates a sense of identity that permeates the company. It drives a work culture that allows employees to thrive. There is a feeling of unity and teamwork, and there are high standards. These standards aren't arbitrary rules that come from out-of-touch management.

How can a leader Inspire a Shared Vision? ›

“Leaders who Inspire a Shared Vision passionately believe that they can make a difference. They envision the future, creating an ideal and unique image of what the organization can become. Through their magnetism and quiet persuasion, leaders enlist others in their dreams.

What is an example of shared knowledge? ›

But knowledge can also be the work of a group of people working together either in concert or, more likely, separated by time or geography. Areas of knowledge such as the arts and ethics are of this form. These are examples of shared knowledge.

How does shared understanding affect communication? ›

The most essential part of any definition of communication is shared understanding. Human communication is first of all the art of establishing shared understanding. To understand someone is to “stand under” that unique person, to humble one's self to his or her understanding of reality.


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4. Confluence: the secret to onboarding & happier teams | Atlassian Presents: Work Life '22 | Atlassian
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