Principles for modern knowledge work

Continuous Coordination is the practice of using open, structured communication loops, alongside a set of proven collaboration principles, to give everyone in a digital product or service organization precisely the shared context they need, when they need it, to stay productive, aligned, and engaged.

Continuous Coordination Visualized

At its core, knowledge work is about making decisions. From writing code to structuring a marketing campaign to prioritizing a roadmap, knowledge workers need a stream of information — who, what, where, when, and how — to work effectively. But making timely and effective decisions also requires context — the why that drives the work of individuals and the business as a whole.

Most modern tools and processes for structuring work are remarkably good at two things: breaking chunks of knowledge down into small parts and producing metrics. Project management tools turn complex epics into consumable tasks, performance management tools quantify task completion states, and communication and collaboration tools sprinkle it all across your organization’s knowledge footprint through wikis, emails, and chats.

Once knowledge is shredded into bits, contributors and managers alike must constantly assemble context from this ever-growing pile of data to make the hundreds of daily choices their jobs require. This assembly process is overwhelming, sapping everyone of the time and energy they need to do their actual work. Also, teams and people often arrive at different versions of context, driving expensive efforts in multiple directions. The result is an existential crisis to the business: productivity down, poor work quality, and disengaged, burned-out people.

The good news? Thriving teams and organizations have flipped this script by distilling hard earned lessons learned over decades running knowledge work teams and embracing the distributed nature of modern work. They do this through Continuous Coordination — the application of seven core principles for knowledge work.

Each of the principles is powerful on its own, but combined, they are a proven force for achieving and sustaining high levels of productivity, work quality, and meaningful engagement. Even better, the principles are self-reinforcing: the more your organization uses them, the easier they are to apply. To dig in, we recommend reviewing the principles in order, starting with Keep a steady beat.

For more information on implementing the principles, see the 3-step adoption guide.

The Principles

  1. 01: Keep a steady beat

    Ad-hoc approaches to keeping everyone informed and aligned are brittle, time-consuming, and tedious. Replace them with automated, structured communication loops to create a steady beat that keeps everyone in tight sync without all the effort and interruptions.

  2. 02: Lead with context

    “Butts in seats” management is an engagement killer, and a non-starter when you can’t see actual butts in actual seats. Instead, give people the context and coaching they need to make independent decisions that move the business forward. High-autonomy teams are high-functioning teams.

  3. 03: Work in the open

    Working in the open builds trust, a prerequisite for high-performance teams. Working in the open turns bottom-to-top information funneling into autonomy-enabling information sharing. Working in the open keeps stakeholders and adjacent teams up to speed without asks and interruptions.

  4. 04: Tell the future

    You can learn from history, but you can change the future. That makes communicating intent across your org an actual superpower. When contributors do it, leaders can course-correct before days/weeks/months get burned. When leaders do it, contributors can drive progress autonomously.

  5. 05: Spare the meetings

    The answer to everything can’t be “have a meeting.” Zoom fatigue is real, and people need big blocks of time to do deep work. Save meetings for the high-value stuff — collaborating, team-building — and use async tools for the rest.

  6. 06: Write it down

    Writing helps you clarify your thoughts and ideas before you share them. Writing makes your thoughts and ideas digestible for others. Writing doesn’t require everyone showing up at the same time. Writing is accessible. Writing is searchable. If it “could have been an email”, by all means. Default to writing.

  7. 07: Track output, not input

    When it comes to knowledge work, real productivity isn’t measured by hours clocked, meetings attended, how long a lunch break was, or number of emails sent. Set clear goals, and focus on output and outcomes instead.