Adopting Continuous Coordination

A 3-step guide for implementing the Continuous Coordination principles

Every digital product and service organization is unique, with a variety of tools, processes, skillsets, and headcount that drive how they work. And with modern work, input variables also include where and when the work gets done — hybrid, multi-office, distributed, etc.

Because of these differences, there’s no precise formula for implementing Continuous Coordination. So here we outline broad guidelines in a 3-step pattern known to work for others. You’ll have to tailor it further to fit your organization, but it’s a proven and solid start.

It’s also important to note that Continuous Coordination is not designed to replace established tools, processes, or communication channels. Instead, it’s a lightweight overlay practice that offers instant improvements by solving for the underlying problems that typically hold organizations back: miscommunication, opaque vision, fractured context, micromanagement, and misalignment.

As you follow the steps, look for efficiencies, but we don’t recommend replacing existing processes right away. As an overlay, Continuous Coordination will work alongside waterfall, agile, OKRs, and many other embedded processes.

Shoot for a gradual, incremental approach and let the principles do the heavy lifting.

Adopting Continuous Coordination in 3 Steps

Step 1: Establish high-frequency, single-team communication loops

Implement Keep a steady beat at the team level on a daily basis.

Within each team, automate a way for all contributors and managers to briefly summarize their intentions for the day in writing and share it with the rest of the team. Use existing communication channels that have the best chance of getting these check-ins in front of the whole team. Configure notification prompts so that team members don’t have to remember to check in. This will help the motion become habitual.

Step 2: Establish low-frequency communication loops for team and cross-team objectives

Implement Keep a steady beat at the organization level on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

Automate a way for contributors and managers to update their progress — in writing — against shared objectives and share it with the rest of the organization. For example, a team could have a quarterly goal and update their progress against that goal every week or two. Keep these updates short and consumable but not shallow, with enough context and details to underpin further discussion if necessary. Use communication channels that ensure the updates are highly visible and not buried in a folder or the dark corners of your knowledge base.

Step 3: Lead by example

Use the Keep a steady beat communication loops established in Steps 1 and 2 as vehicles for the other 6 Continuous Coordination principles.

By following steps 1 and 2 with Keep a steady beat, you’ll naturally develop several other principles within your organization:

  • Surfacing check-ins and goal updates to the whole organization is how to Work in the open.
  • Cataloging plans and intentions within communication loops is the way to Tell the future.
  • Written check-ins and updates reinforce the thinking that’s the basis for Write it down.
  • Keeping a steady beat with written communication loops can avoid low-value “catch-up” and status meetings eschewed in Spare the meetings.

Implementing Lead with context will require a more deliberate, demonstrative effort by managers and leaders. Use the communication loops to constantly lay out why the work matters so that contributors can function autonomously. In the updates leaders provide in Step 2, clarify the ties back to parent goals and the organization’s mission.

Finally, to apply the Track output, not input principle, make sure the updates in Step 2 aren’t an examination of input metrics — like lines of code written or meetings attended — that don’t correlate with the outcomes you’re shooting for. Focus on the output metrics that matter in the updates.

None of the principles are exclusive to managers or contributors. It’s therefore critical that managers lead by example and fully participate in the communication loops, both in writing thoughtful updates that demonstrate the principles and engaging in updates from others. Model the behavior you want to see across the organization for best results.