Working In Small Teams

Most of us are working in small teams these days, whether it’s with our wife or husband, partner, employee or a virtual assistant. Not to mention those side projects that we are working on—launching an Amazon product, designing a website for a friend or remodeling your kitchen.

The labor force is also significantly changing. Three years ago independent contracting site Upwork had 1.5 million freelancers registered, now they’re upwards of 10 million. I use Upwork all the time to hire contract coders and have spent thousands of dollars getting great talent on a per project basis.

Add our customers to the mix—which are the reason we exist—and we’ve got more teams in your life then we thought.

Google defines team as: “a group of players forming one side in a competitive game or sport.” But I like to think of a team as two or more people that harness their energies to create a positive change in the world.

With these ever growing layers of relationships in our lives, it’s good to have a manifesto for working together.

Seth Godin laid out a wonderful manifesto for us this week on his blog, and it’s worth reading on a regular basis:

We are always under tight deadlines, because time is our most valuable asset.

If you make a promise, set a date. No date, no promise.

If you set a date, meet it.

If you can’t make a date, tell us early and often. Plan B well prepared is a better strategy than hope.

Clean up your own mess.

Clean up other people’s messes.


Question premises and strategy.

Don’t question goodwill, effort or intent.

“I’ll know it when I see it,” is not a professional thing to say. Describing and discussing in the abstract is what we do.

Big projects are not nearly as important as scary commitments.

If what you’re working on right now doesn’t matter to the mission, help someone else with their work.

Make mistakes, own them, fix them, share the learning.

Cheap, reliable, public software might be boring, but it’s usually better. Because it’s cheap and reliable.

Yesterday’s hierarchy is not nearly as important as today’s project structure.

Lock in the things that must be locked in, leave the implementation loose until you figure out how it can get done.

Mostly, we do things that haven’t been done before, so don’t be surprised when you’re surprised.

Care more.

If an outsider can do it faster and cheaper than we can, don’t hesitate.

Always be seeking outside resources. A better rolodex is better, even if we don’t have rolodexes any more.

Talk to everyone as if they were your boss, your customer, the founder, your employee. It’s all the same.

It works because it’s personal.

Care more, over communication, and keep your promises—if you just start with those three you’ll be a long way ahead of everyone else.

Working In Small Teams