Deeper Clarity Method: Aligning A Common Understanding For Projects - Spring2 Innovation

Deeper Clarity Method: Aligning A Common Understanding For Projects

December 20, 2023


In project management, or whenever you are looking to design (or re-design) a product or service, achieving a common understanding among team members is the underpinning for success. A shared vision and clarity on project goals, objectives, and individual roles are foundational elements that establish a unified direction.  This common understanding ensures that all stakeholders, from project managers to team members and key stakeholders, are on the same page regarding project expectations and outcomes.

Navigating the Pitfalls of Misinterpretation

When everyone involved has a different idea of what success looks like, it opens the doors for misinterpretation or repeated work. We’ve seen teams that use jargon specific to their department or group that has a different meaning to outside groups – which can be pitfall when trying to align a common understanding between multidisciplinary teams. When possible, it is ideal to mitigate these consequences early on in the primary stages of the project.

Project leaders are responsible for maintaining the “North star,” the focus point to guide teams toward success. The project leader serves as the orchestrator, responsible for overall project coordination, communication, and risk management. Team members, on the other hand, bear the responsibility of executing assigned tasks within their expertise or skillset. Therefore, creating a shared, common understanding of delineation of roles and responsibilities as well as the establishment of a shared vocabulary falls to the leadership of the project. Especially in teams where business functions are quite different, such as between business and IT, aligning common goals will go a long way to driving collaboration between different departments.

Deeper Clarity for Team Alignment 

Spring2 Innovation’s Deeper Clarity method for problem-solving and innovation is rooted from design thinking methodology and provides the tools for facilitating the mindset shift for looking at projects through a human-centered lens. Here we’ll share our findings on best practices to align your team at the start and how to maintain that focus throughout the project life cycle.

In a multidisciplinary team, how do you arrive at a common understanding? 

Communication is the simple answer, but more specifically, the communication strategies a leader employs at the onset and throughout the project’s life cycle determines the degree of alignment of their team’s understanding. You will want to gather members of your team and ask them directly what success looks like. From there, you have a direct window into the perspectives of your team. 

For example, in service delivery, you might find that a manager’s idea of a goal is to decrease the amount of calls to a call centre, while the marketing team looks to increase feedback from clients. In this case, the service may need an integrated self-service system will a follow-up satisfaction survey. As a leader, you can address their unique visions of success and then guide the group collectively towards the goals that address their true needs.

Aligning teams with different backgrounds can be also be a challenge. This includes personnel in different fields of expertise, those who are collaborating in different parts of the world or time zones, or even teams with cultural differences. Leaders should take the time to learn about their team members to gain an understanding of where they’re coming from. What does their day-to-day look like beyond the hours they contribute to the project? How is a goal defined through their eyes? In a more practical sense, especially when teams are collaborating from different countries, there must be a common understanding of how and when communication can be expected. Leaving expectations left to assumptions may cause unintended friction between team members. It is well worth putting in the effort of understanding the position of everyone on the team to align priorities and demonstrate that you value open communication.

Leadership’s Role in Maintaining Focus

While purpose-driven discussions are important, leaders need to be mindful of how much time they allocate towards meetings. Harvard Business Review cited studies from Charlotte College indicating that time spent in meetings has been increasing since the 1950’s. Their research has also indicated that even though employees resent meetings, some view them as a “necessary evil,” as they are an effective way to obtain input from all levels and curb top-down decision-making from upper management. Both employees and executives are aware that more time spent in meetings decreases time spent on “deep work” – the effort put towards completely a cognitively demanding task – which is usually spent alone, clear of distractions. It is clear that if organizations want to extract the best of both worlds, a more systematic approach to meetings is a sound solution.

In addition to the initial communication to understand their teams, project leaders should include regular check-ins and feedback loops as part of their communication strategies. For example, a weekly stand-up meeting to review the status of objectives or issues that came up during the week where all participants come prepared with an understanding of what the meeting will achieve. During team meetings, leaders stay the course of a collective comprehension of what goals have been achieved so far and which objectives have yet to be met while maintaining good use of everyone’s time.

Sprin2 Innovation’s Deeper Clarity method guides leaders in both private and public sector organizations as to how they can employ best practices within their own teams to maximize productivity and efficiency. 

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