Step Towards a ‘One-Team’ Culture: Experiences from The Telegraph
“Madiba.. this rugby, is it a political calculation?”
“No, it is a human calculation”
– Nelson Mandela, Movie “Invictus”*
I started an initiative called “Infoshare” at the Telegraph, which has had a tremendous effect in bringing teams and departments together company-wide, creating a one-team culture. I would like to share Why I created Infoshare, How we do it, Who does it, What gets covered and When.
In essence, Infoshare is an informal weekly information sharing forum, where anyone can speak and all can attend. By creating simple rules around this forum, it can enable collaboration which is at the heart of Agile and can also promote leadership, innovation and product discovery. Please see some examples in this article.
My motivation in writing this article is due to the effect Infoshare has had within our organisation and my ability to scale this forum to any organisational size. This article is also in response to a request from within the Adventures With Agile community in London to share my experiences from creating and running Infoshare.
Sharing Why I created Infoshare, How we do it, Who does it, What gets covered and When.
I first created “Infoshare” in a very small form in my first role as a Scrum Master with a 50-strong mid-sized startup, to encourage the members in both of my teams to talk to each other. I would set up a weekly half-hour lunchtime slot in a room and invite each team member from either team to talk in rotation every week, about anything they wanted to talk about. Everyone in the company was invited to listen. Some came, some didn’t but the audience grew. I called it Infoshare as I believed this was an informal information sharing session. Not quite lunch & learn as we often didn’t have lunch at this session. The word ‘Infoshare’ caught on in the next couple of months so much so, that HR asked me for an Infoshare slot to announce their new policy proposal, so they could get feedback in this informal forum.
A few years later I joined The Telegraph, I remember my first day, as I remember telling someone, that it felt like I was amongst highly intelligent people. When the newness ebbed, I recognised that this excellence was also contained within each department. Due to various reasons, we were very deep in our departmental silos. Not that we would never talk, but we did not talk enough – enough to learn from each other or enough to amplify our strengths.
I tried Infoshare again first within Technology. We got a lot of technical talks, enjoyable to those in Technology. I then approached our Senior Executive team and mentioned to them a book I had read “If I could tell you just one thing..” by Richard Reed. Every single Senior Exec I approached was ready to speak. I called the series “My Driving Force”.
I share with you here, a sample excerpt we got listening to these leaders.
I spaced Senior Exec talks with the others in a way that kept our audience engaged and our speaker mix interesting. Every couple of months, as I saw audience size, it roughly doubled. From 10 to 20 to 50 to 90 in 6 months. We had attendees from HR, Legal, Finance, Commercial, Customer, Technology, Newspaper Sales and Editorial. I gathered stats through a very simple internal website I put up, to ask who was willing to speak. I used a couple of other organisational changes happening alongside, to get further momentum.
I slowly gathered a group of people around me who were equally interested to contribute in setting it up. One who could take photos, one who could do a live stream video and one who could help me do a poster and a few people across departments for speaker arrangements.
I have put in place some rules for e.g. informal ‘personal experience’ talks do not get recorded. You need to be there in person to hear those talks as we respect that some messages might be personal. Talks ‘with slides’ now get recorded and slides shared. You need to join the workplace group to see updates.
I started with 10 members which grew to 152 members in 7 months. This is a sample stats I got from my questionnaire to our members at this point.
Predominantly, anyone can speak on any topic they want to speak on. We have had talks ranging from Machine Learning to Marketing plans so anything goes. However, when there are gaps, I book a series of talks to trigger change or create clarity on any topic or to generate ideas. For example the “One day in the role of..” talk series, where I invited our Directors to speak about their role or the ”Infoshare Idea Circle” where we generated ideas for our podcasts. The difference between an external meetup group and an internal meetup group became clear. The possibilities are endless as to what you can do within this forum for an organisation.
I found that keeping the same time, same day (I wish I could say same place, but we couldn’t) every week, during lunchtime helped. We tried half-hour first but seemed rushed with Q&A so have taken to doing a 45-minute session every week.
After 7 months of weekly Infoshares, one of our Delivery Directors asked me for an Infoshare slot. He said he was working on a new area and wanted to clarify some questions through this informal forum. De ja vu..
Infoshare audience photos at The Telegraph over time:
What have I learned?
In summary, some key learnings I have had from creating and running Infoshare:
- Create a learning culture
- Build on each others’ strengths, company wide
- Respect all levels in the organisation as we all contribute to that ‘one-team’
- Enable people to know more about each other
- Be proactive in recognising topic needs when there is a gap.
- Give credit where it is due
I was recently nominated within The Telegraph on World Values Day for starting this forum as people felt it showed them how they were connected across teams and departments. Though I had some rough moments in the first few months when I was on my own as I was proving this concept, hearing that it is useful has made it very worthwhile.
Note: If you would like to try this forum in your organisation or call it Infoshare, please do. I am happy to share my experiences of running this initiative. If you do, kindly refer back to my name to indicate the source.
*[Invictus is the story of Nelson Mandela recognising rugby to be that human tool to unify South Africa and win the 1995 Rugby World Cup against all odds. It brought the Afrikaans and the Africans together to become that ‘one-team’ cheering the Springboks.]
Geetha Ramachandran is a Senior Scrum Master and Agile Coach at The Telegraph. Having worked for over 18 years in the Software industry in various roles, she deeply believes in the principles behind Agile and its power to change the workplace. Geetha has a passion for Enterprise Transformation and creating ways to make this transformation easier and enjoyable. Geetha can be reached on LinkedIn.