Tag Archives: team

Improve Your Team’s Information Flow

25 Mar

There are two basic models for how information gets to the people who need it: Push and Pull.


The push model is where the owner of the information contacts and shares it with those who need it. The information can be shared corporately (in a meeting) or individually (email, hallway conversation). It places more responsibility on the information owner, as he/she needs to be fairly knowledgable about what each team member does and needs in order to get the right information to the right person on time. It is essential in situations where your team is very small and things are happening in real-time. For example, if I learn that my pastor is going to invite a guest on stage with him in the greeting (which begins in 30 seconds), I quickly determine that this affects audio, lighting and video and use my com system to immediately pass that information along to those people so that they can prepare for this audible.

In a project environment, however, this model has serious shortcomings.

  • It assumes that the information owner passes on the right information. How often have you needed info that someone else had, but they didn’t know you needed it?
  • It assumes that the receiver didn’t miss any details. (“I said that!” “No you didn’t!”)
  • It is hard to keep updated. Making sure everyone has the newest copy of things is problematic. Each time that changes are made, this info must be pushed to everyone who needs it. Again, this can be done verbally or by memos or emails, however your team works. It’s still push.
  • It places a high burden on the information owner to figure out who needs what info and to make sure it gets to the team.
  • It can foster a ‘turf war’ mentality because people are controlling the flow the information that they have.
  • It can easily create feelings of frustration from team members who need information, but can’t get it – either because the information owner is not available (in meetings, on vacation) or the owner may not realize that others need the information.

  • Pull

    Pull is when all project information is put in an central location and then those who need information can go there and retrieve what they need. The location can be physical or virtual, as long as all team members can easily access it. An old school example of this would be a theatre call board. The stage manager would post information by a specific time each day and all cast and crew would check the call board each day. Notices include changed call times, rehearsal room assignments, costuming notes, etc. If it was on the call board, you were responsible for the information. The internet makes this method available to us all and in a project environment is a far superior method for the distribution of information. There are a myriad of tools: Google Groups which is free but has limited features or Basecamp which is fee based but has a great list of features are just two examples. Planning Center (which most of you already use) is an outstanding example of a Pull system. You put the information out there and anyone who needs it has access.

    The Pull system has is downsides – if you used meetings as team building time, you will need to be more creative as meetings become unnecessary for the exchange of information. It also gives a level of ownership and responsibility to people who may not be accustomed to having it and that may be a learning curve as you move from one method to the other. However, the upsides to a Pull system are many.

  • The burden of information management is equally shared between owners and retrievers. If you own information, you post it. If you need information, you retrieve it.
  • All information is available to all parties. You get to decide what information you need to do your job well.
  • There are less misunderstandings and missed information when it is all posted and all parties can easily review what’s been shared.
  • It is easily updated when there is only one place that fresh information is kept. Everyone is always on the same page.
  • Collaboration is easier when all parties know what’s going on project wide.

  • I would urge you to look at how information flows in your team. If you are still using a push system, consider making the shift to a pull system. It empowers team members, creates less burden on leaders and once fully implemented, will lead you to a more cohesive, highly functional team.


    “You are only as big as your dream & as good as your team.”

    17 Mar

    I’d like to cite that, but it was retweeted so many times I had trouble finding the author. I think it’s brilliant though. You cannot destroy your team to implement your dream, you need both. Good thing to keep in mind. Do you sacrifice people for product?

    Strong Volunteer Teams

    10 Mar

    I was blessed to attend the Gurus of Tech conference last week in Chicago. One of the breakouts I went to was on leading volunteers and was lead by Jill Werst who was a mountain of knowledge. The most pivotal take-away for me was this: your best recruitment tool is investing in your current volunteers. Wow. That really resonates with what I have seen work and fail over 20 years. But how do we invest in our current volunteers?

    Volunteers crave trust, a mission, excellence, and team. If we can create an environment where they have all four, they will thrive. And they will bring their friends who will also thrive. Let’s look at each of these.


    Can your volunteers trust that you will give them the information they need to feel successful? How is your communication process? Confusion and chaos is not the best environment and will scare people off. When there is insecurity, there is high turnover. Do they trust that you will teach them what they need to know so that they feel valuable or are you just throwing them in the deep end of the pool? Do you have documentation? Volunteers LOVE checklists. Do they trust that you will begin and end when you said you would? Nothing breaks trust faster than wasting people’s time.


    “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
    -Antoine De Saint-Exupéry

    This is absolutely key to building strong volunteer teams. I spend time teaching my set up team knots. Yes knots! Sound exciting? Not really, eh? But we always go big picture – why is this knot important (it’s adjustable), why does it matter (it saves time later, we are serving someone else by using the right knot), why does THAT matter? Because the less time the staff has to focus on tweaking on Saturday, the more time they can spend on other things and it all impacts the experience that our attenders have. This knot helps bring people to Christ. 🙂 Yes, I go there and we make it a little bit of a joke – just because that’s my personality with my team – but the idea sticks. What you do has epic consequences. When you connect those dots for your team, you develop pride and workmanship that would be missed without it.


    Let’s face it. Nobody wants to be part of a team that sucks. It guarantees dissatisfaction, disappointment, and turnover. Time spent in training and planning pays off in exponential dividends. If your volunteers don’t feel like they are a part of something great, they won’t stay. No one does everything perfectly, but there are two ways to break this down – product and attitude. Product – if your end product is not good quality, you’ll never have a great team. Perhaps that should be your starting point. Building a team without a product is a cart before the horse kind of thing. Attitude – are you praising when things done well? Publicly? Twitter and Facebook are fantastic tools for this. Everyone loves a public ‘attaboy’. Are you making sure that you honor the absentee and never NEVER allow disparaging comments in team? If you shut people down when they complain about other departments, they will know that you have their back when they are complained about. This is related to the trust thing. If you focus on an uplifting attitude – being a place people love to be, you will have achieved half the battle to excellence.


    One of the most deeply seeded needs God put in us is the need to belong. It doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert, when you feel a part of something bigger than yourself, magic happens. Connect with your team regularly in and out of work time. Read their Facebook, ask about their family publicly so that other join that conversation too. Here is the craziest little big thing that has helped our team – names. Learn everyone’s names and make them do it too. When your stage manager calls for the ‘guitar player’ rather than for Jon, when the speaker calls someone “power point guy” rather than Chris…it’s disrespectful and disheartening. Become a culture that uses names, there’s nothing more personal. Use name tags, put the names on production copies, be the example. No one feels a part of a team where the leaders and teammates don’t know each others names. Do whatever it takes – you’ll be stunned what a change in attitude of the team that makes.

    Thank people. This cannot be said enough. Thank them privately and publicly. Thank them thank them thank them. I go around and thank each individual crew and cast member every week with something personal about their performance each week. (“I loved that camera shot on the fade out of the acoustic piece! Nice eye!”) Send them thank you notes periodically, call them once a quarter for no reason but to say “I appreciate your work and commitment.” It’s such an easy thing and it’s vital for people to feel like they are noticed and appreciated. This is especially critical with large teams where people have a tendency to feel lost and unnoticed.

    Trust, mission, excellence and team are the keys to strong teams. Not skills. 🙂 It’s an upside down way to look at things, maybe, but almost anyone can be taught skills, it’s the environment that you create that builds a strong team.