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How we collaborate

We work with partners and use collaborative, remote-friendly tools to model agile, open, and inclusive teams. Our ambition is to demonstrate the value of technical experts, procurement decision-makers, strategic deciders, and frontline public servants working together toward the same goal.

In many parts of government, hierarchical processes and communication patterns make it unusual for decision-makers (like managers, contracting officers, agency leadership) to work together with “doers” (like designers, customer service staff, software developers, program staff) on a daily basis.

Hierarchy can be a good tool for specialization and focus — but it takes healthy multidisciplinary collaboration to build effective, resilient technology products in a rapidly changing environment. Our hope is that working with 18F will equip our partners to build (and hire) healthy, high-functioning teams for the long term.

Creating inclusive teams and meetings

The foundation and principles of our approach to inclusion are outlined in the TTS Code of Conduct; we also expect project teams to be proactive about creating inclusive environments for collaboration in everything they do.

Be intentional about forging new teams

Each time a new team forms—or anytime someone joins an existing team—is a chance to set an inclusive tone and re-establish team norms.

Make space for each other’s voices

Pay attention to what voices and perspectives dominate. If you notice imbalance, be proactive about helping new perspectives come through:

Appreciate and harness creative tension

Disagreement is inevitable on projects. Creative tension is a feature of diverse cross-functional teams, not a bug. Here are some ways for teams to build trust as they manage differences of opinion, style, or approach:

Making the most of remote meetings

Generally, treat remote meetings the same way you would treat in-person meetings: be at your workspace, on time, and focused.

Project rituals and meetings

We use agile rituals to hold ourselves accountable, build momentum, and get comfortable working iteratively and changing processes. If you’re new to agile, start with the Agile Manifesto or drop by #agile.

Project teams at 18F tend to use a “best of both” hybrid of lightweight Scrum (planning, standups, and retros) and Kanban (project boards and continuous prioritization). Most teams default to two-week sprints, but might try shorter or longer sprints if the team thinks they’d be more effective.

Teams adapt the length, format, and cadence of meetings to fit their needs, but it’s good practice to establish it early in the engagement and maintain them regularly throughout. You can expect most teams to have these meetings:

Including agency partners in sprint rituals is a powerful way to model how we work on a daily basis. Most teams include partners in most (or all) sprint rituals, with the ambition that the partners will lead and consider maintaining the meetings by the end of the engagement.

Further reading

Making remote collaboration successful

Collaboration at 18F depends on navigating the tools and norms of distributed work. We’re an organization of full-time teleworkers because it’s how we attract and hire folks with the skills we need. Having a distributed team also increases our geographic diversity and forces us to maintain healthy, intentional communication.

In many federal agencies, remote work has a reputation for impeding collaboration, so it’s incumbent on us to demonstrate that a distributed team can be an asset, not a liability.

Here are some of the practices that make it work well for us:

Are there times we shouldn’t collaborate with our partners?

Though we prefer to collaborate with our partners whenever possible, there are some situations where we might limit access to documents and artifacts, or participation in conversations, to our internal 18F project team. For example: