4 tips for creating a collaborative culture on your tech team

Photo of Christian Graf from DCMN
Christian Graf, CTO at DCMN

Cross-functional collaboration can be tricky for any team. There’s no easy way to merge management styles and differing development methodologies. For tech teams—where traditional processes often clash with engineering workflows—it can be particularly challenging.

Christian Graf knows those challenges firsthand. Before becoming CTO at DCMN, an international growth marketing company for digital businesses, he co-founded two startups, ran a small web and SEO business, and helped build the cloud computation and continuous integration platform at SAP.

At the beginning of 2017, DCMN bought Christian’s second startup—realzeit—and brought him onboard as CTO. In addition to bringing experience as an entrepreneur, Christian introduced an inspirational approach to creating company culture.

“When I joined I was confronted by a team full of talented engineers working in a way that wasn’t allowing them to develop to the best of their abilities,” says Christian. “Responsibilities weren’t always clear and expectations in the business were a little blurry, which caused friction.”

To solve the friction problem DCMN began by asking the team to name their pain points. Next, they had to interpret the feedback to get beyond the symptoms, and identify the core challenges.
To move toward full autonomy among the staff, Christian says DCMN had to create interdisciplinary teams that were aligned to products and common goals.

“Each team now has all the resources they need to deliver the project, rather than just components,” explains Christian. “This removes the interfaces where the ‘blame game’ happens and everyone now feels ownership and a responsibility to get things done.”

To deliver the most value to their clients, DCMN decided to focus on their core capabilities. “Our clients are digital companies that are very results-driven,” he explains. “So it makes sense for us to focus on improving the things that deliver the biggest rewards.”

In the process of helping DCMN grow by introducing new technology, Christian discovered four key takeaways about bringing together a team of technology experts.

1. Focus on solutions that will last

Short term gains can be counter-productive to long term benefits.

“If you don’t invest now, you will always have to pay the price later—and it will just get more expensive.”

2. Celebrate open, constructive peer critique

The team should be encouraged to question decisions, and feel accountable for their contributions.

“In the same way you would review code, you put more brainpower on the problem. We made all our Slack channels public and brought the conversation out in the open…This has boosted the work ethic a great deal.”

3. Always share the why

Strive to create alignment about your team’s purpose and perspective.

“Everyone wants to do something that they feel is worth their time and effort.”

4. Create a culture of mutual trust

When you show your team you care about them, they’ll be there for you.

“If you give people trust, you get trust back. Some founders wonder why their team isn’t supporting them, assuming that for other founders it just happens ‘by magic’—it isn’t magic.”

For more tips on improving collaboration, download our eBook, Flow Together.

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