Better Team Communications with Work Reviews

Photo: Palesa Sibeko

Any teams coach/designer can tell you that one of the leading causes of team breakdown and festering cultures, that do little more than prod everyone along just enough to stay employed but hardly engaged or opted in to brilliance, is communication.

At Inquisition, we help design ways for teams to learn and create together and as such, we’re constantly exposed to how communication can easily falter. If you have not noticed this yourself, I encourage you to run a simple exercise to surface productivity and culture blockers from your teammates to reveal this universal issue.

One of the areas in which we have identified a breakdown in communication to the detriment of achieving team objectives is the lack of opportunity or know-how of reviewing work that a team produces. In design schools and in the design world, this is often solved through Design Critiques — a method that allows feedback/criticism of work created in order to improve on it.

Because the nature of our work sees us working across industries and team types, we have renamed this to Work Review to be more inclusive and readily understood (side note: we’re still having to explain that design isn’t just the domain of visual problem-solving). We thus define work reviews or “critiques” as a type of reflection on work that favours objective analysis. Through constructive interrogation and diverse perspectives, the team can move towards achieving objectives in meaningful ways.

How is this different to how most teams already provide feedback?

For one, it exists in its own right and is not bolted onto a status or other meeting to attenuated effect. A well-designed work review session is focused and allows for structured conversation that keeps the eye on the prize, such as why a decision was made and how it affects the goal.

Various stakeholders who can provide valuable contribution are invited and their diverse perspectives are given full effect. Bosses or others who in the team structure may ordinarily hold authority are not necessarily given a bigger voice but rather, their contribution is meritocratic in nature.

How will you know if your work review sessions are successful?

As the person who has presented work, you will have a clear sense of why some of the choices you have made may not have worked out and how to proceed. As importantly, you would have established a way to openly communicate with your team that keeps you goal-oriented and producing better work, together.

We recently had a very short time to present to a team on how they could run work reviews and compiled a guide that you can use (and please, provide critique through commenting).

DOWNLOAD our brief guide to Work Reviews

Original Photo by Keenan Constance on Unsplash

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