Thoughts on “consistency” in ways of working

Modified from my old blog.

Consistency can be imposed or natural.

There are generally two approaches to consistency in ways of working:

  • Impose consistency through policy;
  • Encourage consistency naturally via exposure.

Consistency encouraged via exposure is what I call natural consistency. Some of the ways I’ve seen that create natural consistency include:

  • Having showcases between teams about how they do things and ideas they have;
  • Rotating people between teams;
  • Combining multiple teams into one team.

Consistency is not universally good or bad.

Natural consistency will not eliminate all variation in ways of working. And it shouldn’t, because not all variation is bad.

If the ways of working are different because the nature of the work and/or context is different, this makes sense.

If the ways of working are different mainly because you’re just not communicating with each other, this doesn’t make sense. This is the problem that consistency should be addressing.

Consistency is most important with interaction protocols.

No matter how appropriately consistent we are for our local context, we may still need to work out how to work together across contexts despite any differences.

When we’re building technical services that need to communicate, we should be explicit about both the messages and the protocol.

When we have teams that need to communicate, we should be explicit about the messages and the protocol, that is, what and how we communicate.

In other words:

  • Agree clearly on how we will work together;
  • Agree what decisions are made across teams and what decisions are delegated to within a specific team