Building a ‘sharing culture’ remotely

I should start by saying that this wasn’t my idea, and I did in-fact steal it from a good friend I used to work with at Deliveroo (don’t worry, he knows). He’s already written an article about this very topic, which will no doubt be better than mine, but this idea works so well I thought “why not write about the success I’ve had with it as well!?”. So without further ado, here goes…

As a new manager of a rather large design team (17, soon to be 19 people!), my main goal is to ensure my team have what they need to be successful, to enjoy what they’re doing and feel that they have a real purpose. We’re not in short supply of that at Sainsbury’s, especially over the last year where we’ve been working to feed the nation, helping more people get the food they need when they need it most. However, to be successful, it’s important that we’re aligned, working in sync with one another to achieve our desired outcomes for the year. And when you’re working at such a fast pace, trying to keep up with ever changing customer behaviours, we often become siloed within our own product areas, with limited awareness of the bigger picture and work that’s happening around us.

So, I wanted to find a way of giving my team visibility of the work everyone is doing without it being a laborious task, such as weekly presentations, design shares, or something else (not that I’m downplaying the value of design shares, but they have their place). That’s where I ‘borrowed’ the WAYWO concept from my aforementioned friend (cheers Rob).

WAYWO (What Are You Working On), is a daily, lightweight ritual where each team member takes a screen grab of whatever they’re working on at a specific moment in time, and shares it in our Teams group chat with a short description. It could be building a prototype in Figma, sketching something in a notebook, in a Teams meeting with stakeholders, or taking the dog for a walk. Essentially whatever they’re up to when the reminder-bot prompts the team to nominate someone for the WAYWO shout out today, and non-work related photos are encouraged!

Wheel of names

To make it work effectively, we’ve created a ‘spinning wheel of names’ (shown above) that when clicked, will randomly select a name from our team (shown below).

Winning name selected
Winning name selected
Winning name!

It’s then that persons job to give the WAYWO shout out (which can be whenever they want throughout the day), at which point everyone starts uploading their screen grabs or photos to the chat.

WAYWO shout out

We’ve been trialling it for around 2 months now and it’s working really well. Impromptu conversations about work have increased, from asking more about specific initiatives, to discussing workshop processes and other design related topics, to getting more of an insight into each others lives, what type of dog a colleague has, what they do for their lunch, or what their favourite coffee is!

Teams chat thread
Teams chat thread
A typical WAYWO thread in Teams

At the end of the day, sharing what we’re working on is more important than ever, not only because we’re doing more to help our customers than ever before, but also because working remotely makes it harder to peer over someones shoulder and see what they’re doing, or to see design scamps stuck on the wall with annotations all over them. Give this a try, if it works for us I’m sure it’ll work for you too!

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