Everything everywhere all at once or distributed teams that distribute

Pedro Reis

There are several reasons you may want to distribute things within a team/organization. You may have heard about distributing equity or delegating tasks but here I’m more interested in things like power, and roles, and capacity. How do you share these things and more importantly, how can you prosper while doing it when not expecting that everyone reaches the same level of achievement or progression.

I’ll give you an example.

Imagine you divide the things you do within your organization (company, team, family, etc) into categories.

And then you create a role to promote progress in each category. Let’s say you have a category called “money” and you have a role called “head of money”. This is not a person. This role gives, anyone wearing it, the permission and responsibility to champion anything related to money. Things like making sure bills are paid, accounting is done, there’s enough coming in, people are getting enough for their needs, etc.
Suppose you have six people in your organization (including you) that are rotating this role and every month (or any other cycle you propose) you switch roles. Most probably not all six people will have the same level of ability or experience in this area. Not everyone will have the inclination for the activities involved in this category and may even dislike them. You may be already anticipating longer learning curves and periods of lower performance.

So why do it? What do you have to gain?

1. Empathy

You may have heard or experienced stories when someone can’t understand why something was or wasn’t done in a certain way. Why something took so much time. Or even, question what is that you do all day. Distributing and rotating the role will put everyone in everyone’s shoes. Learning what involves a certain area of work, what constraints and opportunities. And perhaps the most important part, it will generate new proposals coming from different points of view but now better informed and with more compassion and appreciation.

2. Range

Knowing (and doing) more things from different areas will make you better at what you are already good at. Being a generalist is arguably the most important quality for anyone in the future, being able to make connections between different fields and practicing agility and flexibility will make you readier to adapt to an always-changing environment. Expertise or mastery can still exist in your organization either in-house (now even growing by giving everyone new knowledge from different areas) or by bringing in from outside when needed (i.e. accountant, programer, lawyer, etc).

3. Fairness

You created or joined this beautiful organization with wonderful ideas that you want to develop but you’re stuck in the same repetitive tasks that are ever-growing. Is this where you want to be? Do you have more in you than this narrow stack of things that you get to do? What about the others? Should we let them experience the excitement and pains from other roles and enable more useful conversations and better iterations? The answer is yes! :)

4. Progress

It’s not easy, or fast, or cheap but if can do then there’s a lot to gain. Diverse thinking in every area of your organization will make people do more and better questions that eventually will contribute to iterations and upgrades to your organization's ways. A group of “jacks of all trades, masters of some” will behave more collaboratively and detect patterns (advantages or obstacles) that otherwise would be invisible. This type of diversity might create some anxiety but if done well will create space for new learnings, excitement, togetherness, personal growth, and ownership. Making everyone in your organization capable of doing everything everywhere all at once will also mean that if someone needs to go away or take time off (which everyone should be able to do at anytime) anyone will be able to take over without a sweat.

* Why I’m writing this: I’m reflecting on what I want for myself within Komuhn as my commitment to the other people in my team. I find writing a good way to make my (our) ideas clearer. Sometimes I’ll write on social media and/or on our website and they will participate, other times they won’t. You may always do it.

Pedro Reis

What are you thinking?

Comments (0)