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Shape an effective team


You have clear business goals to achieve and team level objectives. You have a great team with the right skills to get the work done. So why do we find teams are:
  • Working hard at the wrong problem
  • Not measuring the impact of our work
  • And worst of all, duplicating efforts across teams
It’s not that you are doing the wrong tasks or using the wrong tools. Our research shows that you will benefit from investing in cultivating a shared understanding in your team to make sure that every team member knows what they should be working on and why. Shared understanding means that your team understands their mission, purpose, and the strategy of what needs to be done to deliver on goals.
This team shaping practice path will show you how to start activating a highly effective team to achieve your team objectives and grow productivity and innovation.

When is team shaping necessary?

If your team has…

  • newly formed
  • recently experienced turnover or additions to the team
  • restructured or re-organised recently
  • at risk of (or has already!) missing goals
  • ambitions to be more intentional about how you work

Why you should invest time in these team practices?

As a leader, you likely know all too well how difficult it can be to keep your team motivated and working effectively on the right problems. Business goals are higher than ever, and evolving rapidly. The economy is challenging and the old 9-5 in an office cubicle has been completely disrupted.
Meanwhile, employees needs are more diverse and expectations on employers are higher than ever. From diversity, equity and inclusion to quiet quitting and the rise of the gig economy. Team members are not showing up for the ‘hustle’ anymore- they want to know to get the best from their work, and of course, you want to know how to get the best from them. Who is stuck in the middle of these two extremes? The team leader. We can see that teams and their leaders are growing apart- and it is impacting not only employee job satisfaction, but also business outcomes such as productivity and innovation.
In our fourth wave of State of Teams research (more details below), conducted in January 2023, with thousands of knowledge workers across Australia, Europe, the USA, and India, we found that teams with a high degree of shared understanding were significantly more likely to report positive professional and business outcomes such as:
  • Meeting stakeholders expectations
  • Efficient use of their resources
  • Developing new ideas
  • Pride in their work
  • Increased motivation, energy and enthusiasm
  • Finding meaning and purpose in their work
But why should you just take our word for it? Let’s take a look at some of the data.


In 2023, we are now into our third year of our State of Teams research, and have just completed our fourth wave of research. State of Teams is Atlassian’s ongoing study with thousands of knowledge workers, revealing macro-level trends and providing leaders with research-backed ways to foster happier, higher-performing teams. The pandemic threw the work rule book out the window and we all struggled to adopt new ways of working. As a sense of stability returns, we get the opportunity to intentionally rebuild a more functional model that enables healthy teams to do their best work.
In 2021 teams were struggling, with a third defined as ‘unhealthy’. We saw vast improvement to bring up the baseline in 2022, but the proportion of truly effective teams stayed relatively stagnant, actually falling backwards to 13%. The race to mediocre. Our research shows that creating a shared understanding is critical to building high-performing, effective teams.
Screenshot 2023-02-22 at 9.23.54 AM
Our latest research, conducted January 2023, shows that rates of shared understanding in teams has stagnated, with 1 in 4 teams still lacking this attribute. But the plot thickens. Analysing the data, it becomes clear that while goals for the team may be clear (84%), and individual team roles are often well defined (83%), the strategic guidance for the team is lacking (66%).
It seems that teams are being kept in the dark, and relationships with leaders are suffering. Only 60% of respondents have clarity on how decisions are being made by leaders. Of most concern, only half (55%) of teams are seeking timely feedback from their stakeholders about how well they meeting their goals. That’s a lot of teams out in the world just completely uncertain if their work is valued.
And it’s two sided, with only 70% of leaders saying they have a high level of trust in their employees, and just below that at 66% of employees with high trust in their leaders. If this was a relationship- we’d be breaking up!

What to expect from this practice path?

The first step to improving your team's shared understanding is to clarify your team’s purpose and function - we call this Team Shaping!
Pulling from Atlassian's Team Playbook, the freely available set of practices that fuel Atlassian's teamwork culture, Team Shaping represents a collection of four of these plays focused on making sure that everyone on your team knows what they should be working on and, most crucially, why.
Those plays are…
  • Team Poster: Focused on creating a shared direction for where your team is going
  • Roles and Responsibilities: Focused on building alignment on the roles within your team and the responsibilities that need to be taken on by each
  • Network of Teams: Focused on understanding which teams your team relies on to get work done and the health of those relationships
  • Working Agreement: Focused on making explicit how your teams wants to work together day-to-day

Complete the Atlassian University course How to shape effective teams to get facilitation guides, detailed overviews of how to run each play, as well as examples and solutions to common challenges.

Enroll all of your leaders in the course before kicking off yearly or quarterly planning to get everyone started from a consistent framework, proven to get great results.

Next step:

Team Poster

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