Chapter 32. The Four Layers of Communication in a Functional Team

Cate Huston

Functional teams have four layers of communication:

  • A mission (also known as a vision)

  • Strategy (made up of proximate objectives)

  • Tactics and process

  • Execution

This list might seem like it includes categories of action—it does. But it’s not just doing these things, it’s also communicating them that ties teams together. Communicating the items on this list plays a major role in scaling teams and leaders. With these things in place and communicated, it’s much easier to add people to a team, and then entire teams to an organization.

The Mission

Personally, I hate the word “vision” because it has undertones of delusion, so let’s use the word “mission” instead. An effective team has a mission around which they can rally. It provides a guide for what to take on—and what not to. On my own team, the goal is giving my company’s mobile-only and mobile-first users a great experience. Having this mission gives us something to aim for and a sense of which feedback is important. It also connects us to our company’s broader mission to “democratize publishing.”

If the mission is missing, the team risks falling into an analysis paralysis or abdicating decisions entirely. Analysis paralysis can result from having no tiebreaker on decisions because data can be the only answer: there is no guiding principle, ...

Get 97 Things Every Engineering Manager Should Know now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.