Here’s a constant that every organization goes through: Change. 

No matter who you are, if you’re a business that wants to grow and thrive, you’re going to go through some kind of change at some point. Agile change, culture change, AI-driven change, technology change, people change – you name it. There’s always change happening. 

And change can be a struggle. Whether your teams work in different geographical locations or the same office space, modern tools and workflows make everyone a part of a distributed workforce. And here at Atlassian, we’re no strangers to the changes and challenges of distributed work. To move towards a better future, it’s important for us to face the reality of modern work and improve that. That’s why we created a modern work manifesto; 8 foundational principles to build our shared future on.

Atlassian Work Management solutions drive big impact for all teams


1. Context over content

Today’s leaders and their teams don’t need more content or functions to add to their workday. Too much emphasis on content means getting bogged down with redundant effort or irrelevant emails, Slack messages, and time-wasting meetings. What they need is context that helps them make better decisions, work more productively, and collaborate cohesively.

Context is about asking the right questions in a process of elimination and prioritization. Prioritizing work as a team prevents you from getting sidetracked and helps you use your time and energy more efficiently. In other words, a context-first focus forces you to slow down, hone in on what you need to amplify, and delegate accordingly.

This might mean pairing your Monday morning cup of coffee with perusing the Atlas projects you’re following to digest all updates across the work your team owns. Learn where you need to intervene, and also where it’s valuable for you to stay away! Or it could be checking Confluence Home to get up-to-speed on recent activity related to your pages and work. 

2. Outcomes over output 

Focusing on outcomes over output helps you focus on the bottom line and puts your organization at an advantage over your competitors. Of course, high output is an important and essential part of a flourishing business. But the more important metric to pay attention to is the effect that output has down the line.

At its essence, outcomes are about the impact you have on others. It’s about having the empathy to know and see when your distributed workforce produces valuable results. Output is the feature we built. Outcome is the way a customer uses that feature to work more effectively. Teams can struggle with connecting their product and service offerings to this view, and it’s prime time to prioritize these metrics in performance and progress tracking.

Instead of just getting work done, it’s important to focus on closing the learning loop. As a leader, you must examine whether and how your team’s work leads to the right outcomes. 

  1. Have a strong north star of WHY you’re doing what you are doing. Try starting with a Project Poster.
  2. Turn that north star into meaningful work and measurable goals tracked in Atlas.
  3. Run retrospectives and reflect to drive improvements for immediate results and future outcomes. 

For example, say you’re onboarding new remote team members. You’ll want to make sure they know how to use your tools and processes effectively. Giving them small milestones to work towards can help you see their progress. At the end of their onboarding experience, conduct a retro together to evaluate what worked well and what can be improved for next time. 

3. Flow over silos 

Although silos have their place for the sake of efficiency and idea generation, they also come at a detriment to collaboration and overall organizational success. SIlos are built vertically – focused on the people up and down. But work gets done horizontally, across the org – it’s about smooth flows upstream and downstream. In a distributed work model, focusing on flow over silos is an essential path to a brighter future.

Oftentimes, strategies are built from the top down, and this cascade effect inadvertently creates silos that limit and stunt business growth. With flow, you deliberately build a rhythm and cadence with teams that are in your critical path, regardless of where they are in the org chart. 

To create flow, you need to outline the expected ways of working and provide tips on effective communication across teams. Here are a few steps for building flow in your company: 

  1. Know who’s in your flow. Ideally, you limit the number to 4 or 5 truly critical teams in a project to ensure healthy cross-team collaboration.
  2. Build good social contracts with them on how you’ll work, including expectations around collaboration tools and check-in cadence. 
  3. Reflect and revisit these agreements every few weeks as you evolve. Make adjustments as necessary. 
  4. Follow each team’s Atlas tickets to stay up-to-date on progress across all moving pieces of the project. 

The key when intertwining your teams is not to try to build one monolithic team but rather to stay autonomous while aligning toward a common goal. 

4. Team over individual

We know the greatest achievements in the world are by teams – cognitively diverse people coming together to achieve something amazing. But if we’re honest, we’ll also admit that teamwork can seem kinda hard; different opinions, backgrounds, languages, needs and wants…

One way to unify your team is to get them all involved in owning the health of HOW you work using Health Monitor. Proactively checking in with the team and taking steps to increase employee satisfaction ensures you have a work environment that fosters belonging and psychological safety for individuals to do their best work. 

However, a space that accommodates diversity and inclusion isn’t necessarily one that has a bespoke solution for every employee’s needs. Some employees might want coworking spaces and a synced work schedule for remote employees. Others might want the option to work from home at odd hours. 

The solution is to find a compromise about how you work as a team, together. It might not work perfectly for any one person, but it should benefit everyone in the long run. Involving everyone in the decisions means getting their input and making sure everyone feels heard. Not only will this set your teams up for success, but it can also help with retention as employees feel like their input is taken into account.  

Cross-functional collaboration: How to align business and tech

5. Adaptability over adherence 

Sticking to an adherence mindset enforces controls, leaving no room for flexibility or space for organizations to change and grow. We need compliance to a certain degree to keep work in order and on time. But the number one thing I’ve heard leaders wanting across the board are nimbleness and agility – these skills keep teams relevant in whatever market they’re in.

For leaders, adaptability is especially beneficial when thinking about a new strategy to entice customers. Say you decide a new product or revamp might attract new customers and excite existing ones. You conduct customer interviews to discover what they want and use empathy mapping to create visual representations of customer personas and help you better understand your customers’ needs. As a result, you find out that you need to make some serious feature changes in order to keep your customers happy.

Being adaptable means you’re delighting your customers in new ways. It allows you to increase your learning velocity and convert customer data insights into action quicker than your competitors. It enables you to course correct when you discover something new and experiment with an innovative idea.  

6. Better over bigger 

When it comes to scaling your organization, choose better over simply bigger. Organizations that scale gracefully pay attention to work-life impact, focusing on nurturing their talent pool and enhancing the employee experience. They’re not fixated on the number of team members or how big the office space gets.

For example, let’s look at two fictional organizations. When organization ‘Ace’ grew, they only focused on vanity metrics like staff size, customer increase, and financial growth. When organization ‘Charlie’ scaled, they focused on staff engagement, low turnover rate, customer net promoter score, and reinvesting finances towards innovation. Which one would you invest in? Where would you rather work?

Organization ‘Charlie’ knows that growth is not just about hiring more people, it’s about creating a company culture that lends itself to work-life balance and job satisfaction. It’s not just about acquiring more customers but also finding ways to delight them. Rather than just getting bigger, ‘Charlie’ prioritized getting better by creating an incubator where new ideas could be nurtured, and employees would be recognized for their efforts. 

On the team level, run the 4 Ls retrospective to solicit and identify what team members felt was most and least meaningful about the work they did in a project or sprint of work. As a leader, what are YOU doing to get incrementally better at how you lead? As a team, use this practice to reflect on ways to improve as a team.

7. Vocation over location 

I work in a globally distributed team across Europe, USA, and Australia. There isn’t a time of day when we can meet without really inconveniencing one of us.

So, we’ve accepted that and started a new ritual. Each Monday, we record a Loom video and share in our Slack channel. It not only gives us context around what happened last week and what’s planned for this week but also a high-fidelity message. I can hear tone, see emotion, and get a feel for what’s really going on. We reply and interact in the context of the video.

It’s altering HOW we work because of WHERE we work. Connection is just as important. We’ve just found a different way to achieve it.

Regardless of where you work, most of us today work on distributed teams. In order to be successful, shift your focus to HOW work and collaboration get done.

At Atlassian, we periodically have on-site gatherings where our employees from all over the world meet in one city for a few days of bonding and learning. But even if not everyone is able to meet in person, you can still conduct virtual meetings with the same goal. Posing questions that encourage interpersonal closeness during these team meetings fosters bonding and team connectedness.

Whether you work remotely or not, make sure you have the option for periodic face-to-face interaction. With video conferencing on Zoom or pre-recorded videos on Loom, you can convey emotion and personality, and gain clarity that you may have missed without that face time. The key is to be intentional with your time and how you work with others. 

8. Evolution over transformation 

Giant steps of transformation do not bring about the dividends or results that companies are looking for. Evolution is more manageable and, in fact, more successful. Like agility, evolution is about trying out new things in small chunks within teams to figure out if it works before taking it org-wide.

The changes happening during an evolution are actually quite small and undramatic. Effective evolution has a snowball effect that should be monitored at around a 90-day time horizon. Rather than waiting till the end of the year, successful leaders analyze the insights and make more small but necessary changes about every three months.

Take AI technology adoption. For some, it might feel like a transformation is happening, but it’s actually part of the evolution model. Companies are testing and experimenting with AI in small but manageable steps.

The same should apply to any other new venture or process you undertake. The best way to implement evolution in your organization is to assign certain team members to run these experiments and report back with the results before making anything official. 

Start with one principle first 

We know it can be a bit overwhelming to decide where to start. So here’s what you do: Pick just one first. What is one principle you’d add to help you subtract the thing that no longer serves you? Which do you think would make the most demonstrable difference for your organization? Go with your instincts, but don’t put too much pressure on it. 

We believe that 2024 should be the year of subtraction and substitution, experimentation and evolution. It’s time to get rid of the things that used to work but don’t work today and won’t in the future. Replace these things with processes, frameworks, and experiments that add value, paving the way to a more fruitful future of work. 

Want to learn more?

Check out my episode in Lightning Talks: A modern work manifesto for distributed teams

Atlassian work management solutions help bring the right context to light more efficiently within and across teams. Talk to our sales team to learn more.

A modern work manifesto for distributed teams