Special report

Openness predicts a team's strength

We surveyed over 1,000 team members across a range of industries and found that trust and transparency lead to higher achievement.

Candid feedback, cross-functional collaboration, mutual respect, inclusion...

More and more, these are what people look for in a company culture. Think they're just fluffy little nice-to-haves? Think again.

TEAMS WITH AN OPEN WORK STYLE ARE…

60%

more likely to achieve more, faster


80%

more likely to report high emotional well-being


How do we know all this? Glad you asked.

We commissioned research into how knowledge workers see their teams, what they believe they need to succeed, and what they lack. We found the most successful teams make decisions in an apolitical way, engage in honest feedback, and take ownership of learning from their mistakes. Likewise, being able to share personal information and feeling respected by teammates are the biggest drivers of emotional health on the job.

of high-achieving teams engage in candid feedback

of participants say transparent decision-making boosts team achievement.

of teams with a high sense of well-being are able to own their mistakes.

of high-achieving teams engage in candid feedback

of participants say transparent decision-making boosts team achievement.

of teams with a high sense of well-being are able to own their mistakes.

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What does an open workstyle look like, anyway?
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The freedom to share information and ideas with colleagues

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Two-way feedback between people and their managers

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Opportunities to weigh in on decisions

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Strong interpersonal connections with teammates

What does an open workstyle look like, anyway?
Lightbulb icon

The freedom to share information and ideas with colleagues

Two gear interlocking icon

Two-way feedback between people and their managers

Two message bubbles icon

Opportunities to weigh in on decisions

Coffee mug with steam

Strong interpersonal connections with teammates

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94%

of participants feel mutual respect is important to a team’s success. 19% point to it as the number one factor in their team’s emotional well-being.

94%

of participants feel mutual respect is important to a team’s success. 19% point to it as the number one factor in their team’s emotional well-being.


With such strong consensus, there’s nothing stopping teams from embracing these practices – right? Well, not quite.

Gaps in understanding and perception are getting in the way for many teams. Managers are not only more likely to see the value in Open practices, but they also perceive their teams as more Open than individual contributors do.

My team definitely has...

Managers

Individual Contributors

Easy access to the information we need

37%

20%

A clear understanding of why our work matters

34%

23%

The ability to influence how we work together

42%

30%

An apolitical decision-making process

51%

36%

Mutual respect for each other

56%

41%

Permission to share personal information and issues with each other

47%

43%

My team definitely has...

Easy access to the information we need

Managers: 37%
Individual Contributors: 20%

A clear understanding of why our work matters

Managers: 34%
Individual Contributors: 23%

The ability to influence how we work together

Managers: 42%
Individual Contributors: 30%

An apolitical decision-making process

Managers: 45%
Individual Contributors: 33%

Managers who receive honest feedback

Managers: 43%
Individual Contributors: 24%

Permission to share personal information and issues with each other

Managers: 38%
Individual Contributors: 29%

Although respondents agree Open practices are important, many identify work ethic and individual competence as the primary drivers of a team's success, which runs contrary to our findings about the importance of culture and collaboration. Companies may even be unwittingly constraining their teams' achievement by focusing on individual factors while maintaining a hierarchical, closed environment.

But there is hope.

When companies and teams start to adopt Open, collaborative practices, they build more momentum and deliver faster. Similarly, giving teams agency in how they work together fosters belonging, trust, respect, connection, and good old fashioned happiness.


Among low-achieving teams

have easy access to the information they need to do their best work

make decisions irrespective of office politics

are welcome to give honest feedback to those higher on the org chart

understand why their work matters to customers or to the business

have a culture of sharing who they are and what’s going on outside of work

exhibit mutual respect between teammates


Among high-achieving teams

have easy access to the information they need to do their best work

make decisions irrespective of office politics

are welcome to give honest feedback to those higher on the org chart

understand why their work matters to customers or to the business

have a culture of sharing who they are and what’s going on outside of work

exhibit mutual respect between teammates



Be the change you seek

We analyzed over 100 specific behaviors to uncover which ones make a difference. We found loads of ways teams can make a significant, positive impact on their performance and well-being. Here are a few that ranked highest. 

Recognition

Publicly celebrate team and individual accomplishments.

Knowledge-sharing

Ensure team members have a mentor they can reach out to for help.

Collaboration

Make time for dedicated problem-solving or brainstorming sessions with your teammates.

TRUST & TRANSPARENCY

Bring up performance issues proactively, even if you’re not the manager.

COMMUNICATION

Open up your calendar so teammates can see your schedule and availability.

OWNERSHIP

Collaboratively set your team's own annual goals.


Thumbs up thumbs down

Working Open is a lot like “going green”. We agree it’s important. We know it benefits us collectively and individually. But it’s hard at first, and therefore tempting to focus our energy on other concerns.

Thumbs up thumbs down

Working open is a lot like “going green”.  We agree it’s important. We know it benefits us collectively and individually. But it’s hard at first, and therefore tempting to focus our energy on other concerns.

In Conclusion

While we can’t promise that Open behaviors will magically transform every team into superstars, the differences in the practices of high- and low-achieving teams are significant.

And that’s good news regardless of whether your team is struggling or soaring. It means any team can improve their health and performance by shifting the way they work. Small, incremental changes can make a big impact. Long-lasting changes are often born of evolution – not revolution. So don’t worry about kicking off a massive “cultural transformation” initiative. It’s all about the journey.

Enjoy the ride.

Toolbox
Toolbox

For a dose of inspiration, browse our collection of resources designed to help teams be more informed, more innovative, and more engaged. We’re sharing our journey and want you to be a part of it.

For a dose of inspiration, browse our collection of resources designed to help teams be more informed, more innovative, and more engaged. We’re sharing our journey and want you to be a part of it.

*Curious about our methodology?

Great! We surveyed nearly 1,100 managers and individual contributors who work on teams of at least 5 people, focusing on select team types (IT, software, and business teams supporting them) in the US. Participants answered a series of questions that, taken together, identified them as being on high- or low-achieving teams with high or low “emotional well-being.” The “high-achieving” designation is shorthand for teams that build momentum quickly, move fast, and avoid inefficiencies like dependency bottlenecks or work that has to be re-done. Teams with “high emotional well-being” exhibit feelings of belonging, happiness, connection, and trust. To understand participants' perceptions of Open work behaviors, we asked them questions about their team’s practices in the abstract.

 

To confirm whether participants’ teams currently have an Open workstyle, we asked them to imagine themselves in specific scenarios at work and answer questions about how their team actually acts (vs. tries to act). 

What we gathered was a self-assessment of habits, and not necessarily an objective observation. Nevertheless, distinct patterns emerged. The results were validating in places but surprising in others. We’re excited to share them for the first time.

For more information about our methodology or findings, please contact press@atlassian.com.