How Team twine Uses twine to Stay Connected


Two years ago, our team’s Zoom All Hands were pretty dull.  We dialed in.  Taylor and I laid out some direction and shared some announcements.  We flashed some metrics.   We went around the room and shared what we wanted to get done.  And that would pretty much be it.  It was a pedestrian, low energy, and top down way to start the week.  It was a waste of precious synchronous time spent together.

Now, in September of 2022, our Zoom All Hands look quite different.  

We log on.  Suddenly I’m whisked off into my first round of speed networking, where I am matched with Santiago, one of our engineers who lives outside of Buenos Aires. A prompt on the screen says “Show me your neighborhood,” as a Zoom App sidebar opens.  The app, twine for Zoom, tells me I am in a 3 minute long Breakout with my colleague.  I see a countdown clock and a virtual table.

We take turns pulling up Google Street View and walking around our respective neighborhoods.  I show Santi the corner store where I grab my coffee, the park where I walk my dog, and then the front of my daughter’s school where I drop her each morning.  For just a moment, we were two working dads excited to show each other our daily routine.  After a few rounds, we come back to the main room smiling, as do our teammates.

It’s only after we’ve spent a few minutes connecting with each other do we get on to the content.

Using twine for Zoom at the beginning of every team all hands is just one of the things that our distributed team is doing to maintain connection, despite living and working in different parts of the world.  

We have not yet found a single silver bullet to recreate the connection that happened organically in the office, but we have found a patchwork that is working for us.  As a distributed team, you have to be intentional about creating space for connection to happen.   Here are some of the big things we do to keep our connective tissue strong:

  • We hold quarterly offsites in cool places, and we mostly prioritize connection (and strategy) over content and readouts.  Our next one is in Mexico City, and we’ve opened it up to plus ones and families.
  • We have all written Personal Operating Systems that help each other understand how we like to work; our preferred means of communication, our schedules, the cues to know when we are having a rough day, etc.  Here’s an example from my colleague Anh.
  • We have weekly hangout time called “twineverse” with no agenda run by our designer Josh - we play games, eat lunch together, and just hang.
  • We use our own product, twine, relentlessly.  We start every all hands and team meeting with 6 minutes of speed networking around a theme.  And each week, one of our team members facilitates a team wide activity using our software, that pushes the boundaries of what’s possible.

It’s this drumbeat of consistent connection that maintains the connective tissue in between our offsites.  

Is it working?  I think so.  Nobody has ever chosen to leave us, and we are shipping and executing at a tremendous rate compared to the “in office” companies I’ve founded.

Personally, I love the connection that I feel amongst our team, and that we all know what’s happening in each other’s lives; I know the names of our Josh’s four kids, and that Zola is considering a fried pickle crawl for her birthday, and everyone knows that I just got an MRI on my knee and I’m really stressed about it, and that Taylor has a boat race coming up, and that Sam’s dog Moose had gotten into trouble again.  

And then there is the other side of the coin; on those weeks that we are too busy to pay attention to our connective tissue, we always end up paying the price.  The batteries wane, the motor hiccups, and we end up not producing as much as we would have.

If you are looking for an easy, lightweight efficient way to strengthen the bonds among your team, try this:

  1. Download twine for Zoom (it’s free for Zoom meetings up to 5 people)
  2. Start your next team meeting with two rounds of Shuffle / Speed Networking; start simple with a theme of “how was your weekend,” but then you can move into more advanced themes.  Some of the ones that I’ve found particularly fun: Musical Chairs, Mafia, Show Me Your Neighborhood, etc. - you can follow along with our experiments HERE.  Our guarantee to you: your team will come back smiling.

What are the strategies your remote / distributed team are using to stay connected?  Are they working for you?  How does your team culture compare to your in office experiences?  Please share in the comments.

Written by Lawrence Coburn, CEO and Co-Founder
Lawrence Coburn

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