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Enhancing Collaboration with a Team Playbook

Photo by New Africa

This article was based on episode 063 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and Stitcher.

Employee handbooks are typically filled with procedural information, legal requirements and company policies. They provide important information, but don’t typically include the more practical aspects of how a team collaborates.

Building off the idea of an employee handbook, Millie Blackwell, CEO and Co-Founder of Showcase Workshop, a digital toolkit for sales representatives that contains presentation slides, videos, price lists and brochures, replacing old fashioned ring binders and printed collateral, created a Team Playbook which clarifies how team members can work together in a playful yet articulate manner.

Millie shares how she developed and now uses this Team Playbook to enhance their culture and teamwork.


Most teams have unspoken norms and implicit understandings that guide how they work. Often they evolve organically over time, on occasion causing confusion or unnecessary complexity, especially for new team members.

When a team explicitly articulates how it will work together, the individual team members are able to engage with greater confidence, cultivating a positive work environment.

The playbook itself does not need to be complicated and each will be unique to the team that develops it. Consider including the following in yours:

  • Company mission and vision

  • Company value proposition or why your work matters

  • Team mission and vision

  • Team communication practices (meetings, slack, email, phone, text, etc)

  • Team or company org chart

  • Team member profiles

  • Team values and/or norms

  • Other aspects of your team’s work that are important to clarify e.g. decision-making methods, critical success factors, how to address conflict, how to give/receive feedback, etc.


One of my favorite aspects of Millie’s Team Playbook is the way humor is incorporated. The section on communication is a bit satirical in that the pie chart contains large wedges for “sighing,” “glaring,” and “animated gifs” along with wedges for “meetings” and “Slack.”

Meaningful Meetings: Although Millie admits this is a bit tongue in cheek, she notes that it’s also accurate. Meetings play a relatively small role in their communications because they view meetings as a last resort rather than a default.

The meeting leader must include an agenda when requesting a meeting and every meeting ends with a clear articulation of decisions and next steps, two fantastic approaches for making meetings productive.

Slack is Where It’s At: With a partially remote team, Slack is the primary form of communication for Millie’s Team. In order to avoid message overload, the team agreed upon and articulated very clear norms for how to use Slack. For example, Millie’s team agree that task requests will not be made in Slack because too often they were getting lost in the chain of messages. Instead, task requests are made by email.

That may not be the right solution for your team. Perhaps a task request should only be made via your collaborative task tool like Asana (that’s what my team does). Either way, having clarity about what information goes into Slack vs email vs a meeting will help ensure everyone is communicating effectively.

Pick Up The Phone: With all the talk of digital tools, many teams have forgotten about the older forms of communication like a simple phone call. Millie’s team adopted a Rule of 3: If you’ve emailed with someone about the issue three times, meaning they’ve responded three times and the issue still isn’t resolved, it’s time to pick up the phone.


A traditional org chart contains people structured in a hierarchy. Not in Millie’s Team Playbook. As an alternative, this org chart contains boxes with roles and their relationship to one another. The names of the individuals responsible for those roles are included, but given the small size of the team, some people show up in multiple boxes.

This type of org chart enables everyone to quickly grasp who is responsible for what. It also helps illuminate overlapping responsibilities and who may be spread too thin. Team leaders can use this information to identify areas of activity to build capacity or invest in new hires.

When creating an org chart, consider adding these elements to make it even more powerful:

  1. Use photos that make it easier to recognize the names and faces of the people in the chart.

  2. Use shapes and colors to define the departments, job levels, and work groups.

  3. Use the company’s colors, typography, etc.


You can use the development of a Team Playbook as an opportunity to engage your team in rethinking its practices and clarifying unspoken assumptions. Rather than writing the Playbook yourself, ask your team to help identify what should be included in each section.

Going forward, the Playbook should be revisited every year and updated as the team’s practices evolve. It can also be an onboarding tool for new team members, helping to quickly orient them to how the team works.

Join the Modern Manager community and get a copy of Millie's Team Playbook to use as a model for creating your own.

This article was based on episode 063 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.


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