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The Voco View... How to divide and conquer

Voco Team

Introducing the Voco View On...  

In this new series for L&D and HR professionals, we'll be looking at some of the topics and debates that are hot right now in the people and culture space. Just short, quick takes with practical and actionable ideas on building effective, happy teams and the best places to work. Enjoy!

It’s almost time to get back on the work wagon again after a nice summer lull. To help people to reconnect, feel engaged and productive (and generally crank motivation levels back up) it’s time to minimise those whole team meetings and encourage ‘tribal’ working.


Popularised by the Agile methodology that’s favoured by many in the tech project management community, tribes are small, autonomous, interdisciplinary teams that are formed around specific tasks or projects.

These types of teams are often formed quickly and disband after project completion. They could be self-managed but typically they will be led by someone who has oversight of the whole project.


Because we tend to work cross-functionally anyway. Purposefully creating tribes (rather than hoping they will form organically around a project, as is often the case) can help to break down communication barriers and provides a shared sense of purpose and accountability.

Plus, encouraging tribal working means that people have fewer, more focused, meetings that are outcome driven. Working in smaller teams deepens connections and creates a culture of trust and collaboration.


  • Role model this way of working with your leadership peers; creating a blueprint for others to follow.
  • Distinguish between functional teams and cross-functional tribes - encouraging more time for the latter and providing more clarity for how the former can add value (because it still does, of course).
  • Review procedures that might impede the success of tribal working e.g. systems, communication issues, locational limitations.
  • Recognise and reward tribes that work well and share success stories.

More information

Article: ‘Why smaller teams are better than larger ones’ Forbes

Book: Tribal Leadership (Logan, King, Fischer-Wright

Video: Working cross-functionally (Netflix example)

TED talk: Surviving the 21st century with interdisciplinary teams, Jeannie Johnson

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