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Working groups and guilds 101

Working groups and guilds help improve TTS practices, host discussions, explore ideas, and help solve thorny issues. These volunteer groups decide how and where to focus their efforts and conversations, in coordination with TTS leadership. Anyone may participate in any working group or guild.

Key concepts

Working groups are self-organized, relatively short-lived, and spin up or down depending on organizational needs.

Guilds are much more permanent than working groups, are sponsored by the TTS Chief of Staff, and are intended to help coordinate practices and solve problems across TTS.

All groups have a Slack channel. Working-group related channels have a wg- in front of their name; guilds have a g- before the name. Feel free to jump into and out of any of the working group or guild channels to participate or ask questions. The TTS Working Groups & Guilds Calendar houses all formal meeting times for working groups and guilds.

The open Slack channel for guild leaders & other practice leaders who wish to join is #guild-practice-leads

Starting a guild or working group

Working groups are usually started by a handful group of people who recognize a problem, then recruit like-minded souls willing to help find a solution. Usually, but not always, the problem is localized to just one part of TTS. Once solved, the working group can wind down.

Because working groups are typically trying to solve a problem right now and they are intended to be short-lived, we try to keep them simple: Anyone can start a working group, just have a chat with your org leadership to be sure someone isn’t already working on the problem. Typically, you’ll want to have a chat with your Chief of Staff, Chief of Practices or Deputy Director, depending on which part of TTS you’re in.

Guilds are intended to work across TTS, and are coordinated by a group made up of leadership from across TTS. which means creating a new Guild requires taking it to that group for approval. If you’d like to create a new guild, have a talk with your Chief of Staff, Chief of Practices or Deputy Director (again, depending on which part of TTS you’re in) and they’ll take it to the group for approval. At a minimum, they’ll want to know:

Guilds

Accessibility We help TTS develop good, accessible products from the start of production in order to provide an excellent user experience for everyone.
Homepage#g-accessibility
Content We promote concise, elegant, user-centered writing. We plan for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.
Homepage#g-content
Research We envision a world where government agencies use research to shape their decision making processes.
Homepage#g-research
Devops Our mission is to ensure great devops for our projects.
#g-devops
Diversity We help make TTS a great place to work for people of all backgrounds.
#g-diversity
Engineering Practices Promoting smart and scalable engineering practices across the frontend and backend.
Homepage#dev
Security & Compliance Our mission is to reduce the security and compliance barrier for all Federal and State government projects.
#g-security-compliance

Current Working Groups

Consulting We work to build skills by asking questions and sharing our experiences regarding what to expect and how to manage the unique complexity of consulting work. We also work on consulting-related projects and resources to help 18F evolve its overall organizational consulting capability.
#wg-consulting
Project Health Attempting to quantify and measure healthy projects and proactively identify projects early warning signs of unhealthy projects.
#wg-project-health
Onboarding Improving the first 7, 30 and 90 days for new TTS members.
#wg-onboarding

Guild leadership competition

Guilds are led by 1-3 TTS staff members who spend a few hours a week on practice leadership. Individual guilds can set leadership terms, with the most common being one year. Guild leadership is recognized by a staff member’s supervisor as a responsibility and they should be reviewed on their performance. However, it is an informal role. There are no administrative supervisory duties attached and there is no GS-level or previous leadership requirement.

We hold lightweight competitions for these informal leadership roles. Here is an outline of the process:

  1. Guilds decide who is eligible for leadership spots - previous participation, mid-level or expert experience in the discipline etc are reasonable qualifications but not required.
  2. The guild asks for nominations via email and Slack posting. Guilds can choose to allow self-nomination only, or accept nominations by other people with confirmation of interest by the nominee. Nominees should have the verbal approval of their supervisor. Written nominations totalling no more than 400 words are recommended; guilds choose nomination questions.
  3. A panel of one-three people made up of guild members and/or leadership from other guilds conducts brief (no more than 30 minute) interviews of candidates and makes a selection.
  4. The current guild leader announces the new leader, who takes up the position immediately.