How to Build a Successful Product Team – 4 Definitive Steps
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All product leaders know that product is a team activity. To build a great product, one must have a great team.
How does one go about it? The following 4 steps are suggested based on our experiences developing 50+ products over the last 5 years at Adaptive US.
Step 1 – Develop Agile Mindset
The agile mindset is based on core human values of Respect, Courage, Collaboration, Continuous learning, Customer focus, and Value maximization. The agile mindset:
- Delivers value rapidly and consistently,
- Collaborates courageously,
- Iterates to learn,
- Simplifies to avoid waste,
- Considers context and adapts to realities,
- Reflects on feedback and adapts both product and process, and
- Produces the highest quality products
Scrum Master, team Coach, or Agile Process Facilitator:
- Is responsible for ensuring that the team works well together and has a positive work culture,
- Ensures that team follows effective agile practices that are collectively defined, and
- Coaches team to use an agile mindset when working independently and collectively.
Identify members of the Product team
While the Scrum Master, team Coach, or Agile Process Facilitator work primarily with the Delivery Team, the Product Owner works closely with the entire product team to ensure collaboration towards the shared goal. The Product team consists of:
- Delivery team (BA Professional, Developer, Tester, UX, other specialists, etc.),
- Customers or customer representatives, and
- Other stakeholders:
- Those impacted by the product (internal and/or external), and
- Those who provide support in product development (internal and external) -e.g., internal marketing or external support services.
Product management practices: Practitioners must plan for each group's unique communication and engagement while operating as a unified team.
Step 2 - Develop Shared / Superordinate Goal
A shared vision inspires and motivates the Delivery team. It should be active, common, and collective. Being forward-looking, envisioning exciting possibilities, and enlisting others in a shared view of the future are attributes that most distinguish leaders from non-leaders.
A shared product vision is an outcome of great product management practices, with the whole team pitching in. The shared vision helps everyone, amidst their varied perspectives, understand why the product is being built. The product vision is the guiding force for the team to focus on decisions and resolutions. The product vision:
- May evolve through collaboration,
- Should motivate and inspire, and
- Must be shared often.
Techniques for a Shared Vision
- Value Modelling
- Business Capability Analysis
- Business Model Canvas
- Elevator Pitch or Sound Bite
- 2 Brains: Tell it & Sell It
Step 3 - Develop Collective Responsibility
Product team members may have individual responsibilities, commonly described as:
Develop the product
Accountable for the product and maximizing its value.
Is responsible for the delivery of the product. They decide on how the priorities, set by the Product Owner, will be executed.
Supporting the Product Owner and the Development team through coaching and identifying effective ways of working.
Customers or Customer Representative(s)
Customers and/or Customer Representatives help understand the personal and impersonal needs or desires that fuel the product idea. They validate the value of a product and identify areas for improvement.
There are numerous ways a product may impact a stakeholder, including those:
Those impacted by the product - who invest in, use, depend on or are interested in the product.
Stakeholders ensure that the product is being built with cross-functional perspectives that, when combined, align with the customer and business needs combined, align with the customer and business needs.
Those providing support services
Support stakeholders, including those who provide support in product build/support services (e.g., product marketing or subject matter expertise).
- Commits to, and builds relationships within the Delivery team,
- Ties individual objectives to product and strategic objectives, and
- Keeps the focus on customer value and quality
Effective product management practices promote and support collective responsibility for product success. Considerations include:
- Empowered commitment to the product vision,
- Awareness across the Delivery team of the strategic objective and the value proposition,
- Understanding across the team of their contribution to the success and the flexibility inherent with product development
Techniques for Collective Responsibility
- RACI Matrix
Step 4 - Provide Psychological Safety
A psychologically safe environment fulfills basic human needs that allow people to thrive. It allows people to grow, learn and take risks. Psychological safety is illustrated with trust and honesty. When people feel safe, they think better and do their best work. Product management Practitioners want everyone rallied around their product to contribute their best in a trusting, supportive environment.
When psychological safety is not present, people may fear humiliation, fear to speak up, fear to make a mistake, fear that mistakes or foolish questions may be held against them, not ask for help, fear someone taking credit for the work of another, and lack fun and happiness. Witnessing any of these behaviors in a team is a call to action for the product management practitioners.
Effective product management practices contribute to the Delivery team's success by actively promoting and instilling values and principles within the whole team. These values support self-organizing the Delivery teams and can promote:
- Empowerment gives the Delivery teams enough information and resources to make decisions about how to do their best work.
- Trust, encouraging team members to be trustworthy in word and action and in the decisions they make.
- Respect, inspiring team to embrace diversity and demonstrate regard in all interactions.
- Appreciative, prompting team members to give recognition wholeheartedly. When team members feel valued, they do better work and also become recognition-givers.
- Approachability, validating the humanness that welcomes questions or concerns that ultimately empower the Delivery team's work.
- Availability, causing team members to recognize the importance of the entire Delivery team's work through partnership
This leads to an environment where all team members:
- Listen attentively and show appreciation,
- Acknowledge their weaknesses and ask for insights from colleagues,
- Connect value with metrics, design those metrics with the Delivery team, and regularly review those metrics with the Delivery team,
- Demonstrate trust while being trustworthy and honesty while telling the truth,
- Address the elephant in the room and speak in a common language,
- Encourage calculated risk-taking and questioning,
- Invite ideas and make room for creativity,
- Celebrate diversity in word and action,
- Conduct retrospections frequently and purposefully, and Express gratitude.
Techniques to Engage & Empower
- Collaborative Games
- Team Building Exercises
Do share your thoughts on how you have developed an amazing product team at your organization.