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Building Champion Teams for Successful Products

Updated: Nov 28, 2022

What makes some organisations market leaders with excellent products, and what is the gap to bridge for underperforming teams?

Today, everyone involved in product development at least heard the terms MVP, Proposition Value, Lean, Agile, and more. However, there is also a general impression that failure and waste are unavoidable and inherent to the process. I often engage with teams and find a sort of resignation into a herd mentality that developing products is chaotic, difficult, and requires sacrifice because it is so for everyone else!

Underperforming Teams

In a successful project, understanding the problems first, and creating a plan is essential before execution and refinement. However, organisations and teams that seek to improve or establish successful processes, mostly start with execution, by addressing teams productivity and efficient processes, such as transforming to Agile, or learn about efficient tools to manage their work and communication.

Not that addressing efficiency is not important, or that Agile is not helpful, but this is about being effective before efficient, and doing the right thing first.

A recent research from PMI Pulse Report (2018) looked into the waste generated in organisations. They defined Champion Teams as those that have over 80% success in meeting budget, timelines and business objectives. Whereas Underperforming teams had less than 60% respective success.

Although the gap doesn’t seem impressive, the underperforming teams generated 21x more times waste than champion teams, that’s more than 2,000% (!)

I did not encounter a team improving at such ratio by focusing on execution performance and productivity, or merely because they transformed to Agile.

Bridging the Gap

The first step of bridging the gap and building champion world-class teams is to understand the underlying problems: acknowledge the symptoms you observe in your organisation. It’s a bit tricky because it might involve knowing what you don’t know. So, start by observing the symptoms, and after you identify where you are, you can identify what needs to be done.

Here are some questions to think about:

• What are your major blockers in the business?

  • Deviations in budget?

  • Lack of expertise?

  • Sales and cashflow?

  • Competition?

• What challenges you face with your market?

  • How easily can your audience use your product?

  • Do your customers love your product?

  • Can you confidently expand to new markets?

  • Are you worried your products are overpriced or suffer poor quality?

• How consistent is the quality of your technical team?

  • Do you trust their plans and timelines?

  • Are you confident that you will get the outcome you expected?

  • Is there recurring effort to redo already “completed” tasks?

  • Does the teamwork harder before a major release?

Here are some ideas to start making improvements:

• Upskilling technical capabilities

• Improving communication skills

• Learning effective delegation techniques

• Encouraging mentoring in your organisation

• Discovering what values, you operate from

• Translating your values into meaningful implementation

• Adopting habits of visibility and open-door policies

• Learning from failures and successes!

And of course, immerse your team in the discussion; do ask your team what they need and encourage constructive feedback and improvement suggestions.

A glimpse into success

Whether establishing a small startup or aiming for an international company, success means achieving these goals:

• Established Rapport (of Teams internally, of the Business externally)

• Attracting and Retaining Talent

• Sustainable Growth and Profitability

• Managing Change

• Attracting Investors and Customers

• Market Leadership

In my experience, building a successful business should be the ultimate goal when developing a successful product; it's the fertile soil on which successful teams and successful products become possible.

Such teams have transparency and clarity in business values and will focus on building rapport from a win-win approach. They have a strong focus on project sponsors that leads and integrates the work of various teams, especially the development and the marketing aspects while keeping an eye on the business needs and its bottom line.

Focus on a clear agenda will help teams build a hierarchy of roles as “enablers” instead of “positions”; this is where mentoring environments thrive, and mistakes are leveraged as learnings for continuous improvement.

The Communication Factor

The literature of project management speaks about the triangle of Scope (work, features), Resources (people, time, money) and Quality (user experience, certification, performance). However, I find these are biased to “solutions” and less focused on the “problems”; and inherently end-up in win-lose trade-offs, a battle between amounts of features, their quality, and what resources are required.

When teams are immersed in each other’s uncertainties and problems, they solve problems together, rather than quarrelling over solutions trade-off.

For example, a feature from Marketing to R&D is a solution, and often both sides miss the discussion about the problem that created that feature; a discussion that when happens will ensure coming up with an optimal and suited feature to the real underlying problem.

When different teams (say, R&D, marketing and the business development) engage and align together to solve the same problems, they also share the same source of information and understand the “Why” of each other.

Such teams not only they understand and respect each other's point of view, they can easily defend and advocate for each other’s ideas! And this brings an inherent efficiency, even before making any improvements to processes or productivity problems.

Robert Sayegh (author) is a speaker and coach on Process Management and Teams Development, and the founder of consulting company Go Viable. The copyright of this article belongs to the Author.

You can download Robert’s e-book “Get It Right, the First Time”.

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