How to Unlock Your Team's Potential: 3 Steps for Long-Lasting Team Performance Improvements
The Playbook I Used with Dozens of Teams to to Upgrade Team Practices for Higher Impact
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The latest episode of 100 Product Strategies, with evidence-based guru and ex-googler Itamar Gilad.
Strategies to “Always move the needle” in the data-driven product optimization post.
The model to Identify the Most Critical Improvement Factor in a Product Organization.
Today, we continue exploring the path to High-Impact Product Teams. Read until the end for a free gift :)
As a leader or senior PM, maximizing the team’s performance and impact is your job.
The company is investing a good deal of money in the overall product development organization, and it’s your responsibility to ensure they have the tools, systems, and capabilities to use that investment wisely, resulting in positive product outcomes.
Doing so is complex and time-consuming, but it is a crucial responsibility that, done well, will differentiate great leaders. It will boost your career and the careers of all your team members.
In this article, I’ll explain how you can create a long-lasting change in your team practices to improve their performance and impact.
This is part of the High-Impact Product Teams article series:
Implement long-lasting improvements - This article
Systematizing continuous impact improvement
As a leader who has analyzed the team’s practices and identified a critical area that can drive significant performance improvement, you can’t simply turn around and yell to the teams: “Please do this better.”
They are not doing it poorly on purpose. You will face a myriad of challenges, like:
Some teams will think they are just doing fine, not seeing the need for a change.
Some team members will simply lack the ability to apply new expected practices.
Sometimes, explaining all possible variations of the improvement you want to implement (like Discovery practices) will be difficult.
What should you do instead?
Help the teams with 3 steps to ensure quick and long-lasting improvements.
1. Clarifying Goals and Expectations
Most practice improvements fail because they lack clarity on the expected result, the impact it will drive, and the strategy to get there.
The most typical scenario is: we get some inspiration from an article, book, or conference, and we jump to the conclusion “We need to implement Jobs To Be Done” or “We need Opportunity Solution Trees”.
We lack clarity on the impact, when we expect to see it, and the steps to get there. We start implementing it, but as soon as the enthusiasm fades, we stop making efforts and progress.
How to do it differently?
Start with what you want to achieve.
For example: “We are working as a feature factory, constantly discussing features, and lacking visibility on the opportunities we could tackle and prioritize. We need to map the opportunity space!”
You should define how the practice will look at the end of the quarter, like a small vision or “working backward” for your team's improvement.
For example: “At the end of the quarter, we will run a strategic review, in which we will discuss the result of the opportunities we worked on, what we learned about the opportunity space, and what opportunities we plan to prioritize based on our goals.”
Make explicit what needs to happen to get there, and define concrete milestones.
Week 1 & 2: Define our desired outcomes
Week 3 & 4: Explore opportunities and structure the tree
Weeks 5 & 6: Assess opportunities with ICE
Weeks 7 & 8: Prepare the narrative for the review
While the plan may vary, clarifying expectations and breaking down the problem into smaller chunks helps the teams make more concrete and visible improvements.
2. Hands-on practice
Unfortunately, even with this level of clarity, you must ensure people have the skills and the opportunity to put them to the test before jumping into execution.
Typical steps here are giving people material (articles, videos, books) to go through or even sending them to do training. Both are great but not sufficient.
Strengthening abilities requires:
Engaging in learning new skills (for example, creating room for review and discussion of material on the topic).
Putting it into practice with a case study that people from different teams can debate and a moderator can guide towards a good resolution.
End up testing it with each person's real-life products and challenges in the same safe environment, sharing learnings and having tutors to help with obstacles.
I have found that the most effective way to do it is through practical workshops. This is not a class! You combine an overview of the “theory,” with practice time and group learnings and conclusions.
3. Team Coaching
If you only do the workshop, teams will go back to their regular work, and two things will happen:
They will find new challenges not covered in the workshop and struggle to overcome them.
The forces of habits will kick in, and the new practice will be quickly forgotten.
You need to continuously work with the teams, asking them to progress every week and helping them with any blocker that arises.
The milestones of the first step will be the input of what teams need to do, and you can be their compass to stay on course and help them move through the challenges they will face.
Teams want to improve. Lack of clarity and guidance is what usually stops them.
These 3 steps present a win-win scenario in which they gain what they need to thrive, and you ensure fast progress and visibility of the impact.
Stay tuned for the last article of the series. Subscribe now, and don’t miss it!
Gift time! 🎁 I created a step-by-step guide with a case study from one real-life implementation of the High-Impact Product Teams model. The guide combines all the steps and elements, with the case study being the example you need to see it in action.
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