September 15, 2020
At HatchWorks, we’re firm believers in the power of product for telling data-driven stories and connecting people with technology. Yet, it’s the creators, designers, engineers, strategists – the people behind the products, that fuel the outcomes. The challenge? Fostering an environment of creativity and innovation that empowers teams to produce outcomes much greater than the sum of individual contributions.
We’ve discovered that the key to product team success is encouraging our teams of cross-discipline craft masters to inspire and challenge each other. When our storytellers challenge the engineers to develop products that tell a story, and engineers create technology that inspire the stories – we’ve achieved product team harmony. Like an orchestra of perfectly synchronized musicians, harmony is our metric for success. Craft master Reetaja, shares her take on the keys to creating harmonic product teams.
Enjoy the read and stay tuned for our next HatchPulse post!
Product teams are the building blocks of any organization in the world of product solutions. The success of an organization greatly depends on the performance of its product teams. Creating and sustaining highly effective teams is not only about hiring the best people, but also about providing the right environment for individuals to effectively work together to drive outcomes which are much greater than the sum of the individual contributions.
At HatchWorks, we take the onus of building the right culture that helps our teams to thrive. We do this by focusing on the following:
- Culture of Positivity
- Open Honest Communication: Build trust within your teams
- Team Composition and Supportive Structure: Select the right people and provide them the autonomy to do their job well
- Compelling Direction: Set the goals, but never micro-manage
- Focused Resources: Focus determines outcomes
- Team Diversity: Strength lies in differences
- A Bigger Purpose: Bring positive change in the communities we serve
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” – Michael Jordan
How to Create Effective Product Teams
Culture of Positivity
At HatchWorks, we believe in fixing problems rather than playing blame games when things go wrong. On one of my projects at HatchWorks, we once had a miscommunication that resulted in a module that looked different from what the client was expecting. At this point the HatchWorks leadership team had two options: 1) Go down the rabbit hole to retrace how this misrepresentation occurred or 2) Focus on getting the module right. The Project Leadership team chose to do the latter and, thankfully, the Client Lead was also on board with focusing on fixing the problem rather than spending time on defining where the ball was dropped.
When it comes to product delivery and execution, your project time and resources are the key constraints on the quality of the outcome. Every minute spent on any activity that does not directly impact the goal of building working software is time away from productive work, which impacts the quality of the product.
Team Composition and Supportive Structure
Our product teams are always cross-functional to ensure the right mix and number of people to get a job done. Every skill set required for successfully achieving a product’s deliverables is represented by the members on the team. This structure helps us to enable a self-sustaining and self-organizing closely collaborating team, which in turn helps us to problem solve and troubleshoot faster and more efficiently.
Numerous research on high performing teams has indicated that an ideal team composition for higher productivity and efficient collaboration is a diverse, dynamic team with strong leadership. At HatchWorks, we structure every product team with a product owner/lead to lead the team and work together to achieve a common objective – to capitalize on individual strengths and ensure collaboration between roles.
All of our product development teams work under a simple motto: Deliver properly functioning software frequently. At HatchWorks, we are firm believers that the real test of software is when it is put to use; no amount of prior strategizing can beat functionality. All our software development teams follow the agile manifesto. We release our code to production so that it can be put to use by our customers, which in turn generates real insights for our customers as well as how to improve the solution.
There is an unwritten rule followed by HatchWorks’s leadership that a project resource must not be shared across more than two projects. In fact, most of our project team members are consciously dedicated to just one project. This helps our project team members to focus all their energies on their project’s deliverables, rather than getting pulled in multiple directions due to varying project priorities. This approach also ensures that no team member responsible for project deliverables is engaged in team meetings more than fifty percent of their working hours to ensure team members get time to work on their project deliverables.
Open, Honest Communication
Another key characteristic of HatchWorks culture is high-quality interaction, characterized by trust, open communication, and a willingness to embrace conflict. Open communication is a characteristic that is embraced by the HatchWorks leadership team and they believe in straightforward communication and stating things as they are.
A relevant incident that comes to mind is when we had to communicate to one of our clients that the expected release date on one of our monthly releases would need to be extended. In past organizations in similar scenarios, I have seen Product Leads decide to push the team to meet the initial deadline by asking the team to go above and beyond, and without taking the compromised quality into consideration with this approach. For this initiative, on the day our Project Lead communicated to the client on the delay in expected release, I was a silent observer and learner. We took the approach of presenting the facts in an objective manner to clearly outline the project status, options for achieving end objectives, and impacts on timeline and product delivery. In doing so, our client agreed that the best decision was to delay the release based on the information we relayed.
HatchWorks takes a conscious effort in diversifying its workforce. HatchWorks employees and contractors include 50% of people of color and 35% of women in the United States workforce. The leadership strongly believes that diverse teams are better poised for decision making and finding creative solutions to a problem. Our diverse backgrounds shape our perspectives, and when we work together our ideas amalgamate to find creative solutions to the problems at hand.
A Bigger Purpose
At Hatchworks, we not only strive to achieve client satisfaction but also work towards creating a better workplace for all our employees. We work to provide a better work-life balance and a positive and productive work environment for all our employees. Finally, we provide our employees with opportunities to grow professionally as well as opportunities to grow personally and work towards positively impacting the communities we serve.
We do this by providing all employees with opportunities to participate in our social giving program, Hatch Futures. Hatch Futures, our philanthropic arm, works towards providing technology skills education and mentoring to at-risk youth, as well as career development and financial support for continued educational opportunities. When we share, our lives are enriched. The greatest joys come from helping others to better their lives. Based on our continuous efforts on creating a positive workplace, we were recently awarded as one of Atlanta’s “Best Places to Work.”
So how do HatchWorks teams effectively work together to drive outcomes which are much greater than the sum of the individual contributions? Simply put, it’s about enabling an environment of creativity to challenge and inspire the team behind the products.
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