Monday, 8 July 2013

Empowerment - Helping Your Teams to Succeed

I had a bit of a disagreement recently when it came to what a particular product team should be "called". Whilst this might seem a bit small in the grand scheme of things, I think that the importance of a team having its own identity should not be underestimated.

It boils down to a simple level of trust and true empowerment of a team. Allowing the team to decide what their identity will be is the first step. In some cases - actually allowing teams to choose themselves is an even more powerful and effective way of instigating such a change, as explained here.

It takes a lot more than the above to create an awesome working environment, but we all have to start somewhere, and the above is a great way to get started. Below are just a few examples of some other ways to improve your working environment and get the most out of your product teams.

  • Set the goal, let the team come up with how they will achieve it.
  • Trust your teams to self manage and organise, they want to succeed just as much as you do.
  • Provide time for your teams to learn. Google have a 20 percent rule where employees can work on their own special projects. That's 1 day per week - think of the positive impact on morale.
  • Avoid micro-management at all costs. An empowered employee/team does not need to be told what to do every 5 minutes.
  • Allow the team to fail, failure is the quickest way anyone can learn, as long as you take the time to learn from your mistakes.
  • Have clear priorities. We all know that things change quickly, but if you never see a project through to completion - how can you expect your teams to be enthused about doing it?
  • Leave the old "I must have everything" mentality in the past where it belongs. If 20% of the work delivers 80% of the value, why do the rest?
  • Don't adopt an approach that dictates that just because you can buy something off the shelf you should. This type of approach, whilst on the surface will give the teams more time to focus on things where they can be innovative, it in fact stifles the innovation as it adds constraints to what the teams can actually do.

The benefits of this kind of working environment are quite simply astounding. By showing this level of trust and empowerment, the teams will be more bought in to what they are doing, be proud and enthusiastic about their work. Innovation will flourish, and your company as a whole will benefit. A happy and positive environment for your development teams will not only be good for the people working directly in or with those teams, but actually for the business as a whole. This becomes more and more obvious as technology plays an every increasing role within business. In a world where being innovative can be the difference between your company remaining competitive or failing, this is the best opportunity you have to ensure you succeed. It is not an easy task as all of the above requires a shift in mindset from the entire business, but if you want survive, you don't really have a choice.

So, in conclusion, and to complete the circle - whilst having a disagreement over the naming of a product team on the face of it appears to be a very small thing - the level of impact it could potentially have on the product team and business as a whole was profound. Never underestimate the power of the finer details.