BALANCED TEAM: Well balanced teams help ensure products are meaningful and valuable to both customers and businesses.
DIVERSE SKILLS: A balanced team should include a variety of job roles with unique skills.
COMMON GOAL: Team members must be equally motivated and share a common goal.
COMMUNICATION: Good communication is central to a team’s ability to successfully collaborate on a project.
Whether a start-up or an established company, team structure plays a crucial role in a company’s ability to launch successful products and meet business goals. According to research from the 2013 article “New Venture Teams: A Review of the Literature and Roadmap for Future Research”, 60% of new ventures fail because of problems within teams.
“60% of new ventures fail because of problems within teams.”
Characteristics of a Balanced Team
Building a well balanced team isn’t as easy as one might think. Oftentimes companies look to hire people with the right education and skill set, but matching proper education and experience is only one aspect of a good qualification system.
Balanced teams need to possess adequate hard skills as well as soft skills. A team that has adequate hard skills but lacks the proper soft skills will have abundant resources with a shortage of work morale. And vice versa, a team rich in soft skills but lacking the necessary hard skills, will have high work morale but lack the resources to function properly. To build a well balanced team that is streamlined for productivity, a team must have:
- Distinct team roles
- Shared ethics and working culture
- Good communication
“Balanced teams create balanced products.”
Common Team Roles
A well-balanced product development team is equipped with specific job roles, which bear a variety of skills and knowledge to support autonomy. With complementary skills and knowledge, a team should have the resources it needs to work more efficiently, overcome difficulties, and build successful products.
While balanced team roles can vary depending on product requirements, the typical roles associated with a balanced team will ensure that the product being built is desirable to users, valuable to the business, and feasible to build. To do this, a typical team should consist of the following roles:
- Project Manager
- Stakeholder and Collaborators
The product manager is tasked with ensuring that the product supports a sustainable business model, with valuable business outcomes and desirable user results. To do this, the product manager works hands-on, leading the cross-functional team and guiding the product’s strategy, roadmap, and feature definition.
Designers work to deeply understand a product’s users in order to define intuitive solutions that users want while solving real problems. It is also the responsibility of designers to ensure that user needs match business goals. To do this, designers work with users through a process of research and testing to validate solution ideas before adding development work to the backlog.
Developers help ensure that the product is feasible to build and implement. They help the team understand technical implications of product decisions, and solve technology constraints by offering workable solutions. After mapping out the product requirements, developers write the code to bring UX designs and ideas to life.
It is often important to designate one developer as an Anchor, to ensure developers make sound technical decisions, and collaborate well with the Product Manager and designers.
Stakeholders and Collaborators
Stakeholder and collaborator involvement is important to understand constraints and requirements, manage internal and external resources, create buy-ins, and drive new partnerships and ideas.
Team Ethics and Working Culture
When building a team, it is important not to forget the importance of team culture. Introducing the wrong person into a team can have negative effects on the teams’ outlook and performance. A shared passion, vision, and work ethic is essential to build and maintain optimal team performance. When a team shares a common goal and interests, members align their personal efforts and seek ways to leverage the team’s talents.
“23% of entrepreneurial ventures fade away because they can’t find the right team to work with.”
To support cross-functional collaboration among team roles, a good team rhythm and good communication is important. When communication is balanced, open, and transparent, team productivity and focus is greatly increased.
Consistent daily and weekly meetings help balance communication and create a healthy team rhythm:
- Project Standup
- Iteration Planning Meeting
- Sponsor and Stakeholder Update
Project Standup Meetings
Project Standup Meetings used to check in on the work progress, plan, and challenges of each team member. During standups, participants should remain standing throughout the entire meeting, to ensure the meeting is kept brief.
Iteration Planning Meeting
Iteration Planning Meetings are led by product managers, and used to estimate the complexity of work tied to each week’s backlog.
Stakeholder Update Meetings
The purpose of a Stakeholder Update Meeting is to share the team’s progress, demo the working product, provide KPI updates, and establish the team’s next plan.
Project Review Meeting
Project Review Meetings are used to reflect on the accomplishments and challenges of the team over the past week.
Teamwork and success are not automatic. Team member selection is very important. Teams have to be established for the right reasons, sharing common goals and work ethics, as well as complimentary skills and knowledge. When properly assembled, well balanced teams help ensure products are meaningful and valuable to both customers and businesses.