Homeric

Your Team Is Dysfunctional

Vincent Pavero,

I obviously plead guilty: Yes the title may be exaggerated, but only for a minority of people. As I explained in my last article, many organizations struggle with business outcomes and employee retention. One of the key factors: 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional. Let's dive into this.

75% of teams are dysfunctional

The study behind the infamous HBR article is absolutely clear: Lack of clear objectives or objectives not aligned with the real organization's goals; poor team dynamics; missing out on scope, dates, or budget; These issues happen all the time and they often happen simultaneously: to be considered dysfunctional in the study you must fail on at least 3 of these success criteria. Teams are not only late. They are late while not delivering the right features and not respecting the company strategy.

You can see here one differentiator of high-performance teams. Successful tech companies actively take action to avoid these pitfalls. Most organizations do not. Who really looks back into the initial business cases that enabled budgets to look at the actual returns?

It's about Team Interactions...

The first dimension in which a team can be dysfunctional is team interactions. It's about how people behave and interact with each other and with the rest of the organization. This theme is often overlooked by management for 2 reasons:

  • Almost 150 years of scientific management (Taylorism) domination makes us believe people are interchangeable resources. Only the output matters and it's independent of the person if the work is properly organized. While it's true for operational tasks, it's completely wrong for creative activities and product development.

  • Managers and executives are poorly-equipped to monitor and influence team dynamics. The presence or absence of coaching on this by first-level managers is a very effective way to make the difference between high and low-performance teams.

Team interactions can be split into 3 axes:

  • Vertically, how the team and upper management, sponsors, and executives interact with each other.

  • Laterally - how the team interacts with other teams. Other technical teams for dependencies, customer success teams for user feedback, etc.

  • Internally - How the team members interact with each other, especially cross-functionally with the relationships between product, design, and engineering for example.

If you haven't taken explicit actions to define and educate on how the team members and stakeholders should interact with each other, you're probably failing: it's basically impossible to have it right "spontaneously".

Maybe it's time for some improvements? Homeric can help ;-)

... And Team Practices

The other dimension in which a team can be dysfunctional is their team practices. It's about how the different team members are going to truly collaborate with each other to deliver the best possible outcomes for the teams and the organization. Organizations fail on this theme for 2 main reasons:

  • Silos are not broken. Even in a supposedly agile cross-functional team, Designers are expected to spend their time creating mockups, developers are expected to code and product managers are supposed to write stories. With no focus on collaboration, the team is obviously unable to perform.

  • Output is king. Lack of clear objectives, process compliance, absence of user feedback, etc. All those issues will make the team fall back on output because this is the only thing the team can actually do. As you may expect, the odds of solving real customer problems at the end are very, very low.

Team practices cover many topics we could group like this:

  • Stakeholder management, objectives definitions, and evangelism - All the actions you need to take continuously to basically manage the organization. Let's not forget, great products solve real problems for our users and customers, in ways that our customers love, yet work for our business.

  • Product vision, strategy, and discovery - All the actions team will take to ideate, test, validate, refine the destination, the path, and the milestone for the product.

  • Product delivery and operations - All the actions to build, maintain and operate the product.

Practices here encompass frameworks, activities, processes, production and just like the team interactions, it's impossible to get it right by default. Do your engineers contribute to the product strategy? They do it all the time in high-performance teams.

What about the consequences?

Working in dysfunctional teams is frustrating, draining, and not really sustainable. It also creates a vicious circle: Those teams continuously fail on more than half of their success criteria, creating a team environment of constant failure. Trust from the management will quickly disappear, pushing the team to become even more dysfunctional.

The final outcome: your employees will leave. Dysfunctional teams have an employee turnover 2.5x higher than highly-functional ones. Each time your high-performance competitor loses 2 employees, you lose 5! The impact on team morale, HR costs, reputation, and attractiveness is absolutely huge in the long term, and organizations will need to tackle this challenge if they want to stay in the innovation game.

Interested in breaking some bad patterns, increasing the quality of your products, and employee retention? Homeric can help, click here ;-)

Homeric, Product Management Done Right

Product management is amongst the most strategic functions of a company. It’s directly related to customer happiness, market positioning & long term success. It’s time to unleash your team’s full potential!

Stay tuned!

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