April 16, 2020

A Product Team Righting Themselves

My Product Manager Skylar asked me today to recap how our product team righted themselves after a year of hardship and they’ve been so good for so long I had forgotten where we came from. It feels really good when things work without friction.

It was a few things we put into practice.

  • focus
  • shared goals
  • communication
  • growth mindset

We stripped back our commitments, which was pretty easy because we weren’t delivering well and we had reasonable stakeholders. I’m very thankful for that. Then we found the core of our remaining projects and pushed back everything else except paying down immediate tech debt.

We broke up any silos we had on the team, everyone working on the same project or keeping operational fires away from the project. About an 80/20 split of time between the two. We made a point to pair up people who were familiar and people who were not familiar with whatever tech, business domain, and processes when we could. We went slower at first but now most people are familiar with most things.

We uninvited external stakeholders from our weekly meetings and got good at stand ups. We needed these times to share openly our questions and concerns and to learn how to improve. Lastly we added retros. This gave us space to question delivery, technical and project management techniques. We're constantly trying new things out and reporting back to learn and grow.

Not everyone stuck around for these changes and that was OK. Some weren’t up for it, some were burned from before and didn't want to stop around. Being short handed was better than not working well together.

And finally, we had some wins! We launched some projects and had a good time! We’re by no means perfect, but oh boy do wins feel good! There’s still plenty of work to do but doing it with a gelling team makes it a lot easier. I’m equal parts thankful and proud.

If this story sounds familiar help us keep it going.

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