Aligning an Ineffective Team to Realize Product Potential
21 May, 2020
I inherited a technology product that had unfulfilled potential with an ineffective team behind it, what concerned me was the lack of accountability in achieving objectives set out by the company. With a looming possibility of key team members leaving, I was also concerned about business continuity and retaining the knowledge held by them.
I had a much-needed discussion with my superiors about their thoughts on the current team and what they would like to achieve with the product and the company. They expressed their dissatisfaction with the team’s performance but were afraid of knowledge gaps resulting from developers leaving. I gave them confidence that with comprehensive processes, we could mitigate those risks and better our product delivery.
As a first step, to ensure the business continuity I implemented a “Contributions” document that was to be completed by anyone leaving. The document captured the specific knowledge that developers held about their daily tasks and the projects they worked on. I compared these documents from the developers with the factual situation to assess and revise if needed. Then, these documents were also added to a wiki.
Next, to decide how to proceed with each team member I created a “Development Plan”, a document that listed the skills developers would like to improve upon and the deliverables set out by the company that they would contribute to. The rationale behind the Development Plan was to create a self-evaluation system and to encourage proactivity from the developers. Also, I believed that self-evaluation would serve as an opportunity for the developers to reflect on their personal goals and motivations with respect to the objectives of the company.
Once these processes were in place, I started to hold the team accountable to their Development Plans. While this caused some discomfort for myself and the team, I had to take these steps to determine the true performance of the team in order to achieve the goals of the company.
It's crucial, as soon as possible, to establish processes that surface and differentiate which team members perform effectively. Then, developers who don’t find alignment with the company’s objectives will weed themselves out or can be let go.
Accountability and communication between team members are essential to determine who will take ownership of their deliverables and drive towards personal and company goals.
There were moments when I doubted my actions because of the costs and risks involved with rebuilding a team of developers. However, as a leader, I should be confident when implementing new processes given that greater costs and risks would arise from lost potential and competitors.
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