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Increasing Team Velocity By Increasing Team Autonomy

Underperformance
Team processes
Managing Expectations
Productivity

9 July, 2018

Cory Thomas talks about how he was able to help his teams to increase their velocity by increasing their autonomy and ensuring they were aligned with the company’s vision.

Problem

My company, Xello, started tracking team velocity across our six cross-functional engineering teams. Through this, we noticed that not all the teams had the velocity numbers we would like. We needed to figure out why the slower teams were moving so slowly and why some of the teams that were moving at a reasonable pace weren't increasing their velocity as their capacity increased.

Actions taken

There were a couple of things that were preventing our teams from making progress. Decision making was a big factor. Many times, teams weren't able to make decisions on their own and they would have to consult with someone external to their team. An example of this was when teams needed to make a UX decision when the team didn't have a UX person on the team. The team would have to wait to get in touch with the UX person, wait for them to come into the team, and then potentially wait for the UX person to discuss it with someone else outside of the team. This really slowed down team velocity. To fix this problem, we tried to reduce communication channels. We put a dedicated UX person on each team and empowered them to make all of the UX decisions for that team. Another issue our teams faced was that they would make decisions that weren't in alignment with the goals or mission of the company. To get around this, we set up specific KPI's to measure teams against quarterly objectives that the teams would decide upon with senior directors. We would then review our progress against the goals during retrospectives. By fixing these two issues, we were able to have a huge impact on our team's velocities. In addition, thanks to the goals we had set, the teams were now making the right decisions, so teams no longer had to go back and rework things.

Lessons learned

Make sure that people are aligned with your company's mission and strategy, right down to the lowest levels of your organization. Autonomy is also hugely important - ensure people are as autonomous as possible, so they can move quickly without relying on other people to get their job done.


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