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The key to becoming a high-performing product team

Nowadays every software building company wants to be agile and more customer-oriented. But what does it take to become a product-led organization producing digital products efficiently? Let's find out.

23. 5. 2022

Ales Glomb

Product Manager

Nowadays every software building company wants to be agile and more customer-oriented. The reason is simple: We want to build products that succeed in the markets, are used by many users, and generate revenue.

Even though it might sound too simplistic at the beginning, the journey to achieving such milestones requires much more from people and organizations than just introducing some Scrum events or using the latest product management tricks and hacks.

True success in becoming a product-led organization producing digital products efficiently comes with changing the work environment and thus the ways people think, behave and work.

Indeed, agile and product management maturity can be only observed in how people act and behave in their daily work, their mindset, values, and principles. And the inconvenient truth is that this is a hard thing to do and it might take years to perfect things that can impact it.

Where shall you start?

So in case, you are a manager, a CEO, or just an ordinary employee thinking about making the change, where shall you start? The very 1st thing we recommend to do is to understand and analyze your current situation. For doing that, you can use the agile maturity models. Your main task is going to be to learn as much about your team as possible.

Are you just taking orders and requirements or do you identify and suggest possible improvements? Do you take your client as a third party or are they “part of the team”, and are you building strong partnerships with them? Once you have sufficient answers to questions like these, you will be able to articulate the actual reasons for the change more clearly.

For example, you want to move from responsive teams with minimal autonomy to teams that are empowered to make decisions and lead continuous improvements. This will give you a guideline on where you are heading and what shall be your goals.

Visions, goals, or objectives are also critically important at this stage. Without knowing what you are trying to achieve, you are not able to explain the Why?  to the people you try to gain support from, track your progress or find the way for achieving it in the first place.

The typical goals in Agile are to have:

  • High Performing Teams (HPT)

  • Increased satisfaction and motivation of employees

  • Increased teams’ self-organization, ownership, and proactiveness

  • Continuously improving the way of working

The product management nicely completes the Agile way of thinking. The overreaching goal is to have EMPOWERED product teams, which can:

  • deliver valuable products or services

  • increase the chances of product-market-fit

  • reach the outcomes

  • reduce product risks (value, usability, feasibility, viability)

  • spur for innovation

In other words, what is the point to have High Performing Teams which can ship working solutions fast, if the software or delivered features are not used, don’t solve any problems for users, or don’t generate any revenue?

Therefore Agile management and product mindset have to be equally implemented. Otherwise, as a start-up, you might go bust extremely quickly, as a mid or big-size company you would lose your innovation pace and will be outperformed by your competitors or new industry entrants.

Identify areas, which need to be changed

The next step would be to decide or at least identify areas, which need to be changed to achieve the transformation to an agile and product-oriented team.

The most common problems in organizations trying to implement an agile approach are:

  • team founding is based on projects instead of product teams and their competencies

  • product teams are given solutions/features to build, instead of problems to solve or business objectives to achieve e.g. increase the conversion rate or higher usage

  • the product teams don’t have access to end-users or clients

  • missing dedications and lack of focus e.g. people are working on several projects

  • lack of learning culture e.g. people are not encouraged to experiment, prototype, and learn fast from their mistakes, instead, they focus on detailed tickets description

As with any other assessment in Agile, it is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong.

Therefore don’t aim for perfection. Rather than performing an extensive analysis of your problems, it is perfectly fine to have only a rough picture of identified areas for improvements and shape them as you go along.

However there is one certainty, the outcome of becoming a high-performing product team closely depends on the people and their competencies. Product managers have to be fully competent in their area of work, agile, and able to facilitate the creation of the right environment for the rest of the team to realize their full potential.

One of the caveats is that agile teamwork is a volatile process. There are many ups and downs and no guarantees of ever hitting a performing phase. But you can increase your chances by encouraging the people in your team to try and learn what fits the best for them, being open to changes, and educating responsible individuals in an agile way of working and product management.

There is one quote I would like to close this article with: “It doesn’t matter how good you are today, if you are not better next month, you are no anymore agile”. So the next steps are clear. Just try it out and if you feel like you might use some help, feel free to contact us.


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