6 ways to build an unproductive product team

6 tips for building an unproductive product team. Here's what's not to do.

Unproductive product team | Red Badger

An unproductive team can be the result of multiple factors, some of which from habits we may not even realise. Not only does building a productive team get the work done, it has been proven to lead to better commercial outcomes, creative problem solving and employee retention. It can be easy to overlook practices that are impacting your team's productivity.

Have you fallen into any of these traps while setting up your product team?

1. Expect the team to meet your own goals.

Goal setting is hugely important, both at an individual and team level, it increases joy, motivation and productivity.

However, as humans, we have many cognitive biases that impact our team's performance. An example is present bias referred to in Behavioural Economics, where we focus on the short term reward and immediate gratification for our decision making.

If you focus the team on your goals thus your bias can leave the team unmotivated and lacking purpose.

With your team, make goals setting a priority, spend time understanding everyone's individual goals, incorporate these into the larger goals of the team and define how these can contribute to the overall business objectives. 

2. Diving straight into the product feature roadmap.

Setting a team up to plod through a product feature roadmap or a list of requirements doesn’t give the team what they need: an understanding of the problem they need to solve.

Not only does this provide the team with little to no context, it can lead to the client and team missing out on diverse and creative ideas. It means when things go south, the team firefight rather than adapt to change.

Spending time with your team understanding the business context, aligning on a vision and strategy, and focusing your roadmap on the outcome rather than the features, provides the team with the trust and autonomy everyone needs for better overall performance. 

3. Get more people working on more things.

When you have a deadline looming it is natural to think if you have more people working on more things you will speed up your efficiency. Unfortunately, this only leads to more problems and unnecessary waste such as context switching, excessive meetings, hand off delays and duplication of work.

More tasks in flight mean more uncompleted tasks, therefore no value being delivered. Focus your team on delivering value by limiting the work in progress (WIP) and finishing tasks. Not only will they get more done, the team be more collaborative, efficient and effective. 

4. Always be available.

While it may have good intentions, a team who are always available means they are open to more interruptions and in turn, distractions.

Distractions are the devil when it comes to running a productive team. Research shows a split second of distractions cost you approximately 20 minutes of productivity.

Encouraging your team to carve out some distraction free zone time by turning off your notifications and changing your status to do not disturb can have a profound impact on your team's productivity. If you have a well aligned team with clear goals, give them the space and autonomy they need to get some serious work done. Work together to make your team's flow time a priority. 

5. Resolve conflicts by compromising.

Conflicts will happen, but it is how they are managed and resolved that matters.

According to the Thomas Kilmann model, we each have a natural approach to managing conflict, compromising being one of them.

While it may be the most efficient and practical method, it means the solution only partially meets both parties' needs. It runs the risk of superficial understanding, where issues are glossed over and don’t reflect the beliefs of the individuals.

This can leave the underlying issue going unresolved and open to resurfacing again. Encourage the team to collaborate on resolutions and create a win/win scenario.

Collaboration will lead to more solution ideas, equal voices being heard and better team morale and productivity. 

6. Give praise only when the product has been delivered.

Although giving praise at any stage should be positive, timing is everything.

Leaving praise for your team towards the end of the product delivery leaves many day to day achievements unacknowledged.

This prevents positive reinforcement where desired behaviour gets rewarded and therefore repeated. A study from the Office Team highlighted up to 66% of employees leave because they don’t feel appreciated.

Research from Gallup has shown, the most engaged teams receive some form of gratitude around once every 7 days and have a profound positive impact on motivations and productivity.

Make gratitude part of your team's day-to-day rituals and practices aligned to your company values, encouraging positive reinforcement and leading to an appreciated and productive team. 

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