How to build high-performing product teams?

| 9 min read

Because of the pandemic, companies all over the world are experimenting with new methods of building high-performance product teams that work-from-home. For managing remote product teams, you need to create an environment that makes it easy to find out what each team member needs and keep good communication going though when everyone works in different places. This involves not only using a set of tools designed specifically for remote workers but also switching to a more flexible management model. We embraced the market change by switching to remote first environment and implementing new solutions. Our mission is to build teams that work effectively around our client mission, so we need high-performing teams that act as the prime contractor of the technology. This required us to build an environment that would provide employees and clients with freedom and efficiency of operation and organization.

In order to prepare our teams well, we had to answer a few important questions:

  • How to adapt a team to complete remote work?
  • How will the processes that have worked well in the office translate into remote work?
  • How will full remote work affect communication and teamwork?

This helped us to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the company and then create a model precisely tailored to the organization, work culture and values ​​of the company. The awareness of the team and the willingness to engage in creating a product remotely turned out to be a big advantage. One of the important issues was onboarding of new employees. Before, this process was done at the office so we had to think how to manage it remotely. We decided to create a asynchronous process and onboarding list to make it work smoothly. The biggest challenge was changing the operating mode. At the company's office, the team has a standardized working environment adapted to their mode and way of activity, therefore we had to reorganize communication. After going remote work, we had to be sure that the communication processes would not affect the dynamics and quality of work. We achieved it by increasing transparency by the new tools like Notion. We have unified the processes of communication and information flow.

The implementation of remote work is not a one-day activity. It is an ongoing process that needs to be supervised. It is important to continue the practices that have been implemented on a permanent basis. As examples, it includes good practices when building a team goals (establishing priority of challenges in the team, feedback and goals framework), 1:1 meetings (time for exchanging feedback, resetting priorities, and providing missing context) or All Hands Monday meetings (which allows us to be up-to-date with company information and current situations in other teams). All of those above require constant commitment of all employees, openness and willingness to overcome difficulties.

Let’s discuss the details of what the high-performing team's attributes are, and how to work effectively in a remote or hybrid model.

Build the environment

According to Inc, the current labor market shows that Gen Z seems to be the most creative and individualistic generation. This means that companies must learn how to build not only an efficient remote workspace but also an environment supporting the values and lifestyle of the youngest generation. As an example, at AppUnite we believe that every employee should have freedom for experimentation within team. We have default procedures and let people recognize blockers and think of solutions. Defaults are exactly like standards with one exception: you don’t have to use them. A default says: If you don’t know what you’re doing, do this. If you don’t have time to think, try it our way. We support the autonomy of people, what gives them the opportunity to build mastery.

According to Deloitte, 37% of Gen Z (vs 36% of Millennials) claim that they have rejected a job based on their personal ethics. Moreover, they seem to be overall more stressed (46% vs 38% of Millennials) and more concerned about their mental health (39% Gen Zs vs 30% Millennials). This means that the modern workplace, if intended to work efficiently, has to obey their expectations by providing space for a variety of personalities, opinions and thoughts.

Making everyone in the project team feel heard and appreciated is the most important step in building high-performing teams in 2022. Once both Gen Z and Millennials in your team will feel understood, they will become much more motivated and engaged in their daily tasks, which will undoubtedly lead to higher productivity.

Recognize blockers

Once you are aware of what kind of environment you want to build for your project team, it’s time to find out what obstacles can stop you from getting there. And this you can, indeed, verify it pretty easily - simply by asking your team members.

To build a high-performant team you should actively involve every member into such discussions. Not only because they will feel that their input is valuable. First of all, by asking openly, creating a safe space, and making sure that everyone is heard, you will receive a lot of valuable insights that will help you to identify bottlenecks faster.

You need to find out the drawbacks in your employee’s daily work and things that stop them from being more productive. We described one method in one of our latest articles on building a team's self-awareness.

Give context

If you want to make your project team more productive, meaning achieving their goals fast and efficiently, first they need to be aware of what the goals actually are. They need to be supercharged with company context to understand what is required from them and how they can contribute to company mission. Implicating measurable metrics will provide everyone with valuable information about the progress of the project. This will help to clear out expectations, and to make sure that everyone is aware of the common goal and specific achievable results. Using transparent, measurable metrics is important specifically during remote work, where the opportunities to meet with the team are limited. Having a clear team mission and setting priorities will help everyone focus on key tasks and not waste time on unnecessary communication. This will obviously drive the overall efficiency.

Set purpose

In general, people don’t like following orders. In fact, they rather prefer to work more independently with the ability to make their own decisions. Not even mentioning how annoying, drawbacks generating, and time-consuming it is to seek approval for every little thing.

So, don’t ever bother yourself with micromanaging, even if you’ve been feeling like you should control your project team members more since you don’t see them in the office anymore. In order to be productive, your employees must feel empowered, not tracked all the time. Once you let them act, they will become more efficient and motivated to develop innovative solutions to improve the team’s productivity.

So, our advice is: set a clear purpose for your team. This will help to reduce number of approvals needed, shorten processes, be more aligned with company, make everyone more happy and relieved, and in the end - more productive.

Support collaboration

The distance during remote work should never be the reason for stopping collaboration in the team. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite - cooperation should jump up to the top priority in managing product teams.

Developing a product undoubtedly requires having an open mind, a fast exchange of insights and information, and regular follow-ups. In the end, this is how innovation is born, as teamwork fuels the development of new solutions improving daily work and overall efficiency. These insights are also valuable for further product development and improvement, in case it becomes a long-term project.

So, how to improve remote collaboration? In our opinion, there are two major pillars of efficient remote work:

  • using modern technologies
  • ensuring the right communication.

Most companies have already implemented selected solutions for the first pillar that support their daily work. However, there are still obstacles regarding pillar number two, and difficulties in finding the balance between staying updated and allowing your team members undisturbed work.

We recommend shorter, more frequent meetings not to make your team exhausted after a long day in front of the screen. Also, make sure that you don’t generate unnecessary calls that involve too many people. Before inviting anyone, always think twice about whether this person’s presence is crucial. Prefer text over meeting. It makes it easier to give feedback, allows you to keep correspondence for the future and help in better formulating thoughts (we have more time to decide what exactly we want to convey and which information is important in this regard).

And if you feel like learning more about the topic, feel free to check out one of our latest articles: Building communication strategy - a few steps you might want to take into consideration for an effective dialog.

Focus on people growth

Constant improvement is crucial not only in the product development or the software development process but also in terms of soft skills and personal growth. The fact that you don’t meet your employees in the office every day doesn’t mean that you should ignore extending their competencies. So, managing product teams should definitely involve providing them with growth opportunities.

In the end, fresh knowledge and competencies are one of the best ways to achieve higher productivity. We believe that constant improvement is exactly the thing that drives growth and performance. Our training budget allows employees to develop their skills and learn new things. Also, remember to fuel your team with best practices, Agile methods, technology insights and teamwork tips. This will help you to improve the outcome of your mutual work, meaning higher product quality.

Focus on the client

Last but not least, the best products are a result of a good understanding of customers' needs. Make sure that your project team is focused not only on technology but first of all on the end users’ perspectives. Create product-led environment. In the end, it’s the end user who will be assessing the results and generating profits, and it’s their satisfaction that generates profit.

Using available resources wisely and accurately thanks to carefully set priorities and awareness of customer expectations will help you to mitigate bugs, shorten product development time, and achieve much better quality. Be sure that your team has a client context, they will use that knowledge in the best way possible.

The Summary

We hope this article has helped you to learn more about building high-performing teams. In our example, you can see how the implementation of remote work influenced our organizational culture. We introduced many changes that required the effort and commitment of the entire company, but after completing the process, we can see that it brought many advantages.

And if you wish to find more information on product development, feel free to follow our blog for fresh updates.