In this Spotlight Session at #mtpcon San Francisco 2023, sponsored by West Monroe, Suzanna Smith, Director of Product Experience and Engineering Lab at West Monroe, and Max Pohl, Senior Principal Product Manager at Carbon Five, discuss building healthy and high-performing product teams through instilling an agile mindset.
Watch the session in full or read on for a recap of their key points.
Dealing with unrelenting pressure
Suzanna opens by explaining how difficult of a time it is for businesses at the moment. “Because of market uncertainty, companies are trimming the fat and teams are being asked to carry the remaining weight,” she says, “Nurturing and cultivating the creative environment feels out of reach,” In addition, there’s an unrelenting pressure of the pandemic memories, remote work isolation, and looming layoffs in this economy. The world is also changing radically with the emergence of AI.
Go slow to go fast
During volatile times, Max says the biggest driver of business impact is the strength of an organisation’s learning culture. Suzanna adds that retros are a great way to establish a collective agile mindset and boost morale.
“Taking an hour every week to reflect on work is an important way to create a shared mindset and responsibility for the performance of individuals. It gets the areas of ambiguity brought to the surface and promotes a psychologically safe environment critical for creativity.” Suzzanna explains.
However, practising agile methodologies doesn’t guarantee a collective agile mindset, Max adds, warning the audience to beware of this pitfall. “What could end up happening is the team could end up not following this mindset and just go through the motion,” he says.
If teams aren’t seeking ways to improve, then all that work could be in vain, and they may not ever reach the outcomes that they want to achieve. It’s important to ensure that this mindset is shared amongst the team, and those who struggle to get on board with this acknowledge the importance.
Leadership’s commitment to continuous learning
Max says how important the role of a leader is when instilling this culture of continuous learning in teams. “It’s difficult to establish that collective mindset in the organisation, it should be on leadership to nurture this,”
There are a few ways they can do this:
- Underscore the initiatives and core outcomes that they are prioritising
- Similarly, communicate what’s not prioritised and why
If leadership isn’t afraid to think agilely, it will naturally trickle down to the rest of the organisation. Ambiguity can be the biggest killer for an agile mindset, Suzanna mentions. It promotes burnout and makes it more difficult to learn systematically and iterate. Leadership can help create this clarity and foster a shared perspective.
Ultimately, the aim is to create a virtuous cycle for healthy teams to succeed.
It’s a dessert out there; we’re on a journey together. Creating that learning cycle where we can succeed is where we are. We can do that with the support of each other, Suzzanna closes.