In this talk from MTP Engage Manchester, Rachael Shah, Delivery Lead at the Co-op, challenges us to think holistically about scaling our products, and that means including our teams in our thinking. She draws from her own experience to illustrate just how critical it is to think about scaling the team as an activity that runs in parallel with scaling a product. She provides practical examples on how to both measure our teams’ life-stage and the support needed for each stage.
- To scale a product holistically, we have to scale the product and the team alongside each other
- To scale a product and team well, we need to be clear about what stage the product is in its lifecycle and what stage the team is in its development
- Armed with a clear view of the team and the product’s maturity, we can watch out for key behaviours and apply specific strategies to help the team and product go from surviving to high performing
How Mature are we?
We often talk about scaling our products. We’re concerned with how we take our products and make them better, acquire more customers, and deliver more value. However, Rachael argues that thinking only about scaling the product is failing to think holistically about product growth. She posits that to scale a product well, you have to grow the product and team alongside each other deliberately.
Rachael works on transformational digital innovation for the community at the Co-op and says it’s harder than ever to make things happen in your local community.
Her product is in the early adoption stage, and she shows how the product adoption lifecycle sits alongside the Tuckman model for group development of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. Her team has grown over the course of the year – 450% in six months – but has kept consistently high happiness scores. She shares some stories about how they made this happen.
The Stages and Signs of Team Growth
At the Forming stage, everyone is excited and nervous. They need clear structure and goals. Rachael says that, in her case, tasks like volunteering in the community were helpful, and the development of a team canvas was especially helpful.
At the Storming phase, people can feel frustrated and confused, and they can be critical of the mission and direction. They need to refocus on the goals and any conflict needs to be addressed. Rachael used retros – even in the pub! – to uncover concerns, and she focused on building a safe space, and on product statements and OKRs.
At the Norming stage, we start to be comfortable about sharing our ideas and there is some consensus and harmony. In-jokes are always a sign of the Norming stage she says, plus she found the sharing of feedback and ways of dealing with stress were great ways to get the team ready for the next stage. Most important was the building of processes around constructive feedback. She recommends reading Radical Candor by Kim Scott to learn more about this.
In the Performing stage, people become quite satisfied with the progress and they’re confident. Roles become more fluid and we start to recognise strengths in other members of the team. Accomplishments are measured and celebrated. The Co-op team has a regular team health check, and Rachael uses activities like celebrating success to help to maintain team performance. They also use the Discuss, Decide, Do framework to ensure the team is aligned.
Building a product team is hard work, she says, it takes a lot of effort. You can get stuck in a loop and you need to find experiments or tests to help you to move forward.