Great software solutions need great teams
There is an undeniable link between great software solutions and great teams. Creating exceptional products requires a skillful approach in today's highly competitive market, where customer experience is paramount. The success of building the right product goes beyond simply addressing market needs; it relies on having a robust product organisation capable of delivering outstanding results.
A successful product organisation thrives on several key factors, including:
- having the right people in the right roles
- emphasising collaboration
- making room for innovation
- adopting a problem-solving attitude
A team's performance is critical to how well these factors come together. A high-performing team can elevate each aspect, and that's how we end up with awesome software solutions.
If you are looking for a reliable partner to build great software solutions, this article will give you an insight into the indicators of high-performing teams. I will also share a real-life example of collaboration between our client and one of our software teams. This example will demonstrate how a great team can change things for the better.
How our high-performance team delivered more value to the client
A year ago, one of our teams began working with an innovative client whose product was evolving quickly. The product's user base was expanding rapidly, requiring continuous product scaling, integrating new solutions, and accommodating ever-changing user expectations. . This work requires a dynamic approach as we strive to meet evolving needs and ensure seamless growth. The product roadmaps prioritise optimisation, automation, and, in the future, the ambitious goal of reaching more users.
Over the course of a year, our working relationship with the client evolved significantly, moving from delegation of tasks to end-to-end ownership of the features. This change is a direct result of our strong teamwork and engagement. Our team focused on establishing open communication with the client, efficiently gathering requirements, and creating precise action plans. Our proactive approach has shown the client that we're fully capable of helping them create successful software solutions. Let's delve into this in greater detail.
All starts with trust and open communication
The initial phase, the transformation process involved establishing transparent and open communication with the client. Within the first month of working together, our team decided to take the lead and arrange a retrospective meeting. As a result of this proactive approach, they established regular channels to keep the client informed of progress on a daily basis. These regular review meetings have become a ground rule of the project, helping the team to create a culture where everyone openly shares ideas and gives feedback.
The partnership, based on open communication, created an environment in which our team was able to maximise their expertise and translate it into client satisfaction. Our openness and commitment made the client willing to share their concerns and needs. That helped the team promptly deal with the client's request, leaving no room for ambiguity.
One such instance when we positively surprised the client was when the client expressed a need for innovation in the area of Kafka-connected products. Our team responded quickly by organising an internal meeting with a Kafka expert from SoftwareMill. The quality of the solution and the speed of response positively surprised the client and supported product development. This high level of commitment and accountability has led the client to entrust our team with even more aspects of the project.
Currently, the client provides initial designs for the required solutions, and our team takes responsibility for defining the functionality of features, identifying dependencies within the system, and devising the implementation strategy. Through this partnership, our team members have been given the opportunity to grow and use their full range of skills. For the client, we have become a trusted partner, sharing a common sense of achievement as we work together to achieve mutual success.
Our real-life example of collaboration illustrates the strong correlation between a high-performing team and business results. We see many stories of exceptional teams making remarkable impacts on digital products. Science backs it up, better teamwork processes increase the likelihood of success by a substantial 20 to 25% (source a meta-analysis of 130 studies by LePine et al.). However, it's important to recognise that harmonious cooperation does not always come naturally. It requires intensive nurturing and deliberate development. The research shows that while a staggering 92% of people recognise the critical importance of teamwork, only a meager 23% consider their teams to be truly effective (source).
So, what makes teamwork so effective?
Let’s decode the high-performing teamwork phenomena with science.
I will focus on three models and studies I worked with when supporting IT teams’ growth.
- Five Team Dysfunction (Lencioni’s model) - it is a model devised by Patrick Lencioni. This model describes the dynamics of team interactions and highlights five essential skills that teams must cultivate to be effective. Lencioni has also developed a questionnaire to help teams assess themselves and guide them on their development journey.
Inspired by the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
- The Seven Drivers of Teamwork Model (7C’s model) - A collaborative effort by Dr. Scott Tannenbaum and Dr. Eduardo Salas, who define seven research-based drivers of teamwork in Teams That Work and have created a practical 'Teamwork Advisor' to support teams in their quest for improvement.
Inspired by Webinar
- Five Key Elements of Successful Teamwork (Google’s model) - this model emerged from Google's extensive research starting in 2012. Over the course of more than two years, they assessed 180 teams and conducted more than 200 interviews with employees. By analysing 250 team attributes, they identified five key elements that have profoundly impact on teamwork. Their findings revealed that, beyond the composition of a team, it is the way in which team members interact that matters most.
Based on the article
I will use these three models to uncover the key elements of our teams that contribute to their high performance in supporting customers.
Before we go through the key elements of teamwork, let's see how our team assessed their teamwork skills using Patrick Lencioni's assessment.
Self-assessment study performed by the team based on a study of team dysfunctions prepared by Lencioni
How does our team look like on the Partick Lencioni’s scale
The assessment showed that our teamwork drivers are strong. The results highlight the team's strengths and prove the value of one-to-one feedback sessions led by team members. This encourages the team to continue to foster a culture of open communication and collaboration, both within the team and with our clients.
The Key Elements of Teamwork in Our Team
Let's explore how these teamwork elements operate within our team.
1. Trust and psychological safety
According to Lencioni's model, trust is the foundation of effective teamwork.High levels of trust mean team members can be vulnerable without fear of judgement. In such teams, people are more likely to share their opinions. They also seek to understand someone's motives rather than jumping to their conclusions.
This resonates with Google's research, highlighting psychological safety as the most important team attribute. Teams with high levels of psychological safety are twice as likely to be rated as effective by managers (source).
The 7C’s model also identifies trust as an important element of effective teamwork. In their definition of collaboration, the authors say that team members who lack trust in each other cannot work together effectively.
Trust in our team is at a very high level. Team members maintain it by having one-on-one conversations to clear up any confusion. They are not afraid to speak up and share their thoughts.
To ensure psychological safety, team members can ask for help or admit when they don't know something.
2. Conflict management and communication
In Lencioni's model, another important skill for high-performing teams is openness to conflict. In these teams, members aren't afraid to share ideas that differ from others. When conflict is about the issue and not personal, it helps the team see more points of view and make better decisions. Ineffective teams either avoid disagreements or turn them into arguments, preventing them from finding the best solutions.
The 7C’s model emphasises how good teams share information. High-performing teams care about the quality of information, not just the quantity. They do this by sharing valuable information and understanding each other, not guessing. This keeps communication clear and complete and is similar to the constructive conflict from Lencioni’s model.
According to the assessment, our team deals with conflicts in a good way. They share opinions and try to understand each other. Different points of view aren't scary for them; it's a chance to see things in a new light without being afraid.
3. Commitment and cognition
Lencioni's model highlights commitment as the next skill of high-performing teams. When the team is committed, meetings are interesting because everyone is involved. The team makes decisions after talking and working things out together. Everything is clear because people discuss doubts and different views, so they understand the choices.
Commitment from Lencioni’s model is consistent with the cognition aspect of the 7C's model. Research has shown that teams possess a Shared Mental Model perform better (source). Teams can have different types of Shared Mental Models.
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Our team shows a strong commitment to decision-making. Everyone is involved in the discussions, even the front-end expert is heard on back-end issues. They also have a good understanding of the business because they carefully gather requirements and talk to the customer about their needs and ideas.
4. Accountability and coaching
Once decisions were made, strong teams took responsibility for implementing them. In Lencioni's model, great teams are accountable and do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. It's like a relay race where everyone plays a part and knows they're all in it together. They naturally help each other by giving feedback and sharing ideas. This keeps things moving in a collaborative way.
The 'coaching' drive from 7C’s model seems aligned with accountability from Lencioni’s model. According to the authors, in effective teams, members can demonstrate leadership behaviours such as holding teammates accountable, removing obstacles, facilitating learning and adaptation.
According to our team's assessment, accountability is one of our team's strongest skills. They demonstrated this by suggesting improvements. For example, while working on the customer's solution, our team member understood the situation and recommended an improvement that made the process safer. The team knows the product requirements really well, so they can decide which tasks are most important and adapt quickly if necessary. They feel as responsible for the product as the customer.
5. Focusing on Result and Collaboration
Finally, Lencioni emphasises that a strong focus on results is a key characteristic of high-performing teams. In such teams, members are always ready to support and help each other to achieve the best possible results. This collaborative spirit drives them to combine their diverse skills and knowledge to produce effects, enhance the quality of their work, and grow together.
Similarly, the 7 C's teamwork model emphasises the importance of collaboration. Research has shown that teams with collective efficacy perform better (source).
Results orientation is a big part of our team's skillset. They work closely with customers, tackling big-picture strategies as well as day-to-day operations. Tema recognises that the product is in its early stages and not all use cases are well known. Therefore, they focus on strong collaboration and information sharing with the customer. The team is always ready to look for new solutions or improvements.
The 7Cs model emphasises that highly effective teams need to be made up of individuals with the right knowledge, skills, and attitudes to deal effectively with project requirements and other challenges. It is important to recognise that team capability goes beyond technical aptitude.
That's why, having delivered a range of commercial projects, we take the assessment of soft skills as seriously as our engineers' technical skills.. When recruiting, we ensure that we select individuals who have both technical expertise and the right attitude to work together. Involving as many engineers as possible in the selection process allows us to assess compatibility and ensure a cohesive and harmonious team dynamic.
Conditions play a crucial role in shaping effective teamwork. The 7C’s model emphasises that the organisational environment can either facilitate or hinder the willingness of team members to work together. Factors such as promotion decisions, levels of control, availability of resources, and workload balance can all have a significant impact on the level of teamwork.
In our Organisation, we are committed to creating a work environment that fosters teamwork and allows our team members to thrive. What does that look like in practice?
- We make sure our team members have the tools and support they need to excel in their roles.
- We facilitate social connection as a key element of effective collaboration. We value networking opportunities where we can meet and make connections that strengthen our collaboration on future projects (see our Instagram).
- We empower our experts by giving them the freedom to engage in projects that match their interests. This autonomy allows them to contribute their expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and drives their commitment to delivering outstanding results.
- Once a project is underway, our experts are free to develop meaningful collaborations with clients. This open and flexible approach encourages effective communication, understanding client needs, and tailoring solutions to ensure client satisfaction.
I find that when teams embrace these key elements, they create excellent software solutions and harness the power of teamwork.
I find that when teams embrace these key elements, they create excellent software solutions and harness the power of teamwork.
High-performing teams can be crucial, especially when facing challenges like scaling, pioneering new solutions, and keeping product development on track in a constantly changing market. Their expertise and performance can provide the necessary support to meet challenges with consistent quality.
Effective teams are important in your organisation and when teaming up with others. Partnering isn't just about technical skills, it's about assessing how well an organisation can work together, and how it demonstrates its commitment to teamwork. This holistic approach ensures not only technical expertise but also an environment where collaboration thrives, leading to shared success.
The right partners and advisors understand the complex interplay between technical and team skills. They value fostering high levels of competence in both.
If you are interested in how we work with our clients, look here.
Reviewed by Maria Kucharczyk