Building a high performance team and a winning product

Date:   Monday , September 03, 2007

Many factors need to come into play for building a winning product. Building high performance teams that are productive and innovative is a must. The teams have to have an appetite for setting high goals and for taking calculated risks. Commitment and continued execution is another characteristic of a successful team.

High performance teams
Hiring the right people for the product you are building is a first requirement. However a company cannot build a high performance team just by hiring the smartest people one can find.

One of the key requirements is to set high performance goals for the team. The business leader has to engage himself constantly with the goals set. As the commitment is important, every member of the team should buy into the teamís goals as well. This buy-in comes when all of them are involved in the product planning. Employees will become stakeholders and see the value to themselves and to the company. This commitment should create a high performance culture where everybody performs in ways they have never before had a chance to.

Team work and collaboration is another important factor in building high performance teams. With many companies using distributed product development centers to be more efficient and cost effective, team work and collaboration becomes all the more critical. All members of the team should be given an opportunity to innovate in their own respective ways. Employee should be given requirements but not product implementation decisions. When necessary, the business leader will need to challenge the employee decision making.

Communication is another key aspect of strong teams. To avoid confusion and frustration, one has to communicate constantly to keep everybody updated during early stages of product development and again at the time of integration. Entire team has to keep itself updated with the new technologies and processes. Today, technology is changing very rapidly and the team that does not keep up with the latest will soon start lagging behind.

Risks and rewards
When you start out on a new product mission, it is very unlikely that you would find a team that has built exactly the same product before. There will be many decisions, some of them risky, that one will have to make. One cannot build a high performance team and winning products by always playing safe, but it is also important that one takes risks that are realistic. When you take risky decisions, some things may not work out as you may have expected. A strong and committed team will find alternative ways to address the issues that come up.

Building it right
When it comes to building a product, sometimes teams get started in a hurry without necessarily understanding the problems that the product is supposed to address. Doing the adequate market research and understanding the customer requirements is essential for the development of a successful product. One also needs to have a clear vision for the immediate release and where the product would be for the next 3 to 5 years. When one changes product strategy mid-stream, it de-motivates the team and causes momentum loss and product delays.

Product validation by customers is a must. Just knowing that the product the team is building will address customersí requirements by itself would be a big motivation for the team. Many times one learns late the deployment issues and specific customer issues that could have been incorporated into the product. Sometimes, it is quite possible that you get requirements that do not align with the product vision. You have to use your experience and judgment in deciding what feedback you incorporate in your product.

Summary
There is no single magical formula for building a high performance team that can deliver winning products. Commitment at the top and from the employees is a must. Finally, the performance of the team will be a reflection of how the team operates on a day-to-day basis.

He can be reached at srikant_vissamsetti@mcafee.com