Encourage your team to think

When a product leader decides to forge a new feature or even build a new product it’s a good idea to brief the team and draw a couple of diagrams on a whiteboard. What does your team do next though?

I bet the chances are the devs have already started thinking about technical implementation, the designers are creating UI elements in their heads, and the testers are coming up with scenarios to break whatever they can.

At that point interrupt their daydreams by asking a simple question: “Why do you think we are building this feature?

In a novice team you might get an answer like “Because you just told us, silly!” On the other hand, with an experienced and jelled team you won’t even have the opportunity to ask the “Why” question. Why? Because it will be the first thing the team would expect to hear from you.

Here is what they’ll be eager for:

  • Background information
  • Business challenges
  • What success looks like
  • Reasons why this should be done now

One of the fundamental goals for an agile team is to strive towards understanding the product development cycle from problem discovery to feature launch and product maintenance.

Essentially you need to mentor your team as if it were their goal (in fact, it might be) to become product leaders in the future.

Continue pushing them outside of their comfort zone to meet new people, gain knowledge of the product and business and learn other skills like communication with users and stakeholders, requirements gathering, how to perform UAT and analyse product usage data. You’ll get a better product, faster delivery, as well as an inspired, engaged and committed team.

A great way to start cultivating thinking team culture is to encourage your team to ask you and each other a simple question: “What problem are you trying to solve?

This will help to achieve a number of things:

  • Trigger more questions!
  • Stimulate the team to start talking more (yes, some of the software engineers are not exactly chatter boxes) and seeing beyond the team’s environment.
  • There could be multiple solutions to the same problem. If the team understands the problem, the solution that your team comes up with will most likely be the best one.

As the team gets more exposed to the product and business side, you’ll start noticing interesting conversations between members of the team like pros and cons of a technical implementation or user flow or UI elements in the context of the current goals and the users’ and business needs.

If you are a product leader, make sure you are sharing the business challenges, your thinking process and data with your team. Create an environment where team members don’t hesitate to ask questions and are keen to explore areas outside of their day-to-day responsibilities.

If you’re a member of an agile team and wish to improve the team dynamics, start with asking “What problem are we trying to solve?” and see where it takes you.