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Teams Don’t Form Instantly

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Great things in business are not done by one person, they are done by a team of people.Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple

One of the key ceremonies in bringing new products to market is the product team briefing. Sometimes called a development brief, this meeting is oriented around the business and market conditions driving the product direction.

Some product leaders are surprised when they learn how interested the team is in the strategic aspects of product. In my experience, almost all product team members want to know about the market and product personas, the size of the market, the pricing options, how and when the product will be launched, and how it will be sold. They want to know about the business of the product.

This level of interest is so logical when you stop thinking of product definition and development as manufacturing and start thinking of it as craft. Creating new products is more like creating art and less like manufacturing a car.

In manufacturing, employees rarely work as a team; rather they perform a series of serial, independent operations. This person puts the window in the door; that person puts the door on the car. Each is only concerned with the quality of their individual portion of the work.

In software, individuals work as a team. After all, they’re not making thousands of products from a pre-defined specification. Instead they are working on a one-time assembly of a set of features that are shared with thousands of customers. They are collectively responsible for the quality of the final result.

Instead of designing mass-produced products and their assembly lines, today we design teams. We bring together a set of skilled workers to apply their craft to a software project. Craftsmen and –women are not interchangeable. They’re not “fungible.” Each brings an area of expertise.

Here’s the key: these individuals have to learn to work as a team, not as individuals. They need to learn how to communicate clearly, how to sync up their work, how to avoid stepping on each other. And that takes time.

A product team doesn’t form overnight. Team productivity isn’t instantaneous.

Product leaders can help teams align by kicking off projects with a briefing: the personas, the problems, and the product’s business goals.

The team briefing is a key element of a product playbook described in the book Turn Ideas Into Products. Get your copy today.
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