People & Culture

Expert Advice: Team Optimization

At Stride, unlocking a team's hidden potential is one of our passions. We believe that through collaboration and proper management, every team has the ability to be great.

However, managing a team does come with it's challenges. Building a great team involves more than having great hires, and an effective management strategy demands a hands-on approach. 

We sat down with several professionals that have experience leading teams to gain insight on building, managing, and optimizing teams to get the best results. Follow their advice to better launch your team for success, improve collaboration, and increase your teams overall velocity.

What can teams do to work together more collaboratively?

"Work to a target. If the teams and the product owners know that management has a desired release date, they can work to it. Teams can track their feature flow through their systems, understanding their cycle time. They can use timeboxes for focus. They can measure how close to done they are with a product backlog burnup chart. Demo as you proceed. Always demo to the product owners. Depending on the pressure for revenue/whatever, ask the senior managers to participate in the demo. That way, they can see the product’s progress as you add more features."
                Johanna Rothman, Management Consultant & Founder, Rothman Consulting Group


What's one thing you can do to launch a team for success?

"Articulate a compelling goal. An effective goal statement does two jobs. First, it focuses the attention and effort of the team. When the team has a shared understanding of what their task is, they pull in the same direction. When teams have don’t agree on the goal – or the goal is so vague it’s open to many interpretations – team members waste time and brain cycles arguing, working at cross purposes, or doing the wrong work.

"Second, a well-formed goal engages the team in a meaningful challenge. An effective goal provides a sense of purpose to the teams work. The goal might be solving an important problem, enabling business, launching a new product, or meeting a customer need. State the goal in a way that taps into purpose."
                 Esther Derby, President, Esther Derby Associates Inc.

Why should folks care about setting a team up for success from the start?

"Team design is a pay me now, pay me later proposition. It’s a myth that you can throw a group of people together and they’ll gel as a team. Strong effective teams don’t just happen by some magic chemistry. Well designed teams are more resilient. They make better use of the knowledge, talents, and skills of team members. They function and stay on track with relatively little management intervention. You may not always be able to bring together the perfect team. But you can set a team up for success….or failure. It is up to you."
                 Esther Derby, President, Esther Derby Associates Inc.

How can we make sure each employee is truly doing what he or she is best at everyday?

"As leaders and managers, most of us spend 80% of our time beating people up for their weaknesses and, if we remember, 20% of our time patting them on the back for their strengths. It sounds counter-intuitive, but people have the most potential for growth in their areas of strength. People are great at focusing on areas where they have the most passion and natural talent."

"When we just focus on fixing weaknesses, we wind up with well-rounded, but mediocre, people. As leaders, we need to do a better job making people more of who they are, not try to make them someone they’re not. If they’re weak in an area that’s critical to their job, you hired the wrong person. We need to do a better job identifying people’s strengths. And then we need to do a better job leveraging those strengths."
                 Mike Goldman, Business Growth Consultant & Owner, Performance Breakthrough

Key Takeaways

  • Create a common goal for the team to work towards to improve collaboration

  • Carefully consider team design in the hiring process to better launch your team for success

  • Focus on leveraging individual strengths rather than fixing areas of weakness

Want to learn more strategies to boost your team's productivity? Improving team communication is a great place to start. Our free guide highlights 5 easy steps you can use today to restore effective communication in your team.