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Good Teams make Good Products

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” – Lennon/McCartney

We all know the song. And it makes sense – what you can get out of life corresponds to what you put in. “You reap what you sow.” Certainly an uplifting mantra, but when I heard American English cover this song recently (by the way, they’re awesome) I was struck with another interpretation that applies to a current project:

Recently, I’ve had the privilege of joining a large project team for one of our clients where we are developing a new public facing internet site. The project team has been working hard for months to develop the site, spending countless late nights and weekends working together in order to launch on time. During this time leading up to when I joined, I have been listening about how the team has worked through the myriad of issues that often plague a project like this. Upon joining the project I was anxious to see the team in action and see how I could help.

While I wasn’t expecting total chaos, I was certain that I would discover plenty of teamwork and organizational issues that I could address over time to in order to focus the team’s efforts and improve quality. However, after spending a few weeks shoulder to shoulder with the team, observing their actions, monitoring the results, (and listening to Beatles songs,) I was amazed at how well the team was functioning, often effortlessly moving from task to task, issues to issue, each member working in concert with one another to achieve their goals.

This is a large team including 10 PointBridge consultants and senior consultants plus at least an equal number of client team members driving requirements, developing and integrating, testing, and producing pages and content. The site itself has a global reach and has considerable functionality for intuitively presenting information in every possible combination and in a variety of languages and formats.

As I became more integrated with the day to day operations of the team, and more familiar with the specific requirements of the solution, I began to find a place where I could help without disrupting the team’s natural flow. I watched how others worked together and saw a machine-like symmetry that was truly amazing. Like gears of a complicated device, each team member spun or moved at their speed, but in an integrated fashion that was truly remarkable. In fact, the motion has been so fluid and inspiring that a comparison to Theo Jansen’s kinetic sculptures is effortless.

PointBridge and client team members worked independently to solve problems together. Issues were resolved, new builds deployed, requirements where changed, solutions were developed. Issue and task assignments were clear and visible for all to see. Code and structural mechanisms passed from developer to designer to builder without pause. Anyone walking by the teams crowded conference room hub could see the team/machine in action, proving their aptitude and demonstrating their first-class skills every minute.

The result? You can be the judge but this site is hands-down the best public facing web site I’ve ever been involved with. The information on the site is expressed in a clear and intuitive manner. Independent content areas combine with others to make information easy to find and understand. Under the covers the data effortlessly flows from publishing system to public site. The scope and reach of the site is obvious, the services and product of our client apparent, and site accurately represents their world-class capabilities and expertise.

What am I saying? Incredibly, the product they produced exactly match the qualities and attributes of the team! As listed below, for every compliment I found for the site, I could see the same in team:

Product Attributes

Team Attributes

Intuitive content

Clear task assignments

Disparate information expressed consistently

Team working together, independently

Smooth flow of data between systems

Unfettered code flow and configuration management

Scope and purpose apparent

Visible daily efforts and progress

Certainly every project I’ve ever been involved with has planned for results such as these, but too many of them fail to achieve such greatness. In fact, overall statistics over IT Project failure rates indicate that failure is extremely likely, and the end-user satisfaction we’ve achieved is almost impossible to obtain. So, why is this so hard?

Technology – No. In the end, every technical challenge I’ve ever faced has been either overcome and/or shamelessly avoided so that isn’t it.

People – Yes! It might seem obvious to say that you need a good team to be successful, but it’s more than that. This project demonstrates (positively for once!), that the types of results achieved exactly match the interpersonal qualities of the team. Further, I’ll venture to say that your results will always match team qualities.

If your team is disengaged, dysfunctional, misaligned, or otherwise hard to deal with, your end product will be the same. Too many times I’ve seen projects fail to produce desired results as time and energy was wrongly focused on politics and egos. However, if your entire team comes together and you develop a culture of cooperation, individuals will feel a part of something larger than themselves and will self-driven to produce extraordinary results.

In the short time I’ve been actively involved with this project it’s become obvious that the team is case-study for the right way to get things done.

So, in the end, the product you create is equal to the team you make.

(Sorry John & Paul)

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