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Striving for success - How to keep tech teams on track

In any business environment, you are bound to encounter ups and downs. From big wins to team losses, it can sometimes be difficult to determine whether failure was a result of external factors or if teams weren’t fully equipped with the tools for success.

Having led teams for Google, Uber and Yahoo, and Pipedrive today, I’ve learnt that failing to achieve market success doesn’t necessarily correlate with team failure; and putting the right processes in place from the beginning can make all the difference in determining a successful outcome.

Recently I’ve developed eight essential steps that can get teams starting on the right foot.

1. Setting a core goal

Every company should set an overarching goal for the year ahead that informs the basis for any decision made during that period. It is important that this strategy for achieving this is shared with everyone in the organisation to ensure focus.

Traditionally, the overarching strategy of a company will be a stretch target and will involve overcoming a number of challenges throughout the year. This is why it’s essential for teams to be aware of these goals, and the potential hurdles, from the start, so that they can be combated together.

It’s the responsibility of the C-suite to identify these hurdles as part of annual planning sessions; this preparation is key to determining whether teams will be well positioned to achieve successful outcomes. By effectively outlining from the get-go business direction, expectations and how success will be measured, teams will be able to overcome bumps in the road and have a clear understanding as to what their actions should be.

2. Identifying team leaders

Team leaders are, in some ways, very similar to startup founders - on one side, there’s the technical director, and on the other the business and product director. This ‘two-in-a-box’ model ensures that all of the key functions in a team are working together, pulling equal weight to reach an overarching goal.

In larger businesses, it may be essential for this model to be broken down, and more leaders added into the mix to keep teams accountable and on track to reach targets. These leaders need to make the most out of the support they receive from executives, and continue encouraging them to strive towards achieving the goals set out in the wider corporate strategy.

3. Outlining key milestones

At the start of the year, the overarching strategy, like any big target, can seem daunting and unachievable. The key here is for team leads to break down this ambition into smaller milestones, or sub-objectives, and try to identify when key results are likely to manifest.

Outlining goals into sub-objectives, helps team leads to plan out their year and create a more constant stream of achievable milestones. This is vital to keeping teams engaged and motivated. Once each target is hit, ensure that these are celebrated together.

4. Taking the time to check-in

Breaking this down further, I often find it effective to bring team leaders together for a more informal check-in. This is usually for them to feedback on how their teams are tracking against the wider company goals, and to aid them through any foreseeable difficulties.

It’s important for leaders to share their progress with teams as well, alongside any challenges or roadblocks they’re facing, so that these can be celebrated or managed as a team. Bringing the leadership group together in this way makes both the company and us as individuals stronger, providing executives with a fuller picture on how their work ties into the overarching mission.

5. Emphasis on communication

For team leads, it’s equally as important for them to keep in the loop with their executives - be aware however that this can easily turn into an overload of update meetings, which minimises productivity, and detracts teams from completing the tasks at hand.

Using tools like Slack or Asana to write up key updates which everyone can participate in - by following a certain post or thread - enables teams to stay up to date on the latest conversation. It also allows executives - who are typically the first to realise if a team has gone off track - to alert team leads to an issue and bring them into the current conversation to help set them right.

6. Time to get jamming

As a team leader, problem solving is part of my day-to-day activity. One of the best tips I’ve learnt is that problems can be solved much quicker if everyone on that team is brought into the same room for a quick ‘jam session’ or brainstorm. By doing so, multiple potential solutions are identified and decisions can be made faster.

7. Remember to keep your original goal front of mind

Everybody loves when a team is winning - success is a great motivating factor, and usually when a team starts to win, they also start to work harder.

Despite this, hitting blocks or setbacks in the process is inevitable and it’s important to remember that this is a part of success too. Learning from strategies you now know don’t work, can only help you get closer to achieving your overall objectives. Reminding everyone of the original goal will help teams overcome these tougher stages.

8. Provide support

Lastly, it’s essential for team leads to ensure executives are being supported on this journey, whether they’ve just hit another milestone, or are trying to overcome a challenge. This foundation helps to propel the organisation forward and creates a more enjoyable working environment.

Sometimes the support of our teammates is fundamental. If after all of collective efforts targets were not reached, it’s important to look back and assess whether or not they were achievable in the first place. Whatever has impacted the road to success, whether it's external market factors or other forces at play, you can find comfort in the knowledge that you now know how you can best be prepared to tackle the next challenge.

Vinay Ramani, CPO, PipedriveImage source: Shutterstock/everything possible

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