How product managers can increase team performance by understanding Team Dimensions
The only thing better than hearing about how an organization improved their product management and innovation capability is sharing it with The Everyday Innovators!
I was talking with Teresa Jurgens-Kowal about innovation culture and she shared some work she recently did with an organization that is building their ability to innovate products. The company is a B2B software developer. She took them through exercises to explore their work styles and better align their styles to the execution needed using the Innovation Z model.
We discussed the tools to do this.
Teresa is the President of Global NP Solutions. She has a PhD in Chemical Engineering and has advised several organizations, helping them grow by improving their new product development capabilities.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:35] Take us through your case study of helping an organization apply the Team Dimensions Model.
I worked with the eight-person innovation group of a company that develops software for scheduling at hair salons and yoga studios. The company has grown rapidly, the team has an open culture, and they love their customers, but they were at the point in their growth where they needed to learn how to manage conflict, increase communication, and do more than templates, procedures, and processes. Successful companies dig deep into teams and leadership. I help them with functional team building, starting with the Team Dimensions Model.
We begin with a short assessment of the behaviors of team members. We identify four categories of work styles based on combinations of spontaneous, normative, methodical, and conceptual behaviors:
- Creators are spontaneous and conceptual. They’re good at creating new ideas.
- Advancers are spontaneous and normative. They focus on interactions and transform ideas into procedures and processes.
- Refiners are conceptual and methodical. They turn ideas into plans.
- Executors are normative and methodical. They like data and getting work done.
[7:02] Why is it important in innovation to have the right mix of people doing the right things?
Understanding the culture of the company and how teams interact is transformative in creating a high-functioning team. Digging into teams and leadership transforms teams from creating one successful innovation to creating ten or twelve or fifty successful innovations.
When you can match people’s preferred work styles to the different steps in your innovation process, you have a higher level of success. There are many innovation processes, but they all have the same four steps, each of which corresponds to one of the four work styles:
- Generate ideas—creators focusing on possibilities
- Build support—advancers focusing on interactions
- Plan a project—refiners focusing on analysis
- Execute the work—executors focusing on realities
This plan is called the Z Model because it can be sketched like the letter Z.
[12:22] What are some examples of why identifying team members’ work styles is useful?
I was on a volunteer team with a tight deadline, and we discovered that everyone was a creator. We had only two months to get ready for an event, but everyone kept going backwards and presenting new ideas. We had to realize that while we preferred creating, the team had to execute, so we needed to put on our execution hats and focus on that. That mindset shift helped us move toward the deadline.
On the software development team of the case study, we plotted a graph of the eight team members’ work styles and realized that we didn’t have a person who worked between creator and advancer. However, we realized that they were filling that gap through talking with customers in customer focus groups. Generally, you want to have a distribution of creators, advancers, refiners, and executors. If you don’t, you need to figure out how to get the missing input into the team.
[14:37] How did the Team Dimensions model help the company in your case study?
The team shared their work styles with each other, and using that information we discussed which person should be in each role. They were using Scrum, so we identified which person would be best for each step of Scrum. We found that some people were already in great roles, and there were some mismatches, so by swapping roles were were able to get the team better aligned.
[20:26] What were some of the reflections of the team members?
- “I have begun to talk and respond to my coworkers differently.”
- “[I] make use of the different work styles to more effectively communicate with my coworkers.”
- “Good job of helping us find ways to tie into our existing process and encapsulate people or steps in the process.”
- “I know who I can leverage for help when I find myself struggling with a task.”
- “Not only does this help me understand my coworkers, but when I went home, I understood how my spouse worked better.”
I observed that after doing Team Dimensions, the team improved their communication and were able to communicate beyond conflicts. Also, when teams work together like this, they can increase speed to market, which is one of our key goals in innovation.
Action Guide: Put the information Teresa shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Check out Teresa’s The Innovation ANSWER Book on Amazon
- Visit Teresa’s website
- Read Teresa’s blog post about Team Dimensions
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.