MTPcon 17 — theme 2: creating space and opportunity for teams to perform

A number of the speakers touched on ideas and methods to create space and opportunity for cross-functional product teams to perform.

Sarah Nelson talked about the importance of space and the working environment. As culture shapes space, shape also creates a culture. And shape limits or enables the kind of interaction that will enable a team to work together effectively. Sarah spoke about the IBM studios initiative that gave teams the ability to make the spaces their own. It was a strategy to make the transformation to small semi-autonomous cross-functional teams explicit in this huge organisation.

Another important aspect is decision-making. Teresa Torres talked about an example where she struggled to get her team to make a decision together, because they were coming from such different perspectives, that they couldn’t compare their ideas like for like. She developed an opportunity solution tree to help map the user needs, and help prioritise these, before discussing ideas how to address one particular need.

Jane Austin from Moo spoke about their ‘quads’ team comprised of Product, Design, Dev and an Agile Coach. To make decisions, only one or two people from each discipline are required — they talk about consent, not consensus. Cross-functional teams work together at all times, design aren’t only required at the beginning, design happens at every step of the process, and research is a team sport, everyone participates.

Barrie O’Reilly argued that high-performing organisation reduce learning anxiety. They allow people to learn new things without the fear of retribution. Added to that comes Scott Berkun’s argument that our minds are naturally creative. We all have the capacity to be creative, all we need is the motivation, which comes from a specific problem and the opportunity, which is the permission to fail. As a leader, you have to make the space for people to feel safe to go through the creative process and be in the unknown.

More MTPcon themes:

(1) the contribution of leadership

(3) rejecting or embracing the past

(4) designing for the future

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