By Jil Fisher, Vice President of Technical Product Management
Customers have been loud and clear: they want experiences to remember. And those experiences can’t be based on superficial surveys or interactions with customer service.
Instead, they’re created from inside your organization, starting at the most fundamental level. Before you undertake any project, your team must be focused on creating the best customer experience (CX) possible. One of the most efficient ways to get there is by creating stable teams.
But first, what is a stable team? Many definitions are floating around the internet, so this is how we define it:
stable team: A self-contained, cross-functional team of 10 people or less that supports a unified backlog of work. This team:
- Remains intact for a long period of time,
- Has dedicated members spending at least 75% of their time on team projects,
- Works with a single product owner,
- And has members who are not a part of any other team, unless one member has a specialty skillset.
Here at West Interactive Services, we’ve recently incorporated stable teams into our project planning process, and we’ve learned a couple things.
First, stable teams create a better environment for your employees. And second, creating stable teams will affect how your entire organization does business. It may seem constrained at first, but here are five ways stable teams can transform your business.
You’ve got limited resources, so everyone can’t be on every team. This will be an exercise in delegation. A handful of individuals will grow together and take responsibility for a major project from start to finish.
Sure, you’ll still check in and supervise, but passing the reigns onto your employees shows you trust their judgment and ability to get things done. It may be tough at first, but delegating is much healthier for your sanity in the long run. Plus, your employees will feel confident, empowered and unified.
In the words of Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben, with empowerment comes great accountability. OK, so those aren’t the exact words, but the message is pretty much the same, and it applies to business, too.
Not only does delegating projects to a dedicated team increase employee confidence, it motivates them to see tasks to the end. If something falls by the wayside, there’s no way to shirk responsibility. Everyone knows who’s on the team and who is accountable for making the project successful.
While stable teams may appear rigid, they are an important piece of agile development. After forming a team, you’ve got a half-dozen people who understand the capacity, throughput and costs of the project and are ready to enact changes at the drop of a hat.
Plus, you’ve already got a dedicated group ready when the next project comes through. There’s no more frantic rush to find the right people. The team is already experienced and high-performing, eliminating wasted time and getting to production more quickly.
The benefits don’t end inside the organization. Your customers will notice the difference, too. Many people say they’re talented multi-taskers, but few are. Stable teams keep employees from spreading themselves too thin and making simple mistakes.
Members of stable teams generally enjoy their work and give each phase of the project the attention it deserves. You get more knowledgeable conversations throughout the project and develop experts within the organization. That leads to a better end product.
Lastly, stable teams help your business finish projects that improve customer value, the difference between what a customer gets from a product and what he or she thinks it’s worth.
Your team of experts can focus on the highest-value functions first, so the product is already in a useful stage from the beginning of development and slowly becomes better and better as time rolls on. Development also takes less time and is less expensive, so savings can be passed on to the customer.
There are many keys to creating great customer experiences, but if customers perceive something to be a bad value, they likely won’t be coming back.
At first glance, stable teams may appear to contradict West’s Customer Experience Lifecycle Management Maturity Model, which guides businesses in moving their communications infrastructure from disconnected to prescriptive.
However, when implemented properly, stable teams are an important step in advancing your CX maturity. A disconnected structure has distinct process for every function, from marketing to collections to customer service.
Stable teams may keep team members focused on specific projects, but they allow employees to share information more efficiently. Prescriptive organizations are focused on business growth, content development and human interaction. By keeping team members focused, stable teams allow the organization to achieve each of those elements more efficiently.
Stable teams probably won’t completely replace project teams, which are disbanded after a project is complete. But they may be a better option for many projects in your business.
So if there are so many benefits, why aren’t stable teams in every organization? It’s becoming more common, but there are a few fears and misconceptions that hold leaders back:
Change is hard.
Getting enterprise-wide buy-in from employees who have done things the same way their entire careers can be tough. A few inefficiencies or increased costs may also creep into the system until everyone gets settled. But at some point you have to decide whether “good enough” is really enough.
It’s tough to commit.
These teams will be together for the long haul, and that can be intimidating when the next project hasn’t even entered the chute. But with research of past projects and careful planning, teams should be able to handle any project that comes their way.
You’ll have to say, “No.”
It’s one of the hardest words for many business leaders to say. With more abstract team compositions, it may be easier to say “Yes” and figure out how to squeeze out a new project with the resources on hand, but that decreases efficiency and hurts other ventures. With stable teams, it’s clearer when the plates are full, so you may have to say “No” to a client … or at least “Not right now.”
There are too many fires.
If you’re constantly putting together teams to solve urgent issues, now is probably the right time to start using stable teams. But with more urgent matters at hand, a company’s own infrastructure often goes by the wayside. Take a step back from the fires and figure out what will be best for your business in the long run.
Lack of trust.
Maybe you have a trusted adviser you want in as many teams as possible. Or maybe you want the power to mix and match team members at will. Once stable teams are set, they’re pretty much permanent, so you must willingly give up a little control. It may be scary, especially in a young business, but trusting your employees and your own judgment may be the healthiest thing for you.
A simple restructuring can be your first step toward greater CX maturity. If you can’t seem to implement stable teams into your organization today, give us a call and learn more about how you can improve your CX from the inside out. And once your teams are in place, make sure they know the three factors for customer-centric product management so you’re making the most for your customers in every project.
Overcoming organizational fears can be tough, but it’s worth it. By putting stability at the head of your project management environment, you’ll be well on your way to creating products and experiences your customers won’t forget.
Jil has been with West Corporation for over 20 years. In that time, she has served in several roles in Client Engagement supporting some of West’s largest clients, and for the past 5 years, she has served as Vice President of Technical Product Management. Jil is a graduate of the University of South Dakota, and she now manages a team of Product Managers that collaborate with clients to drive more connected customer experiences. She leads the strategic planning and implementation of West’s innovative products that lead the market in automated and digital communication solutions.