If you feel that dragging a passenger off a plane is an acceptable solution to getting airline personnel onto an overbooked flight, stop reading now.

If HOW your product strategy objectives are met is important to you, carry on.

The US airline incident this past spring involving a passenger who was literally pulled from his seat by airport security to make room for crew members caused many of us to ask, “how could that happen?”  Yet, the general public may not understand the complexity of the situation; there were at least two organizations involved – the airline and aviation security. When they teamed up to solve the problem of the overbooked, flight, how did both organizations and the customer end up in such an unhappy place?  Afterward, the airline took the brunt of the public outrage and did a lot of apologizing, but could the airline’s company culture have been at odds with that of the aviation security organization?

The Impact of Culture on the Product Software Team

Culture affects every corner of the organization, including employee engagement and behaviors toward colleagues and customers. It influences team productivity, problem-solving, creativity, and innovation.

Software product teams are brought together for short periods of time to define, create or enhance a software solution. Often, each member contributes work practices shaped by their own organizational culture.  To ensure that your product launch doesn’t become a casualty of a culture clash, here are 6 ways to shape a team culture:

1) Make organization culture one of your partner “selection criteria” 

When choosing your partners, be mindful of what you are looking for from a cultural perspective. Ask yourself if your partner should have a complementary culture to yours, or one that will reinforce a change that you’ve already implemented.  Be aware of your potential partner company’s recruiting criteria, including employee qualities, work approaches, change management and overall mission.

2) Identify key values you want reflected in your team’s work

When you first bring the team together, call out the values that are important to the work and why. At Geneca, we’ve found that collaboration, visibility, delivering business value and ownership are values we’ve found to be extremely useful in our work with product strategy teams.

3) Give the product software team a common approach for reporting progress and managing change 

Once product work begins on a new or existing product, it’s important to build a product launch roadmap. This gives the team a common way to communicate their progress and manage changes in their work together. Give the team guidance on which levers to wield when making decisions – for example, if the team’s overall goal is to manage to a time to market play, they should be given the latitude to adjust the project’s scope and budget accordingly.

4. Provide the environment and the tools to “play nice” 

“It’s just business, it’s not personal.” A product software team’s culture is personal – everyone contributes to it whether they think about it or not.  However, unless your team is going to be together for longer than a month or two, there’s a tradeoff between getting work done and course correcting for how it gets done.  Assume that everyone is going to work well together.  Put processes and tools in places such as daily standups/scrums, online presence, text messaging and easy access to project artifacts that encourage collaboration.

5. Trust but verify

Give the software development team a problem to solve right away. One of the fastest ways to determine if your team is going to have difficulties due to conflicting work cultures is to give them a problem to solve in a short period of time and see what happens.  This will help you quickly determine what you need to adjust to enable the team to work effectively together.

6. Create an environment that welcomes positive feedback

Collaboration doesn’t mean that everyone agrees on everything, but it’s certainly helpful when it’s easy to give feedback on how well the team is working together. Establish a process that accomplishes this; for example, at Geneca, we use a tool called Joornal™. It’s a simple mobile application that allows team members to weigh in anonymously, in less than a minute, on project variables on a daily/weekly basis. During a quick, weekly conversation, we examine the teams’ assessment for that week and discuss what’s working and what’s not.

How has culture impacted product collaboration and launch processes at your organization?

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