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How to Onboard and Grow a Team During a Rapidly Evolving Project

Alessio Symons

Alessio Symons

An excerpt from our latest whitepaper, Creating an Effective Product Delivery Team.

The Challenge

When you’re in the thick of product delivery, teams have a way of scaling rapidly – whether that’s new hires or more hands from within the organization who are outside of the original team. This is because, as organizational buy-in increases and launch dates move closer, your small-scale project becomes a widespread priority that everyone wants to be part of. Although this fervour is great for pushing you toward a final product, it does present the challenge of getting new people up to speed seamlessly so that the core team’s workflow isn’t disrupted.

The original team will, by the later stage of a project, have established not only the official cadence, but also a natural one, where individuals understand one another personally and make space for each other’s strengths and weaknesses. New people, however, means new ideas, new ways of working, and differing priorities without an understanding of the context they’re walking into. The challenge is having new people work in your established process rather than allowing burgeoning numbers to negatively impact the original team that got you to the edge of success.

The Solution

Define your team’s values and practices clearly and concisely

At Connected, every new hire has our values instilled in them from day one: being smart, kind, reliable teachers and learners. These values serve as benchmarks for every interaction, every project, and every product we are part of. The nuances of how these values play out are specific to individuals and teams, but they give everyone a shared language and understanding from the outset of their relationship.

As Product Thinkers, we recommend the same rigorous focus on values to our clients. For you and your teams, it’s important to reduce the complexity of the onboarding process. There are so many rapidly moving parts in a product delivery phase that making the non-negotiables clear is essential for working efficiently and impactfully. Onboarding new team members should involve a document that outlines the values, practices, and rules that govern how the team works. At Connected, we use a framework called Team Form & Norm. Team forming is an exercise where individuals fill out a chart that maps their skills, interests, working style, and goals for the project.

All these inputs are then brought to the wider group to be used in the norming exercise. In this stage, the team brings together all the skills and interests of the team and creates team norms based on the working styles of the group that everyone agrees to adhere to. If your team is rapidly scaling, a short explanation of the why can be given, but it’s more important that new team members understand what is involved in the process of delivery on your team. This clear understanding frees them up to immediately focus on delivering and adding real value.

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