The pace of technological progress has never been faster. In a mad rush to innovate, companies have sought out better and more efficient ways of getting things done. Instead of having large departments that are kept in silos, unable to exchange information rapidly, many businesses are adopting more modern schemas. Craft teams can ensure your people keep the skill set sharp.
One of the most effective, and one we have found to be a great fit at my company, is product teams.
These product teams are purposefully small — four to 10 members. Smaller member teams quickly become highly collaborative within even cross-discipline teams. This type of collaboration is particularly effective at generating ideas that work in the marketplace.
According to a Nielsen study. It found that concepts generated by teams of three or more people had 156 percent greater consumer appeal than a concept from just one or two.
Mastering Skill Sets
Product teams, led by a single project manager, include a variety of roles, such as developers, designers, and engineers. Because they are small, cross-disciplined, and flat, the teams work collaboratively, share knowledge, and emphasize peer accountability.
But the downside to product teams is that people can start to get isolated and lose perspective and the ability to grow professionally in their crafts.
Enter craft teams, which are a collection of team members with similar jobs who share the mission of becoming masters in their skill sets.
Craft team members meet regularly to share what they have learned in their product teams. Small numbers in an interactive discussion and ongoing learning is critical and encourage participation and fruitful collaboration. Participation in a group setting, then, hones everyone’s mastery of the latest techniques.
New tools are adapted and the team encourages personal and professional development helping to solve a big tech industry problems. Using all of this effort together helps grow and retain tech talent amid a vast set of rapidly evolving options in technology.
New languages and frameworks to disruptive technologies like machine learning and blockchain. Other options include new developments in sales, design, and other areas, creating the challenge to keep current. This kind of sharing is crucial to maintain an informed and focused mission companywide.
How to Help Your Team Learn and Grow
But it’s often a challenge to know how best to set up groups and ensure they are productive. So let’s take a look at a few ideas that can speed your progress toward a team that is set up for success.
1. Start with chats.
Putting the craft chat sessions on the agenda every two weeks is vital to establish their importance in everyone’s mind. Meetings can have some open and conversational components to them, but they should not be totally unstructured. Unstructured sessions tend to devolve into passive interactions in which most people shrug and say, “Work’s fine.”
Decide in advance who is going to lead the discussion and what topics are on the agenda. The leader is particularly important when it comes to discussing battle stories because we learn the most from what’s not working.
The leader should ensure that at least a few such problem areas are discussed during every meeting. For example, if a client hated a new design or feature, that should be discussed openly and with robust input.
2. Establish a place to share thoughts and processes.
Technology is a critical component for establishing great communication. Get a dedicated channel within chat teams, such as a Slack channel where sharing and collaboration can be nearly instantaneous. Our craft teams each have their own channel so designers can share their newest tool sets or processes, strategists share their latest research, and more.
Software can really augment the ability to communicate effectively. We use Zoom, and it’s absolutely key for firing up quick conversations to address questions or concerns. Make sure you have a great videoconferencing solution, including good microphones and cameras.
3. Foster professional development that fits each person.
Make it a priority to support team members’ continual growth and learning through self-guided courses, workshops, books, conferences, and more. Although traditional learning techniques, such as conferences, are still valuable, keep in mind that you cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach to professional development.
We have had occasions when we wanted to send a whole team to a conference, but half of the team members said they would rather do a self-guided tutorial. Strive to accommodate these differences, and learn what’s best for each employee’s style of learning. A few popular learning platforms right now are YouTube, Udemy, and Egghead.
4. Have craft teams share their knowledge.
By presenting aspects of their craft to a larger community, designers, developers, and others will grow confident that they know the best practices of their craft. Our developers regularly give instructional talks about the best practices with React, Redux, and other development frameworks through Meetup groups.
The leaders and developers provide a great place to test thought leadership and craft knowledge. Encouraging each member of a team to participate in one of our YouTube themes has proven some great results. We’ve found that the ability to sit behind a camera and talk about your specific type of work is a great way to push yourself and raise your confidence.
Plus, we host lunch-and-learns about twice a quarter. This gives the members of a team the ability, at least once a year, to give an update on what their role entails, what technology they use, and what’s changed for their role. This gives the rest of the team a better understanding of the value each craft brings to the organization.
5. Empower them to get creative to ensure they keep their skill set sharp.
New ideas foster better ways to get the job done. So encourage team members to find new ways to learn and execute in their jobs. One of the greatest ways we see people push themselves creatively is through our Lab Fridays.
Every other Friday, we dial down client work and focus on experimenting with new frameworks, technologies, and ideas. This creative idea has introduced us to technology like React and Google’s new Flutter framework for mobile development.
Individual teams working within the “craft team” idea have tried out new design tools. These teams have used and then given us information on newer tools like Figma and InVision Studio. This type of creativity work has given teams new ways to collaborate with other designers and even animate their prototypes.
We would not often have time to experiment with these new tools and technologies during client work, but this innovative time opens huge doors for creativity. Let’s face it: We’re all moving quickly. Work demands that we execute for our clients quickly and efficiently. But it’s vital for companies to invest in their team members.
Using craft teams to ensure your people keep skill sets sharp has had a huge impact on our company. This team work has prevented workers from getting siloed and helps everyone stay current on the latest advancements in tech. There’s no doubt this work is a morale booster returning team players to their product teams refreshed.
Best of all, these team memebers head back to work and execute on what they have learned in a whole new way. The teams are refreshed, smarter, more creative, and ready to take on the next sprint’s challenges.