Have you heard about Balanced Teams? If we want to broaden our understanding and perceptions of the world, we need to step outside our comfort zone. That means doing things differently, getting to know other people and foreign places.
With our work relationships or projects, it is no different. That is why diversity is fundamental to the concept of Balanced Teams.
This article explains the concept of Balanced Teams and its advantages to UX Design projects. Keep reading to know more!
What is essential to develop products?
The answer to this question is a lot more complex than it seems and the purpose is to make you reflect on that.
If you’re already familiar with UX, some possible answers might come to your mind, like:
- Understanding user needs and pains;
- Defining personas;
- Conducting research and interviews;
- Alignment with business goals;
- Analyzing competition.
These are all essential routines to product development. But the true power in each of these practices is the outcome of their combination. And guess what is the glue that holds everything together, that without it, no project would ever find success?
You might ask yourself: Users?
Indeed, they are essential.
But no. First, comes the people in your own team.
Methodologies alone are not enough
The process of developing digital products has been evolving over the years. Today, the use of methodologies like Lean UX, Scrum, Kanban, and Agile is very common to us.
Despite these tools being quite efficient, they won’t do miracles alone.
Before anything else, it’s important to have a team where members can extract the most out of these methodologies. As mentioned above, the people in your team will be crucial in the process of developing a product.
And here’s where the approach of Balanced Teams can be applied to have efficient results.
What are Balanced Teams?
Balanced Team is a global movement promoting a methodology that fosters multi-disciplinary collaboration, where members support each other towards a shared goal. It values iterative delivery focused on customer value as a source for innovation.
In software development, many organizations choose to apply an agile methodology to go through processes efficiently and deliver the best product possible. But while companies struggle to perfectly implement their chosen tool, whether it’s Kanban or Scrum, they forget to consider the human aspect of these practices.
Balanced Teams allow you to build teams wholly focused on product development so that every member —project manager, designer, developer — has equal weight in terms of responsibilities. This means that everyone's input matters and is taken into consideration. There is more collaboration, shared knowledge, and shared ownership.
Thus, working with balanced teams turns the process of developing a product AND the final product also well-balanced. It combines benefits from other methodologies and answers questions like:
- How can we solve user pains?
- By solving a specific pain with a specific solution, are we creating value for the company?
- What are the technical complexities of developing this product and is it resilient to change?
So establishing Balanced Teams it’s not about applying certain tools or focusing on practices but rather about defining values and embracing diversity.
Why are Balanced Teams important?
A Balanced Team brings a range of benefits to projects and companies.
We’ll list a couple of benefits and go into further details right below:
- Different perspectives on a product or solution;
- Helps to define company culture and the way things are done;
- Creates synergy and multiplies worth;
- Investors see balanced teams with good eyes;
- Fosters accountability and responsibility.
Different perspectives on a product or solution
When discussing a topic with like-minded people, we often neglect or miss other valuable perspectives that are not seen from where we stand.
This diversity of perspectives is essential throughout the many product development meetings and can determine whether your product will thrive or die.
In this sense, balanced teams embrace people with different points of view, enriching discussions to provide arguments that will serve as foundations for decision-making.
The different experiences and backgrounds of the people in your team are valuable and help to keep bias away.
Helps to define company culture and the way things are done
A company’s culture can either attract or repel good professionals. No one wants to work in a toxic environment.
Working with reliable, collaborative, results-oriented teams and at the same time without emotional distress is one of the many challenges organizations encounter today.
In this sense, Balanced Teams help to build a climate based on collaboration and productivity to achieve goals, without prioritizing insecurities and unnecessary demands.
Moreover, maintaining a collaborative culture also helps to retain professionals.
Balanced Teams create synergy, that is, cooperation and collaboration between each other to achieve results.
It’s easier to tackle problems more efficiently when team members have different expertise. A developer will probably perceive a situation differently than a marketer. This cross-discipline collaboration allows aha moments and goes a long way to solve truly complex problems.
However, remember that diversity of visions and ideas won’t do the trick alone. Fostering an environment with psychological safety will set the ground so that people can feel safe to put their thoughts and solutions on the table.
Collaboration springs from team bonding, understanding the responsibilities of each member, and respecting each other's opinions. Sinergy is then essential for decision-making, whether during product development or any other process.
Investors will more likely trust your startup
Balanced Teams' benefits go beyond collaboration and productivity.
How the company deals with its internal processes and employees is a great indicator to potential investors.
In fact, a study carried out by Stanford Business School concluded that the ability to manage teams is a key factor in investors' decisions.
The ability to resolve and discuss solutions based on multiple points of view brings investors confidence. Having a reliable team demonstrates to venture capitalist investors that an organization works like an efficient machine.
Furthermore, allied with a collaborative culture, balanced teams are also highly valued in terms of a good place to work.
Fosters accountability and responsibility
In Balanced Teams, everyone’s roles and responsibilities are very clear, so when ideas clash or responsibilities overlap it propels projects forward, rather than creating negative discussions.
Not only do balanced teams separate responsibilities, but they also create accountability. Each person on the team knows what their obligations are.
How can you develop a Balanced Team approach?
A Balanced Team is not a tool but rather a collaborative approach that is based on values.
It’s important to understand which values will serve as foundations for Balanced Teams:
- Create trust;
- Share results and knowledge;
- Celebrate mistakes;
- Welcome diverse voices.
Successful collaboration is only possible in organizations that have established a solid foundation of trust.
But as in Rome, trust isn’t built in a day. So here are some measures you can take to grow the levels of trust among your peers and leaders.
Trust your team. Believing team members will do what’s best for the company will empower them and give them the space to work together and learn from each other. An environment of trust grants confidence to our inner voice and actions.
Get to know each other. If you’re managing a team, you can start by getting to know your team members on a personal level. Understand what motivates them, where they come from and where they want to go.
Build an environment of psychological safety. Psychological safety encourages people to take risks without fear of retaliation and gives them the freedom to express their ideas and concerns.
And perhaps the most important of all: set the example. You can and should show vulnerability, that you’re willing to learn from mistakes, apologize when you’re wrong, and be ready to evolve with your team.
So start now, a balanced team should always nurture mutual trust that will open the way to discussions, discoveries, and collaboration.
Share results and knowledge
To develop or improve a product, UX professionals must conduct research, interviews, and usability tests. These investigations allow the team to test how a specific change or new feature will impact user behavior.
Experiments usually begin with a hypothesis and a test intended to confirm or not the theory. The results are essential to support decision-making around product development.
Sharing these outcomes with the entire team is as important as the discoveries themselves; it provides a sense of collective ownership of the upcoming decision. This way, everyone feels responsible for the product's success or failure, rather than one individual alone.
Openly sharing the results of experiments is an essential value to build a Balanced Team as it also welcomes different perspectives and ideas that enrich discussions that will consequently contribute to product development.
Another important value to implement a Balanced Team is knowing how to deal with failures along the process.
Every research leads to a hypothesis, that will lead to an experiment that will validate or invalidate the hypotheses. This is the basic process of methods like Lean UX and Design Thinking.
Sometimes the hypothesis will be invalidated, and it's OK. Our intrinsic desire to always be right can make us neglect the opportunity of a failed experiment — from every failure comes a lesson.
Failed experiments help us understand what doesn't work and how a product shouldn't behave, so they actually protect you from losing time and money down a path that will ultimately lead to a dead end.
Therefore, the sooner you have failed experiments, the sooner you can switch directions and set your product for success.
So, adapt the way you think and how you and your team perceive failure. Take them for what they are: an opportunity to be better.
Embrace and celebrate failures to focus on more fruitful paths; this acceptance will only make your team more efficient and productive.
Welcome diverse voices
Welcoming diverse voices is the last pillar of a Balanced Team approach, and it goes a bit deeper than just respecting everyone's opinions.
Balanced Teams encourage different views and invite team members to provide input despite their role. By including everyone in the process, you get to make the most out of each member's unique expertise whose skillset differs from yours.
Advocating for open and honest discussions where team members share their thoughts, even when they dissonate with others on the team, can also help uncover opportunities or risks that could have been neglected otherwise.
How to evaluate the balance in your team?
No matter which agile methodology your company already practices, you can always combine it to the benefits of a Balanced Team.
The first step on your journey to becoming a Balanced Team is to evaluate how these core values are being represented on your team. One suggestion is to use a Radar Graph to rank all the values by asking questions like:
- Do team members feel confident in making decisions?
- How are the levels of trust in the team?
- Are the results of experiments being shared with everyone?
- Is the team capable of seeing mistakes as learnings?
- How quickly can they accept a failure and redirect efforts to a better path?
- Is everyone comfortable sharing their opinions and providing input to processes not under their responsibility?
- How well can team members communicate, especially when ideas clash or roles overlap?
After aligning how balanced your team is, check for improvement opportunities and take the necessary measures to foster a healthier work environment where everyone is invited to contribute and collaborate.
On a balanced team, the common objective is to deliver user value. So everyone takes responsibility for the work and focuses on the product's success rather than the individual's.
Trust that everyone will do their part separately while also reaching out across disciplines to help others or ask for help. Only with trust can a Balanced Team operate.
The combination of different expertise through collaboration and assertive communication is what makes processes better, making products thrive.