Different companies, that operate in different industries, in different parts of the world, tend to experience a common denominator: inefficiency. Unfortunately so.
Almost every organization I’ve come across struggles with inefficiency; which is basically when you spend more time and money than you need to in order to arrive at the same result. And perhaps the most widespread of the causes of workplace inefficiency is poor communication - which results in frustration, confusion and eventually, demotivation.
One of the biggest culprits behind this communication dilemma is none other than the misalignment of teams; nothing beats your efficiency like working in a confusing environment where stakeholders have no access to the bigger picture, and follow their own set of priorities.
Organizational alignment is the idea that the entire team, from the most entry-level employees to the CEO, share a common vision and goals. All stakeholders must work collaboratively to achieve every single goal.
Break the Silo Mentality
The Silo Mentality is a prevalent mindset in the working place where certain departments or sectors refrain from sharing information with others in the same company. In my experience, there’s nothing more frustrating than this type of mentality. Not only does it reduce efficiency and waste resources; it also kills morale in the workplace, productivity, and the achievement of company goals. Organizations suffer greatly because of the Silo Mentality.
Build a unified vision
Probably the most important aspect when working towards team alignment is having a unified, solid vision across teams and departments. Without it, there’s no concrete path to follow. Silos typically start with department heads being set on accomplishing a set of goals, without taking the rest of the team into consideration; which means that team alignment starts with management. Team leaders must prioritize communication, collaboration and the free flow of information, and start investing time into building a vision that everyone has access to.
Assign based on skills
To have an aligned team, every employee should be assigned to the tasks that best fit their skills. Alignment really means that every person on the team knows exactly what their role is, what is expected of them and how they fit as part of the big picture. I remember my experience working as a copywriter at a brokerage company. Five months into my stay, I was tasked with website administration - temporarily until we could find someone to handle the job. That went on for the next seven months and by the end of it, I was ready to leave; not because I had trouble adapting to a change in circumstances, but because my priorities were so vague, and for so long, that I got tired of the chaos.
Communication is key; always, in pretty much every relationship out there. While working independently is important for focus, actively communicating with the rest of the team is as important. The idea is to encourage the free flow of information by allowing everyone to communicate openly, whether at the office or through virtual conferencing tools. When teams collaborate on ideas and processes, with all departments updating and sharing data in realtime, the entire organization benefits from a 360-degree view of every project and product release.
Backlog prioritization is a much-needed process for any highly productive team that designs and develops successful digital products. There’s always more work-to-be-done than we can process, which is why we use backlog prioritization to decide on what comes next.
Refine your PBIs
Product backlog items (or PBIs) are essentially ideas that can add value to a product that’s being developed. In Scrum, those ideas are turned into items which are then stored on a product backlog. PBIs can take several forms, from the requirements for a product (stories/epics), to bugs, features, enhancements and fixes. Basically, these backlog items contribute to a future change to be made to the product such as simplifying its installation or improving scalability.
The product owner has to make sure PBIs are clear and concise, and that they evolve as the product develops. The team can then break down PBIs into releases that can be completed in a single sprint, or even further, into tasks.
Prioritize your backlog
You may find yourself dealing with a product backlog that has turned into a black hole where items clutter the list, making it all the more difficult to review and organize. Which is exactly why you should prioritize your product backlog, ensuring it doesn’t become an endless list of every thought anyone ever had about your product. Your backlog needs to be structured and organized to favor the most important items for your team to work on.
Use project management tools
When data is centralized, it’s easier to make strategic decisions - as opposed to having to collect and analyze data from disconnected teams. You get to save money and increase your organization’s efficiency, with better use of resources and less overlap in efforts. It also allows you to maintain a sense of transparency and accountability across departments. You can invest in an integrated platform to help your team collaborate more effectively, with every department having access to the relevant data across your organization.
And backlog prioritization tools
You can also make use of backlog prioritization tools if you’re dealing with different stakeholders and you want to make sure everyone’s heard. There are frameworks that can help systemize your prioritization and pave the way for much-appreciated data that you can use in your decisions. If you’re interested, you can get an overview of these frameworks in Nikki’s webinar.
Aligning the team and prioritizing your backlog are a little more than optional; they're actually necessary if you want to fly.