The development team is essential to a product’s success. Therefore any existing performance problems must not be left to fester, or the team won’t develop functioning software. Here’s a helpful guide to dealing with an underachieving team. What is poor performance? Before answering this question, let’s look at the ideal performance that your development team should portray. The first characteristic of a working development team is the timely achievement of goals, meaning they deliver a good user experience through product quality. Secondly, this team will continuously seek ways to improve the product through strategies and modifying the product backlog. Thirdly, this development team creates a perfect balance between work and their well-being, so no member feels overwhelmed. Now that you have a better understanding of an operational team, here are three things you may spot from an underachieving one. \tThe team continuously produces buggy software. \tNext, this department is passive about the product. Meaning they leave you as the product head to handle the backlog. \tFinally, you will know something is amiss if the development team continuously has to work overtime to deliver any product. If you are the sole product development head, an underachieving team can significantly affect your performance and well-being. You will constantly have to release software later than expected. Additionally, performance issues make it a challenge to practice release planning. An issue that prevents you from setting clear product release goals, estimating expected work, budget monitoring, and general product tracking. It’s also not uncommon to work after-hours, especially since you lack the required support from the product development team. To that end, it is only wise to help this team regain their groove. However, it would be best if you did this tactfully as you are not the team’s employer. Three solutions for an underperforming development team 1. Express your views Let’s use a hypothetical scenario to help you understand how to go about this. Say your company is working on releasing a new product. And the goal for this phase of product development is to increment to a specific group of users and monitor if this functionality is a success. However, over the past month, you realize that the team hasn’t made much progress, and there are no new updates during the scrum sessions. And since the team has a timed goal (sprint) for various tasks, it’s clear that the product increment will not occur anytime soon. And what is worrying is that the development team does not appear concerned. You should step in, call the team to a meeting and ask them to get on the program. This is the wrong way to go. Here, the goal is to build an agile team, meaning you need these members to be able to effectively plan, track, evaluate and make the most informed decisions. Plus, this development team should be able to divide tasks to ensure they meet the sprint goal. While stepping in would mean assuming the project manager’s role, this does not mean you should stay on the sidelines while the team struggles. Instead, look for the perfect time, for instance, after their regular scrum meeting. Begin by requesting updates, then ask them to share their views before expressing yours. Doing so lets you gauge whether they are aware of their underperformance. Ensure your tone is judgment-free. For instance, you may ask these development team members whether they believe they are making progress. Based on the team’s answers, your response could be something along these lines, “it seems that the release planning isn’t going as expected, and there are various pending tasks. Do you believe this is the true state of things?” Actively listen to their response and also do not interfere. Instead, let the development team decide the next steps. If you feel unsatisfied with their answers, we recommend talking to the scrum master, whose role is to improve the team’s self-management. 2. Weigh up The product increment is the best way to gauge how much the product development team has accomplished. For instance, once the members share the live demo, you can tell how many backlog items they have addressed, marking whether the development team has met their sprint goal. It’s best to give honest feedback if you realize this team is underperforming. For example, if these members only managed to deal with a quarter of the existing backlogs, let them know they missed the goal. Staying passive is not beneficial to the team and you as the product head. As you express your view, do it with kindness and avoid the blame game at all costs. Be sure to factor in the team’s situation. For instance, if this is a newly formed team or a new member has recently joined, they may require a few sprints and scrum sessions to gain momentum. 3. Utilize the sprint retrospective mechanism The sprint retrospective is when product leads reflect on the sprint, assessing what went well and what didn’t. This process occurs after the sprint, and its main aim is to identify improvement measures. In this case, you might find that particular user stories failed to achieve acceptance criteria or that your product did not attract as many reviews, adopt a method to analyze customer reviews to make the most out of consumer problem areas - or even create a review template in which users can answer about your specific product. Gather enough data to create a warehouse type hold, which can be stored and analyzed against trends to make critical decisions in your product team. Plus, there may have been conflicts between team members hence the underperformance. Plan a sprint retrospective meeting but refrain from taking the lead. Listen attentively, and encourage everyone’s contribution. You might realize that the underperformance is not wholly the product team’s fault. There may be a miscommunication, or you asked the group to include more sprint tasks. Identify the best measures to ensure that you meet future sprint goals. In some cases, you may need to alter the team composition. However, this is typically a last resort. Ensure a scrum master or experienced facilitator is present throughout the process to maintain impartiality. Takeaway An underperforming team can cause a ripple effect from poor product quality to a hostile working environment. As the product lead, the best way to address this is through a collaborative approach rather than a commanding one. By expressing your views and utilizing the retrospective mechanism, you can get the team on track using metrics and KPIs on the site to understand what success looks like and to achieve the sprint and overall company goals. Further Reading \t Will Product-Led Growth Dominate 2022? \t 5 Ways How You Can Improve Your Business and Make It More Efficient \t Companies should Stay Prepared to Deal with the Growing Cyber Extortion Threat.