How to Overcome Lack of Ownership to Drive Continuous Improvement
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If your teammates feel unmotivated or detached from their process, it’s because they don’t see how their actions make a difference. Here’s 3 steps you can follow to help them reconnect.
Do you know what a lack of ownership looks like?
Imagine you’re looking at a split screen of two different workers. At first, there’s really no noticeable difference: both of them are focused on getting their work done.
However, after a few days, you notice something remarkable: one of the workers hasn’t said a single word the whole time, while the other one stands up and says to her teammates: “Hey, there’s no work that’s ready to be started – I’m gonna go ahead and analyze the next item in the upstream queue to get the wheels turning.”
The first worker doesn’t take the initiative to suggest any process improvements , while the second worker is just the opposite.
When people don’t feel ownership or responsibility for a process (and thus are less invested to improve it), it’s usually because they don’t feel connected to it. They don’t understand how their actions contribute to it.
They may not see the purpose or value of the process, they may not have been given clear expectations for their role in it. This lack of connection and understanding can be disruptive because people are less likely to take initiative, ask questions, or make suggestions for improvement. They don’t understand how their efforts will impact the final product.
3 Steps to Building Ownership in Your Teams
Here is how to help your teammates reconnect to the work they’re doing and take the initiative to continuously improve their processes.
#1 Ensure Everyone Has a Clear Understanding of Their Role in the Process
The best way to do this is by holding a team meeting to discuss the process and each team member’s role in it.
During the meeting, start by providing an overview of the process and its goals. Explain the importance of flexibility, collaboration, and continuous improvement. (It’s very important to go back to the basics!)
Next, explain each team member’s role based on their area of expertise. For example:
- Product Owner: Defines the product vision and roadmap, and works with stakeholders to prioritize features and requirements. Manages the product backlog, and works closely with the development team to ensure that requirements are understood and that the team is delivering value to customers with each iteration. Helps to identify areas for improvement.
- Scrum Master: Facilitates the development process. Removes any impediments that are preventing the team from making progress. Helps the team to continuously improve by facilitating retrospectives, and by coaching team members on agile principles and practices.
- Development Team (software developers, testers, UI/UX designers): Responsible for delivering the product incrementally. Collaborates closely with the product owner to refine requirements. Works together to design, build, test, and deploy the product incrementally. Ensures that the product is of high quality and meets the acceptance criteria for each requirement. Helps to identify areas for improvement.
- Quality Assurance Engineer: Tests the product to ensure that it meets the requirements. Develops test cases and scripts, and performs manual and automated testing. Collaborates with the development team to ensure that defects are identified and resolved in a timely manner. Provides feedback to the product owner on the quality of the product, and helps to identify areas for improvement.
Finally, provide clear instructions and guidelines for each step of the development process, so that team members have a clear understanding of what is expected of them.
For example, you could provide guidelines for backlog refinement, sprint planning, sprint reviews, and retrospectives. You could also provide guidelines for code style and quality, and for test automation and continuous integration.
#2 Communicate How Their Actions Impact the Process
A super simple way to communicate how team members’ actions impact the process is to provide regular feedback on how the team is progressing towards its goals.
This can help team members understand how their individual contributions are making a difference to the overall success of the business.
Let’s say that you defined a S.M.A.R.T.E.R goal: We are going to improve our cycle time by 20% by the end of Q2 by cutting out all the waste in our delivery process.
During your daily calls, you could provide updates on the team’s overall progress, including metrics such as throughput, cycle time, and lead time (never look into just one metric in isolation).
Go through the Aging Chart and evaluate any opportunities for improvement that will enable you to cut out waste. Examples of this include:
- Unblocking blocked work items
- Handling aging work instead of starting new work
- Pairing up to speed along an item that’s taking longer than normal
Remember: Your charts provide a clear visual representation of progress towards the team’s goals. Keep your team’s attention on your data to make reliable data-driven decisions.
#3 Show Them How Their Process Fits into the Larger Context
To help team members understand how their process fits into the larger context of the organization, provide them with regular updates on the product roadmap and overall business goals. This can help team members see how their team objectives fit into the larger picture and can provide motivation and purpose to their work.
You could also highlight specific features or improvements that the team has delivered. You could also share customer feedback or success stories to help team members see the impact of their work on the organization.
Encourage cross-functional collaboration and communication. By working closely with other teams and departments, team members can gain a better understanding of how their work fits into the larger organizational context, and can build stronger relationships and partnerships with colleagues.
And finally, a bonus piece of advice:
Always involve the team in the development of the process itself!
When you regularly solicit feedback from team members on how the process can be improved, you ensure that it remains relevant and effective over time.
It will certainly improve team members’ investment and engagement in it, and ultimately lead to better business outcomes.
Here’s your action item for today: Pick up just one thing from the list above, the one that’s the easiest and most straightforward to implement and take action on it as early as tomorrow morning.
Trust me when I say this, this alone will have a noticeable impact. Most importantly, it is one step further towards building ownership and driving continuous improvement.
That’s it for today, my friend! If you know someone whose team might be struggling with lack of ownership, make sure you send this article their way.
Thank you so much for joining me, and I’m looking forward to seeing you again on Thursday, same time and place, for more managerial goodness. Bye for now!
Meet the Author
Sonya Siderova is a passionate product manager and a driving force behind Nave, a Kanban analytics suite that helps teams improve their delivery speed through data-driven decision making. When she's not catering to her two little ones, you might find Sonya absorbed in a good heavyweight boxing match or behind a screen crafting a new blog post.
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