Watch the 1-minute background video and then read on for full details!
When I started working as an independent innovation management consultant, I initially focused on helping companies design and implement the right system. Innovation succeeds if you have a good workflow that includes expectations, activities, templates, and clear decision criteria.
A couple of years ago, in assessing what really works for innovation success, I realized that even as important as systems are, people are more important! For this reason, I earned my DiSC® certification to help leaders and teams move beyond the basics so they can truly transform innovation into a core business practice and model of success.
One tool I use to help teams begin to assess their strengths is the Team Dimensions Profile. This is discussed in more detail in Chapter 4 of The Innovation ANSWER Book and in Chapter 6 of the recently released PDMA Body of Knowledge (2nd ed.). I will also be discussing this case study on Friday, 18 September 2020 at the virtual Texas ACMP conference. There's a great line-up of speakers and you can register here.
I like the Team Dimensions workstyle assessment because it uses 'innovation' language and is an easy starting point for teams to improve their multi-disciplinary connections. Communication across functional boundaries and with customers is crucial for repeatable innovation success.
I also like the Team Dimensions and DiSC profiles for innovation team-building because they focus on our work styles instead of personality types. Personality assessments are valuable – don’t get me wrong – but we are often 'different people' at work than we are at home, at leisure, or at church. At work, we may have to stretch into various roles to accomplish a task. While those roles might be uncomfortable, we can do it. What’s important is understanding why it’s hard for us and then aligning our team members and project activities with the work styles in which they excel.
Four Team Dimension Styles
Team Dimensions work styles are based on behaviors and preferences. Spontaneity is a behavior shared by Creators and Advancers. These types of people like to work without constraints, and they readily envision new ideas and concepts. The future is limitless.
Advancers also demonstrate normative behaviors which they share with Executors. People with these work styles are able to frame ideas into a familiar context and they rely on past experience to guide current activities and decisions. Not surprisingly, Executors also prefer a methodical work environment. Executors and Refiners like to follow step-by-step instructions, preferred structure in the workplace, and are motivated by fitting the pieces of a puzzle together. Accuracy is an expected outcome of their analytical approach to problems
Finally, both Refiners and Creators are conceptual in their approach to innovation and project work. They like to come up with new ideas and enjoy visualizing the 'big picture'. Teasing out the underlying theory or practice is rewarding to a conceptual thinker. Considering what might be is rewarding!
How to Use Team Dimensions
Team Dimensions helps teams to align workflows within a project with the strengths and preferences of the team. This workstyle assessment can identify gaps in a team’s capabilities which can lead to poor results in innovation or internal biases. I’ve used Team Dimensions as an ice breaker within a team of volunteers with cross-cultural conflicts. Starting with the assessment of individuals and the team overall, we were able to move toward a tight project deadline with better team member communication.
The Team Dimensions profile is versatile for team-building and empowering leaders. Recently, I worked with a team of eight product development practitioners in a software company. They had known each other long enough to guess the others' work styles even before we started the session! Luckily, they were also open and determined to learn new communication skills. Because of rapid growth, both the company and the product development team had doubled in size over just a few, short years.
After discussing the Team Dimensions work styles, each person described his or her own preferences as Creator, Advancer, Refiner, or Executor. Then, we delved into their processes. Regardless of your new product development (NPD) process, all innovation projects follow the same basic steps: generate ideas, build support, create a project plan, and execute the work. (Read more about traditional NPD processes here.) For the software development team, we broke down each step into the tasks and activities they used as a software company. These items resembled the artefacts and meeting rhythms of a Scrum project management process. (Read about Scrum here.)
Next, we identified which Team Dimensions role was best suited to each task. For instance, the team agreed that the Sprint backlog was a task in which Advancers would excel. We then matched each individual team member with the task s/he was doing currently and checked if their Team Dimension workstyle profile aligned with the role previously identified. When there was a mismatch, we reconfigured team roles and tasks so that the team member with the preferred work style was assigned activities they would enjoy the most and could apply the highest level of skills. Happy workers are productive workers!
Results of Team Dimension Assessment
Better workflow alignment and increased communication are the immediate results of the Team Dimensions work style assessment. Long term outcomes include improved time-to-market and enhance creativity in product development. One of the software team members commented that he now knew where to go for help since he understood how other team members worked best. Team Dimensions improves interactions among team members starting with trust and communication.
Innovation is never easy but always fun! As product innovation leaders, we have the responsibility to ensure our teams are high-functioning and have a clear pathway to resolve conflicts. We also have a responsibility to listen to our customers so we can deliver products, features, and services that delight them. Creating an ideal NPD team allows us to fulfill those dual needs.
Download an excerpt from The Innovation ANSWER Book on Team Dimensions.
- Learn more about Team Dimensions Profile during my session at the Texas ACMP Conference on 18 September. Register here.
- Check out where I'm speaking next (click here) and book me for your next event.
- Get your copy of The Innovation ANSWER Book available at Amazon (now available on Kindle).
- Vote on the cover of my next book, The Innovation QUESTION Book here.
- Get your NPDP Certification! Join our October online class (Thursdays) following the brand new, 2nd edition PDMA Body of Knowledge. REGISTER HERE!
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