Building Product the Right Way: Unpacking High-Performance Engineering Culture

In today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape in the healthcare sector, developing a product that positively impacts both the end user and the developer is crucial. This necessitates building the product correctly, but often organizations are faced with the challenge of navigating through various factors impacting the process. A process that encompasses fostering a high-performance engineering culture, implementing effective metrics and encouraging innovation.  

During the ‘New-Now Studio’ roundtable discussion at the Emids Healthcare Summit 2023, we gained some fascinating insights from healthcare leaders on the importance of ‘Building product the right way’. The conversations explored deeper into the different elements that are essential for creation of robust and user-friendly products that align with market needs. 

Fostering A High-Performance Engineering Culture 

The creation of high-performance engineering teams is fundamental to success. This process requires a multifaceted approach, beginning with instilling a sense of purpose within the team. Leaders play a vital role in removing barriers to progress, ensuring alignment of goals and dedicating themselves to the success of each team member. A hallmark of these high-performing teams is their discipline, particularly exemplified by a commitment to avoid multitasking during meetings and sprint ceremonies and understanding the disruptive impact of “hero culture” on team dynamics which can often skew team performance. 

Equally important is striking the balance between prescriptiveness and autonomy. Teams need enough structure to stay on course but sufficient freedom to innovate and express their creativity. This equilibrium is essential for sustaining high performance without stifling the creative spark that drives technological advancement. 

Effective integration of new members into these high-performance cultures is another critical aspect. Through extended peer mentoring and buddy systems, new team members can seamlessly become part of the team’s dynamic. This not only helps in upskilling but also in ensuring that the team’s culture of performance and innovation continues to thrive with each new addition. 

Metrics and Measurements: Key to Efficiency and Productivity 

It is imperative to define the right approach for assessing the efficiency and productivity of engineering teams which is core to the right product development. The “Say Do Ratio” is one of the most critical metrics that enables leaders to ensure team accountability for their commitments. Moreover, establishing a baseline for team productivity is essential to demonstrate to teams their potential especially in fulfilling their goals under challenging conditions. Building this 1:1 ratio fosters trust both across the team and with clients, while enabling more accurate forecasting of work. 

Team Configurations and Coaching: The Art of Success 

Setting up a product for success involves strategically configuring and coaching your team, a process that leans more towards art than science due to the human element involved. Understanding and leveraging the unique talents within the team is key. Team configuration is an important factor and using complementary rather than competitive skills often result in heightened productivity. For high-performing teams, harmonious collaboration is essential. It is essential for leaders to promptly identify and address personality conflicts to maintain team cohesion and chemistry, which are critical for successful project delivery. While it’s not necessary for team members to be close friends, professional cooperation and mutual support are imperative. This entails coaching and modelling the right mix of collaboration and trust, rewarding the desirable behaviors and discouraging counterproductive ones. In today’s remote first world and work environment, creating a sense of belonging through shared experiences and perspectives is vital for building connectivity and a shared sense of purpose among distributed teams.  

Agile Rituals and Ceremonies: Enhancing Engineering Processes 

The importance of agile rituals in product development cannot be overstated, as they are instrumental in enhancing team efficiency and ensuring a streamlined engineering process. Agile rituals provide a structured yet flexible framework that guides teams in adapting to changes quickly, promoting continuous improvement and fostering a collaborative work environment. Implementing these rituals effectively is key to building products correctly and efficiently. 

One of the best practices in this domain is fostering team autonomy. By allowing teams the freedom to customize agile ceremonies, they remain engaged and committed, provided they adhere to their say-do ratios. This balance of autonomy and accountability is crucial in maintaining productivity and meeting project goals. 

Additionally, innovative approaches like the adoption of cross-departmental continuous improvement challenges, similar in nature to hackathons, have proven to be highly effective. This strategy involves engineering teams in addressing challenges outside their usual domain, stimulating creativity and broadening their perspective. Turning these challenges into a friendly competition with appropriate incentives not only addresses complex business issues but also enhances team building and interdepartmental collaboration. This method effectively creates a dynamic work environment where problem-solving and team unity contribute to the overall success and growth of the organization. 

The journey to establishing a high-performance engineering culture in software product development, though challenging, is achievable through alignment on vision, mission and core values. Setting precise, motivating goals is fundamental to igniting high performance in teams. These elements should not just be theoretical but the driving force behind every action and decision.  

A heartfelt acknowledgment to the participants of our roundtable discussion, whose valuable insights and contributions have helped shape this article. We thank:

  • Marie Lamont – VP, Integrated Health Practice, IQVIA
  • Karen Carlson – COO, NHPRI
  • Michael Resenthal – VP, Software Engineering, Surescripts
  • Raj Sethuraman – CPTO, Finvi
  • Navaneetha Selvaraj – Software Engineering, Finvi
  • Jung Kim – ex-Director, Healthcare Analytics, ex-Gainwell
  • Ed Liebowitz – CPO, Solera Health
  • Jerry Dennany – CTO, MatrixCare 

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