Work is done by teams. Teams build products and services. Good teams are varied, complex, intelligent and experienced formed of people with diverse backgrounds and roles. People have relationships and relationships are both challenging and rewarding. Building stuff is work, building relationships is work. Both are not mutually exclusive. Things don’t necessarily work straight out of the box.
Successful partnerships are built on trust, understanding and flexibility. While all partnerships are important, some may be deemed vital. Where positive outcomes, progress and continuous improvement are ultimately critical. Healthy and unhealthy conflict plays its part and civilisation is not built in a day, but progress must be prioritised and pathways forward found.
The relationship between a product owner and a delivery manager is one such relationship. They lead a team and are often in their own and other’s spotlight. The relationship has to work. They are depended on. The way a relationship develops takes on the form of a kind of long form design sprint. At the beginning, you know that you have to get on in the end. That is your long-term goal even if you really aren’t sure how to map to get there. During these early periods of conflict, you’ll confer and confide with other colleagues and experts who will help you target a route forward, however ambitious. After working together for a while, you better understand the relationship’s problems and limitations and are in a more reasonable position to discuss solutions. Every day forms an inspiration and review of the existing challenges and further ideas for an improvement in atmosphere. An opportunity to remix everything that has gone before. At this point, the partnership will embark on some critical thinking that actually starts facing the problem – you may even do this together. Heads are down and the work is going better and a bunch of niggles with the rest of the team have been ironed out, and even though more water has passed under the bridge, you both realise that conflict isn’t the target and begin to agree on a range of solutions. However, you’ve got a product to deliver so you can’t solve all of the problems. You need one solid plan – a storyboard to move everything forward, to edge out the disruptive conflict. You need the one with the winning ideas and the one that is most likely to bring the partnership together and the team together. Your behaviour, your interactions, your effort, your communication, your leadership becomes a prototype for what is possible. The partnership is keen to test it out, to be noticed, to be seen to be succeeding, to building a better team and a better product. You know how far you’ve come and how far you still have to go.