Posted by Chris Danek, Bissell LLC
It’s a new year! And after several years of turmoil and uncertainty, we are ready for a fresh start. Our medical device teams deserve a fresh start, too. Chances are, some of your teams are in crisis. They felt crushed by employment challenges, major technological change, a competitive marketplace, personal disruption, and an unpredictable economy. How can Medtech leaders give teams what they need?
The answer: go back to basics. Work on the essentials to help teams move forward. This article will share practical tips for aligning and mentoring your development teams to help them reach their full potential in 2023.
1. Reconnect as a team
Take your time with your team to reconnect. Allow everyone to share what they are doing and their feelings about their role and the team’s performance. Even a seemingly healthy team can have hidden issues that may affect performance later on.
Many teams fall into the trap of thinking that team communication remains consistent throughout the life of a project. But in reality, the personal and professional situation of each team member, and the context of the team within the organization, are subject to change. These changes affect team dynamics. For example, consider whether team members’ performance and career goals have changed. Do these new goals align with the team’s peak performance, or does the team need to adjust? To become and stay a high performing team, members don’t just need to care about each other; They must be aware of and adapt to fluid team dynamics.
Reconnecting as a team will put you on a firm course for the new year and ensure that every member feels empowered and aligned with the team’s overall goals.
2. Take a fresh look at the obstacles
The new year is your chance to clean up the slate and look at your team’s work with fresh eyes. As a team, ask, “If we were a brand new team just starting to tackle this project, what would we do?”
Teams often feel trapped by perceived limitations. But what would you do if these restrictions were eased or removed? What limitations are assumptions that can be challenged and redefined?
Here are two example questions to stimulate your thinking:
- How would we approach this challenge differently if our project deadlines were pushed back?
- What do we worry about most about making mistakes? What can we do about it now? What resources do we need to avoid the worst outcomes?
Taking a fresh look doesn’t mean giving up everything and starting over. context matters; The path the team has taken and the constraints on your business are real. But this thought experiment helps the team to come up with new ideas and approaches and prioritize them based on their impact and difficulty in implementing them. And sometimes, thinking creatively about constraints will help the team provide concrete solutions to leaders when they consider additional resources.
Another benefit of a clean slate thought experiment? Helps the team create a new model for decision making. Louis Baez, senior director of innovation at Johnson & Johnson Medtech, encourages his teams to focus on the contradiction between “what’s right” and “what’s right now.” What’s Right is the ideal solution that meets user needs in the context of design controls, risk management and business voice. But along the way to delivering that perfect solution in the “right” way, the team will need to make countless decisions and choose the “right now” path. The team learns faster when it pursues discovery and learning that answers the question, “What is right now?” This mindset will help the team strike the right balance of speed and refinement in prototyping, analysis and testing.
3. Implement team mentoring
I didn’t always understand the power of giving evidence to medical device project teams. but me he could Intuitively identify the teams that have worked better than others. And I could feel the magic when I was on a great team: our common goal, the way we worked together, and our results lined up.
I felt this magic during my first successful project management role. One of the keys to our success has been the mentorship the team received from the Vice President of Research and Development. He guided the team on how we should be organized, work together, and set goals.
Later in my career, I started to wonder: How do you replicate a thriving culture and build teams that people won’t want to leave? I had another “aha” moment when an outside consultant came to work across the team and organization to help us deliver an ambitious next-generation product. She realized she was doing something broader than individual training. I saw her work with core team functional leaders, senior leadership, and corporate project managers to help the team demonstrate key risks, identify friction between core team members’ career goals and team progress, and identify solutions. That’s when I learned about Team Mentors. Unlike individual mentors, Team Mentors work with an entire team to help them work together and achieve their common goals.
How can you put team mentorship into practice and give your team a guide? First, think about what your team needs. Next, identify a trusted person with the right industry expertise and experience to help your team stay on track, keep its goals in sight, and achieve those goals in the best way possible. Every team deserves a great mentor – a guide who works with the team to enhance its success.
4. Create guiding lights
We’ve talked about giving your team connections, fresh eyes, and powerful mentors. But once they get deeper into the day-to-day minutiae of the business, how do you ensure the team maintains a common vision? My answer: Use the beacon lights. Create a shared vision that is specific enough to guide team members’ work and decisions on a day-to-day basis and that defines success on a micro level. What does the ideal solution look like? What are the essential things that will shape the product design?
A guiding light keeps the Medtech team aligned with the core product development vision. They help the team answer questions along the way, make decisions quickly, and prioritize their work. The guiding lights inform the technical team’s design intent, design concept evaluation, and every other aspect of the project.
Sometimes they are quite specific: “The system should have a total dead area of less than 10% of the patient’s tidal volume.”
And sometimes it’s even more vague: “The terminal should have an easy entry profile.”
What these two recent real-world guiding lights have in common is that for their projects, they have guided designs and trade-off decisions that have affected multiple aspects of their development programs.
If you’re working on a project team that seems adrift or derailed, ask yourself: What are our guiding lights?
5. Implement the hallmarks of agile work
Large medical device teams deliberately learn how they work together. More often than not, they follow the tried-and-true practices of agile working. These hallmarks of agile work help teams strive for peak performance, and they’re easy for any team to put into place:
- trust: Ensure that every team member is accountable for a meaningful contribution to the team and that everyone has a voice for the team to hear.
- Think: Separate action planning from action. Ensure that the team members responsible for the business have a clear understanding of what success means before they begin.
- accident: Communicate frequently, at least daily, about what’s going on, what team members need from each other, and ways the team can speed it up.
- time square: Create a pace and cadence for completion by creating a release schedule and iterating your product in steady time increments. Think of good time as a scheduler for innovation.
Try these things, and you will strengthen your team and see an increase in performance.
The new year is an opportunity to set up your project teams for success. Enhance your team’s communications. Look at your projects with fresh eyes. Harness the power of a team mentor. Improve your daily decision-making with trail lights. And take back control of your team’s time by increasing productivity through rapid teamwork. Whether your team is already succeeding and wants to improve or is struggling and needs to improve, you can put these actionable ideas into action.
About the author:
Chris Dink is the CEO of Bessel LLC. He is a serial entrepreneur and expert in the life sciences industry. At Bessel, he works with entrepreneurs, startups, and company teams to develop advanced medical device technologies. In previous positions, he was co-founder and CEO of AtheroMed (now Philips AtheroMed) and vice president of research and development at Asthmatx (acquired by Boston Scientific). He is a visiting professor at the WM Keck Center for 3D Innovation at the University of Texas at El Paso, a consultant to the Santa Clara University Healthcare Design and Innovation Laboratory, and the inventor of more than 80 US patents.