Principle Five: Create a culture for speed

  • Creating clarity to avoid wasted time and confusion
  • Leading without overpowering the team
  • Collaborating and breaking down siloes
  • Having fun!

Cultivating relationships

Creating digital products or services is hard. They are complex and generally there are a lot of unknowns, both in regards to technology stacks and user requirements. Very few deliveries will go “as planned” but with great relationships, you can galvanise the team, persevere through adversity and deliver value.

  • Build trust: Be transparent, be honest, be candid, do what you say and say what you believe (coincidently, some of Zone’s company values). In my experience, trust is the number one thing that will make or break a relationship. It doesn’t matter if that’s trust with a teammate, trust with a client, trust with a leader, trust with a partner… Trust is always key.
  • Be kind: We need to understand other people’s feelings and what stress and pressure they are under to truly know how to support them. Be respectful of others, and be inclusive, treating everyone fairly. Be honest and candid, honesty needs to be delivered with empathy which is also a key part of creating a human connection.
  • Be personable: Actively sharing stories about your family, hobbies or adventures outside of work will lead others to also share and create a deeper, longer lasting connection. Work can be intense and it’s easy to forget that people have lives outside of work. Where appropriate, stepping outside of the constant work chat to understanding the person behind the job title can often help build great relationships.
  • Give value without asking for the same in return: This is particularly important when individuals don’t work together directly, or they have no formal structure for their relationship. The value exchange might be providing advice/consultation, actively supporting the other’s work/personal ambition or just the act of discourse/discussion to formulate and refine one’s views on topics or problems.

Creating clarity

The same wise man that told me “If you have a good relationship you can get through anything” also told me “We need to prioritise building teams with good communicators.” This especially related to finding people for our teams, but the sentiment pulls through to other areas — the ability to communicate, and communicate clearly, is key.

  • Responsibilities: Creating a simple RACI and getting everyone to agree to it can fix this… It’s that simple. Some people seem to fear clearly setting out roles and responsibilities on projects or accounts, that might be because they want everyone to be responsible and not have siloed working. However, in my experience, not having clarity on who should be doing what has caused a lot of wasted time and effort.
  • Goals: A team needs to know what it’s pulling towards to make decisions quickly and move at pace. This includes long term goals, smaller iterations, weekly goals, and even daily goals (discussed in continuously managing scope). Setting goals as a team helps the team hold each other accountable. This doesn’t mean blasting someone for not completing their work but means that individuals will work hard to support each other and align to a commonly agreed target.

Leading without overpowering

Have the hard conversations

Hard conversations can take planning and put a cognitive and emotional load on the team, when that energy could be better spent building the product. One role of the leadership team is to take on hard conversations with clients and set up the team so they can come in and then solve the challenges faced. This leads to my next point…

Get out of the way

Before or after the hard conversation has been had, it’s often tempting to take on finding the solutions as the leader in the team. Sometimes this is helpful and is required, but depending on the problem, challenges can be best solved by the people doing the work. You’ll often find they know the most about how everything has been put together. If this is the case, bring the team and stakeholders together, get out of the way and facilitate solutions. More often than not, this will be the fastest way to find solutions, create alignment and formulate a plan.

Maintain an eye on the future

As discussed, part of the leadership team’s duties is to clear a path for the product team to move at maximum speed. Leadership should be planning ahead, not so far that they lose contact with the team, but enough to sweep aside impediments, collect research/information and plan the fastest route to the objectives. The key thing here is that all of this is in support of the team, and should not take away from the team’s ownership or their empowerment to deliver.

Collaborating to break down silos

Having fun

Humans need “fun” to get headspace, recharge batteries and keep a healthy mental state. The fun doesn’t need to be forced or awkward and often takes the form of light-hearted games, non-work-related activities, or freestyle end of week discussions.


In this article, we’ve walked over some of the key areas to focus on if you want to create a culture for speed. In summary:

  • Create clarity to avoid wasted time on confusion
  • Lead without overpowering the team to find the best solutions and help the team own their delivery
  • Collaborate and break down siloes to move at speed
  • Have fun!

Blog series final words…

This is the final article in the series, and I hope this and the other articles have been interesting and provided some value to anyone who develops digital products or services.



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