Crafting high-performing teams: How we partner with client teams to drive digital outcomes
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When I think back on the client engagements I’ve worked on at Rangle, each one of them had at their core a high-functioning blended team of Ranglers and client-side practitioners that came together to achieve remarkable outcomes on very short timelines. The process of creating these blended teams is key to our success as a consultancy.
It’s easy to call it alchemy — that way, it’s ‘magic,’ and you don’t have to explain it. But our process can be learned, and there are two major reasons why it works. In this blog, I’ll explain some of the why’s and how’s of our team-level engagement at Rangle, with insights into some of our methods and processes.
Why does it matter?
Our ‘one-team’ model is critical to our success as Rangle. We pride ourselves on being different from other consultancies. For one, we focus our strategic consultation on our clients’ unique situations. We don’t own any IP, so there are no proprietary frameworks, no one-size-fits-all best practices, and no cookie-cutter advice.
When we present strategies to our clients, it’s always paired with actionable outcomes and a plan for getting the job done. This is where we shine: We’re hands-on. We work alongside our clients, ensuring that the strategy we recommend is realized. Most importantly, it ensures that we’re creating a lasting impact for our clients — when we do the work along with their teams, we’re coaching and teaching them to build digital products in the best way we know how to. When their engagement with Rangle is over, they can repeat those successful practices with all the other digital products they build.
How do we do it?
Our two primary principles of crafting high-performing blended teams with our clients are based on the core principles of change management: Honor what is, try to understand it and give it due course. From our starting point with the client teams, we seek to collaborate, not dictate, and come to solutions as one team.
1. We're intentional about how we show up.
Trust-building with the team of client practitioners we’re about to blend with is critical to our success. We strive to meet our clients where they are at every level of their business. We're showing up with humility, curiosity, and passion for the problem. When there’s a problem to solve, technical people naturally come together and get excited about brainstorming on a solution. If we can get the dialogue rolling with client teams as soon as possible, we know that a collaborative atmosphere will carry forward for the whole engagement.
One of the best ways to foster collaboration is to be open about ourselves — both as representatives of Rangle and individuals, too. We’re open to sharing, and we’re curious about the people we’re partnering with on a personal level. Bringing a sense of humor to the conversation is key. We’re serious about the work but equally serious about forming good relationships. We facilitate team socials with the client practitioners where we might play a game or find other ways to uncover individual hobbies and interests. What other consultants might see as “wasting time” at the beginning of a project, we see it as an opportunity to put our clients at ease, build trust, and fuse as one team.
If you still think spending time developing a team connection at the beginning of an engagement is frivolous, consider this: When you’re in the position of a coach or expert dispensing advice, you’re also in a position to make the people you’re advising uncomfortable. They may worry, for instance, that their job is on the line and that you, the expert, have been hired to replace them once you uncover and report on any mistakes or inefficiencies. For Product Owners or more senior team members, they may have feelings of imposter syndrome: “I don’t know what I’m doing, and these consultants are going to find me out.”
But as consultants, we aren’t usually the ones that handle this, pointing fingers and assigning blame. Instead, we aim to overcome any anxieties or insecurities as fast as possible and understand that they may resurface throughout the engagement process. To start, we state our commitment as practitioners: We’re here to find and solve problems together and share in creating the solutions to them. This attitude is the key to our success and has ensured countless positive outcomes and successful engagements with our clients.
Inevitably, differences of opinion, bad feelings, or misunderstandings will happen. When they do, we quickly take ownership of the situation, and we look to find a solution. A funny thing happens in this ‘tear and repair’ process — client stakeholders who might not have trusted you suddenly become your biggest champions. When you can help people work through their insecurities, it creates a bond that doesn’t break.
Moreover, Rangle’s commitment to diversity and good mental health makes us better consultants. We bring these values to our client engagements, which gives us empathy for everyone as an individual. Knowing that client teams may feel nervous working with us and that everyone can have a bad day sometimes, we have more grace for their reactions. How a person acts in one moment doesn't define them. When we make space for negative feelings, we also create more space for positive ones.
2. We’re committed to understanding problems, not just solutions.
It’s easy to run straight to the solution, and in fact, this is what many consultancies do with their proprietary models and frameworks. However, our approach is to sit with the pain first before we start solutioning with the team.
One of the ways we try to understand our clients’ context as much as possible is to use any documents or information access we can get our hands on. These materials from the client become part of our understanding of the business value we can generate for them and look for what’s working in their approach right now. This helps to ensure our ways of working are not a radical shift for clients’ teams but a blend that also adds to their comfort level in working with us.
Understanding what they're doing well and their problems are vital in developing our empathetic approach to client work. We come to a more nuanced understanding of their problem space through conversations and research. This also creates trust for the strategic solutions we recommend and the ultimate product build outcomes. With tools and concepts like ‘Definition of Done’ and ‘Definition of Ready,’ we establish shared context and working agreements that blend our interests as one team.
In a genuine partnership, the ideas are additive. When we work as one team, we build on one another’s ideas in a free-flowing way, and the Rangle team’s ideas aren’t considered better than the ideas the client practitioners may introduce. When we engage with our clients, we work at each level of the organization and in each discipline, with lots of one-to-one meetings that can help surface the best ideas. In traditional consulting, consultants might only consider client ideas if the most senior stakeholders raise them. In our engagements, our Rangle practitioners meet with each of their designer, developer and quality practitioner counterparts, and our delivery leaders and account management will meet delivery leaders and senior stakeholders or Product Owners on the client-side. As we work through the vision, the initial backlog, and our agreements, we gather context at each level that informs our strategy and execution and takes time to build relationships.
Our clients react positively to our passion for the work and problem solving. When you’re authentic and enthusiastic, others can’t help but gravitate towards that. We assume that our clients also have a passion for the craft and a desire to do good work — their problems are never because of apathy, laziness, or a lack of trying.
Communication is key
In addition to our ways of working and how we present ourselves as individuals and as Rangle, we keep good communication at the core of what we do. Part of our commitment to our clients is that we’ll tell it like it is. That doesn't mean being rude or pointing out their judgment or decision-making flaws. What it does mean is telling the truth if a deliverable is off-course, or if there’s a potential for risk to the product launch. We also communicate proactively — instead of reporting on vanity metrics and lagging indicators, we report on leading indicators and show where true value is created. We focus on practical outcomes and make sure we share these insights before the client asks.
Great teamwork makes Rangle who and what we are. The process of creating great teams with our clients is critical to the great results we’ve achieved. If you’re still curious about our approach, you can learn more about our approach to consulting by reading Injecting empathy into your consulting practice: The Flash Gordon principle.