14 Aug 2016

What makes the Product Creation team at car2go great

There are thousands of books and articles on what it takes to make a great team.  Facebook and LinkedIn are full of meme’s about how to have a great team or what makes a leader or a boss.  There is certainly some truth in most of the things read, but a blueprint is hard to find. 

For Product Creation at car2go, it boils down to a few key things that make us great.  We find people who are the right fit.  While we do this we ensure a diversity that represents our customers.  We trust each other and celebrate together.  In the end we learn together.

Finding the right person to join the team is a critical step.  Our colleagues in North America have written a recent article on their approach to match values to the candidates that apply.  We don’t follow the exact same process, but a cultural fit is a key.

To test cultural fit in our team we have candidates meet with several members of our team for some more formal interviews but also for more information discussions.   There are usual questions to judge how they view mistakes, how they lead, what are strengths, etc.

Additionally we want to know: will this person be able to work with our team? This is best judged by the team members themselves.

Completing a task is part of the process

To judge the skills fit and depending on the role, we create a test based around a real world situation and evaluate the response.  For Developers this is writing code.   We ask Designers to create a design for a feature.

Product Owners have to create a concept for a feature for car2go and explain how and why they chose this feature.

The right fit is as much about the role as it is the individual.  A challenge for our team in the beginning was to clearly and correctly define the roles of the team members.  Only through some trial and error have we shaped our current picture.

In the end we won’t always choose correctly, but so far our record shows we have done fairly well.   When we don’t make the right choice we need to learn and make sure not to make the same mistake twice.


Picture from team workshop in Berlin

International Experience for Building a Global Product

In an earlier article, I explained how we approach localization and internationalization of the car2go product.  One thing that is critical in those efforts is incorporating the experiences of our team.  In our team of approximately 40 members, we represent 12 different nations and collectively speak 12 languages.

Our team members also come from a variety of internal and external professional experiences.  As we have grown it has been vital to show a path for growth for existing employees.

At the same time we need to bring new ideas and other experiences into the team.  This allows us to grow and learn from each other.

Building trust in a diverse group is not always easy.  Our colleagues from different backgrounds come with a different base understanding of how trust is established.   The Harvard Business Review recently published a good article on the subject.   The basis of trust for us is doing what you say you will do.

Celebrating a success big or small is a great way to build the trust in the team.  We make it a regular habit to find reasons promote the great things happening as a result of our efforts.

Sometimes it is highlighting a great new feature in a release letter, or sneak preview.  Other times it is with a group outing.

We recently celebrated our product launch in China with an off-site in Berlin.  On this trip we mixed some business with pleasure by performing some of the first tests before our recent launch of Mercedes Benz cars in the car2go fleet.  However, we also had plenty of time for fun and getting to know each other better.

We broke into smaller groups and did a variety of the popular Escape Games.  Members of our team hailing from China researched a great restaurant, so the entire team could experience the flavors from our newest City in Chongqing.


Team members enjoying a Chinese Dinner

Learning as the basis.

If we aren’t learning, we are not growing and one basis of all of our activities is learning through feedback. However, we do not want to learn in silos.  We want to share this gained knowledge.

Members of our team regularly have retrospectives in their working groups or with project teams.  It is actively promoted to share interesting articles and customer feedback through channels in Slack.

We analyze product performance using the ELK stack (Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana,) and other tools.  We regularly discuss business results as a group.  All with the goal that all members of the team know how we are performing.

Finally we encourage open discussions about things that did not go well or as planned.  We have the basic philosophy that mistakes will happen, and it is how we react and how we improve as a result that will be the ultimate measure.

What makes your team great?