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What does it mean to be a ‘mature’ team?

Lauren Latham, Head of Product for our screening programmes, explains a new approach to supporting product development teams at NHS Digital.

Over the last 12 weeks, we have worked with colleagues across NHS Digital to develop our new Product Team Maturity Model.   

The model uses facilitated workshops to help kickstart team conversations about where to best focus their efforts, identify specific actions, and test changes that will support their continuous improvement.

Group of people having a discussion around a meeting table in an office.

Developing the model

We know that the products and services we develop, with the teams that design, build and operate them, are becoming more critical to the future of the NHS as explained in the Plan for Digital Health and Social Care policy.

So, the initial drive to develop the model was to provide more consistent guidance and support for teams to help them deliver the best healthcare outcomes.

We conducted research, ran workshops with teams across NHS Digital, and looked at existing maturity frameworks within and beyond our organisation. From this, we learned that we could have the most impact by helping teams understand what 'good' looks like for their specific work and what steps to take to get there.

We’ve since conducted more than 20 user research interviews, 6 workshops, and 4 full-team workshop sessions to develop our understanding of those needs and help us tailor our model to meet them.

5 areas of team maturity

Our model asks teams to look at 5 key areas:

1. 'Collaboration' is about how the team works together to reach the best outcomes, and how they work with people in other teams or organisations.

2. 'Focus' is about successfully solving problems for users rather than concentrating on outputs.

3. 'Culture' is about how the team works to understand and respect each other and their differences, and what that brings to the outcomes of the product.

4. 'Delivery' is about taking small incremental steps toward outcomes, reducing risks and creating the right thing.

5. 'Approach' is about how teams adapt to their circumstances, challenges and opportunities.

In each area, a team is asked to think about where they are on a 5 point scale.

For example, a team looking at their ‘focus’ might see that they haven’t defined a vision or strategy and don’t yet know what their users need. A more mature team might have a clear vision but might be struggling to align their outcomes with it. They might be finding it hard to predict their impact.

A team with a particularly mature ‘focus’ would be able to say they “lead the policy and commission vision in their area, based on user research, insight and known impact.”

Workshops and actions

Our facilitated team workshops are at the heart of the model, not the scoring on the 5-point scale. We’re trying to help teams get a clear view of where they stand and where they can improve. The scores are there to focus conversation and thinking, not to pass or fail a team or to compare it to others.

In the last part of each workshop, we ask the team to select one area and agree an experiment to try to help them improve. We guide them through a process of creating a hypothesis to test over the coming weeks.

The tool is designed to be used by a team repeatedly over time – helping them to continuously improve how they work. After the first facilitated session, a team might want to come back and choose a different area in which they can test a change that will improve their ways of working.

Contributing to a community

A crucial element of the model is getting teams to contribute to and learn from the wider product development community across NHS Digital.

Once a team has made a change and tested a hypothesis, this then becomes something other teams can learn from. Teams will contribute to a growing playbook, helping the whole organisation work more effectively.

The new Product Team Maturity Model sits alongside a growing framework of support for effective delivery at NHS Digital, which also includes our:

The 3 models are designed to complement each other to form a wider service for continuous team improvement and support our objective to be a true product led organisation. All 3 models will continue to evolve and improve as more teams use them.

In the words of one of our user research participants: “This model will allow transformation to happen. It legitimises the change.”

If you would like to know more about our approach, contact [email protected] or [email protected]

Related subjects

Rochelle Gold, Head of User Research at NHS Digital, describes how our user-centred design maturity model helps teams to achieve outcomes and manage risk. 


Last edited: 24 August 2022 3:38 pm