The importance of habits, routines and rituals for product teams

Rick Williams
February 22, 2024

Within any team, but especially in my experience, within product design teams, habits, routines, and rituals play an important role in fostering collaboration, enhancing creativity, maintaining efficiency, and creating a positive work culture.

Habits are individual behaviours that team members follow regularly. Some great examples of healthy workplace habits include checking emails first thing in the morning, setting daily goals and always conducting code reviews before merging changes. In a product team context, habits can refer to the individual work habits of team members, such as how they manage their tasks or interact with their tools. 

Habits nurture:

Consistency: They help ensure that certain tasks or processes are consistently executed. For example, habitually conducting user research before starting a design project ensures that user needs are always considered.

Time Management: Developing good time management habits can help team members allocate their time effectively, ensuring they have sufficient time for both creative work and project management tasks.

Productivity: Habitual practices can boost individual and team productivity by streamlining workflows and reducing decision fatigue.

Skill Development: Repeatedly practising design skills through habits like daily sketching or UI prototyping can lead to continuous skill improvement over time.

Routines are generally structured and collective practices run with a small group. They can take the form of a series of actions or activities performed in a specific order or pattern. They can also involve multiple team members and often serve a collective purpose. Routines are more structured than habits and typically involve a predefined schedule or set of steps. For example, a daily or weekly product review meeting, sprint planning, or daily standup are all routines.

Routines provide structure and help teams coordinate their efforts and align their work toward common goals. They are often documented and followed as a team-wide practice.

Routines foster:

Collaboration: Daily standup meetings or design reviews provide structured opportunities for team members to collaborate, share progress, and address issues. This enhances communication and alignment within the team.

Efficiency: Well-defined routines like sprint planning or design critiques help streamline the product development process, ensuring that projects progress smoothly and meet deadlines.

Feedback: Regular routines for feedback, such as weekly design critiques, enable team members to receive input on their work, identify areas for improvement, and iterate on designs effectively.

Accountability: Routines often come with clear responsibilities and deadlines, promoting accountability among team members.

Rituals are more symbolic and culturally significant activities normally run in a wider team and organisational context. Rituals are symbolic or ceremonial actions that hold cultural or emotional significance within a team or organisation. They often mark important events or milestones, foster team cohesion, and reinforce shared values and beliefs. Rituals can include product launches, celebrations, team-building activities, or the recognition of team members' achievements.

Rituals foster:

Team Bonding: Celebrating product launches or team milestones foster a sense of belonging and strengthen team bonds. They provide opportunities for team members to come together and celebrate achievements.

Culture Reinforcement: Rituals can reinforce the team's values, culture, and mission. For example, an annual design retreat can emphasise the importance of creativity and innovation.

Motivation: Celebratory rituals and recognition events can motivate team members by acknowledging their hard work and contributions.

Creativity and Inspiration: Rituals can provide a break from routine work and spark creativity. For instance, a monthly "innovation day" where team members work on passion projects can lead to innovative ideas.

Unlike habits or routines, rituals are less frequent and are often tied to specific occasions or moments.

More often than not, rituals habits, routines and rituals happen organically, but if you’ve been that lucky and are in need of some structure The Interaction Foundation team at Imperial College, London have created the Ritual Design Toolkit to help you design your own rituals, structuring them within the context of a purposeful intention, providing them with an associated action or behaviour and ensuring that you leave the ritual with a positive emotional response.

Collectively, habits, routines, and rituals weave an intangible fabric of trust, collaboration, and passion that creates a value that’s greater than the individuals within the team. This synergy enhances their capacity to innovate, adapt, and excel, resulting in a product that reflects not just functionality but also the spirit and dedication of the team. These intangible qualities set exceptional product teams apart, enabling them to create products that resonate deeply with users and leave a lasting impact.

At Move we have organically created weekly resourcing and new business update routines, a couple of rituals that happen in our WhatsApp and Slack channels and a weekly check-in which is really helping to bring us closer together as a team despite some of us having to work remotely. What are yours?

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