Working with Blended Teams

How to leverage internal and external expertise, and how to maximize your team’s output while steering on business value. Learn how to work with Blended Teams.

Blended Teams

When setting up your CI team, the goal is to have the right people available at the right time. One way of doing this is to apply the concept of blended teams.

What is the essence of a blended team?

The main point of working with blended teams is having access to a varied mix of people with different and varied capabilities, that can effectively and efficiently support the organization. A blended team should be set up so that input from all relevant disciplines is available and usable, with minimal waste.

Temporarily adding specific domain experts to the team

The core team should be comprised of team members that work together for a prolonged period of time, not just when the improvement tasks are planned for execution. This means that certain roles related to specific tasks aren’t necessarily part of the core team, such as a legal (GDPR) advisor, or a consultant specialized in search or the fulfilment process. The idea is that these roles can be added temporarily, only when they are needed and add value, and only for as long as they are needed.

Adding external roles to the team

To get the best and most up-to-date knowledge in the team, and stimulate a fresh outside-in perspective, external team members play an important role. Specific external domain experts can be added temporarily, but it’s sensible to reserve at least one or two spots in the core team for external members. These can include an experience data analyst, a UX specialist, and a business or strategy consultant.

Working with Blended CI Teams

A properly set up, feedback driven, blended CI team has the potential to bring purpose to the entire organization, while at the same time break down walls between different teams and departments.

Respect each other’s agendas

In the context of blended teams and CI, talking about a team often refers to a virtual team with at least a few members allocated to multiple tasks or projects. This makes correct planning and having efficient processes in place all the more important. All members have to respect both the main events of the process as well as each other’s agendas.

Create a business value focused mindset

Certain team members may need to get accustomed to the required mindset. One that’s always focused on business value. But with CI the end goal is to reduce waste and increase customer value, so they have to be able to put their own personal preferences aside, regardless if this concerns their favourite development framework, personal aversion against sticky headers, or a long-cherished wish for Slack as a communication tool. These preferences can be considered of course, but only if a case can be made that shows, or at least predicts, measurable business value.

Nurture constructive criticism

A properly functioning blended CI team demands an open, respectful, and constructive atmosphere. Asking how any new project or initiative will lead to increased conversion and business value should be perfectly normal and accepted in any conversation. Constructive criticism needs to be nurtured.

Advocate the good work

Last but not least, team members should be prepared to spend some of their time on advocating their work within the organization. The main task of the product owner will be talking to all the stakeholders, finding out their concerns, motivating them to provide feedback, in addition to making successes visible to everyone. Other team members should also make themselves available if people comment on the program, have any questions, or want to bring an important issue to the team’s attention. This ensures the CI team becomes firmly embedded in the organization.

Having a genuine interest in people’s daily struggles, showing commitment to solve these issues, and sharing both successes and failures, is what makes the sum of the team’s efforts so valuable. Simply looking at all the individual improvements combined doesn’t tell the complete story in this case.

How to start a CI Approach?


The first requirement is a sense of urgency. Does the organization truly feel the need to improve? There should be a genuine ambition to:

  • Break down silos by giving people from different disciplines and departments a free hand in finding the most pressing issues and solving them.
  • Empower the CI team to prioritize issues and have access to the right people at the right time.
  • Give both customers and employees a voice that will be heard and acted upon.

Are you ready to empower a team and start improving your organization from the bottom up?

Start with a wide survey

A good approach is to start with a survey among customers and employees before the scope is set. You can limit the questions to customer experience and share the survey among both customers and employees, or focus on general improvements, both internally and externally. Make sure to mix closed questions, so you can measure the trend over time, with open questions that provide concrete input on what to do.


Start by defining the first version of the process, but be prepared to iterate and constantly make improvements too. Some things to consider:

  • Cycle time (e.g. 4 weeks, depending on the targeted area, statistical significance, and available resources).
  • Allocation and detail planning of all participants, starting with the PO.
  • Plan at least one face-to-face meeting per cycle.
  • Define how and when to report on spent hours and tasks.
  • Resource planning for executing the initiatives.
  • Reporting on results and publishing them to the organization.

Team size

Consider the optimal team size for this approach. In addition to setting up a core CI team also think about if and how you’ll reserve time for other resources that are needed to execute the improvement tasks. A properly set up CI team has two layers:

  • A core team including the PO, feedback analyst, data analyst, and some advisory roles (e.g. a UX specialist, consultant, and department manager).
  • A (virtual) pool of resources to execute the improvement initiatives. These can be scattered over multiple departments, domains, and consist of both internal and external resources.

Reserving and enabling the planning of resources that are in high demand, and at short notice, will be challenging. As you progress you’ll be able to better predict these needs and find a way to reserve resources ahead of time, or create a special pool of resources dedicated to the CI program.


A Continuous Improvement process will:

  • Give all customers and employees a voice, and turn their feedback into concrete improvements.
  • Guide the team in focusing on actual business value, not on predefined requirements.
  • Offer structure and cadence to your improvement initiatives, making them more visible and easier to quantify.
  • Not place any pre-existing limitations on target areas for improvement (unless deliberately added).
  • Turn the removal of ‘100 small frictions’ into a strategic objective.

A blended team will:

  • Use all expert resources effectively (optimizing cost to benefit ratio).
  • Apply different perspectives to the same challenges.
  • Provide the flexibility to add highly specialized disciplines when needed.
  • Provide a fresh outside-in look.
  • Stimulate creativity.
  • In general; activate the right people, at the right time and place.

Applying continuous improvement with a blended team means:

  • Continuously increasing business value, by working on a dynamic set of goals, in a consistent cadence, with a team of specialized individuals.
  • Building a shared understanding, by exchanging internal and external knowledge and experience.
  • Optimizing the impact of every individual on the team in the least amount of time.
  • Maximizing the Return On Feedback, ensuring that valuable feedback from your employees and customers leads to optimizing your business value.


Coming back to the 4 key values in Kaizen and explain their place in ‘Feedback Driven Continous Improvement’

  1. Improve the process. Process is key, starting with a core CI team with repeating activities, planned in a recurring rhythm.
  2. Lead with evidence. List improvements based on ‘X data’ and ‘O data ‘and measure output based on quantifiable business value.
  3. Anyone can spur innovation. Stay integrated with the organization and question both employees and customers about there experiences and improvement suggestions
  4. There’s always a better way. A Kaizen project is never truly finished. Keep looking for ways to improve! - This doesn’t need any elaboration.


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