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HH 009 - Make Reteaming Boring like Deployments?
Interesting topic to think about. Do it more often, so that you’re “used to it,” and it becomes a common occurrence or “boring.” Like deploying tested small changes frequently during the day instead of the large batches deployed infrequently and often into the night.
In the early Y2K days we would put together huge batches of software. We had a huge manual testing force. And spent long evenings releasing. Life would be totally painful even though pizza was brought into the building.
As a TPM, I hated it. All of the showstoppers, and the “go, no go” decisions we would make between engineering and product late into the night. Not fun. It was stressful. It wasn’t good from a quality of life standpoint except when things went through without a hitch.
Years past. About 2007. Different company. SaaS. We did continuous integration. We got feedback on what we built gradually. Defects were found earlier. It was a lot better for people having the smaller feedback loops. We still had infrequent, batched releases that went into the night though.
After that, at the next company, another SaaS, continuous deployment was the scene. We’d deploy small things more frequently, throughout the day. The deployments were so boring that you’d have to look up when they happened or pay attention to notifications in slack. They didn’t all go without problem, I mean incidents happened, but overall what a better lifestyle than the big batch situation.
So what does all that have to do with reteaming?
Some might deduce then, ok. Just like continuous deployment, instead of the huge painful reorg, make smaller team changes gradually, and all the time, and then life will be better and easier.
In a way that’s what happens already at many companies. For example, people will get hired and integrated gradually. It’s not always boring and easy though, like when you don’t want the new person to join or when your favorite teammate leaves for a different job.
The thing is, there is a human element to all team changes. Teams are made of people. We have preferences. We have feelings and needs and emotions and are often triggered during team change.
The transition model from William Bridges in his book Transitions - Making Sense of Life’s Changes gives a window into the phase that occurs “after” the change, in our case the change is like someone joining or leaving a team, or two teams merging together, etc. His model goes like this:
There is the change (in our case a reteaming), followed by a period of liminality and uncertainty, or what Bridges calls the neutral zone, followed by the new beginning or future state after the change. Here is an abbreviation of the model, customized for reteaming.
Not everyone passes from the reteaming to the new beginning at the same rate with the same experience. (Although leaders want us to do that). Let’s think about it.
Some people are going to fly through the transition and be in the future state faster than you can blink an eye. Maybe they wanted the reteaming. Maybe it was their idea. Even if it wasn’t, for some, they adapt and move on from the particular change quickly.
Others might be hanging on to the time before the reteaming, aka the “before times” and it takes a lot of support, coaching, nudging and influencing to help them accept the new reality and get into the new beginning.
Think of the last time your leader left and then the new one came in and started changing everything. (That’s a thing). Did you hop right on board and get to the new beginning or yearn for the past? How did you transition after the reteaming?
Some people might despise the reteaming so badly, that they quit, or opt out of all of this, if they have that privilege. Not everybody can just jump ship so easily, especially these days. There are different possible new beginnings after a reteaming.
At the end of the day, a lot of the feelings toward a reteaming come down to the ability to choose and have input into it, and really personal preference. That is, in the end, do you want the change or not? How do you feel about it?
If you want the change to happen, things tend to go better in the short term than if you don’t want or have no input or say into the change.
Sometimes we are going to be able to choose or influence the team change that we experience, and sometimes we won’t be able to. That’s just a fact of nature. Ideally we can give input and participate in it if we want to.
So what about the “boring” part?
Make it boring to help the people around you cope with unexpected change and transition into whatever new beginning they are dealing with. Listen, focus your attention out on other people, and acknowledge what they are going through. Invite people together to talk about the changes. Talk about the endings. Decide what elements from the past that you want to carry on into the future.
If you are a leader switching your teams to the latest and greatest new org structure that you think gets you to a better future, then make it boring to include people in your plans and have patience. Share future plans with people so that they can feel ownership and contribution to the change. Like a whiteboard reteaming technique (See Appendix A in my book Dynamic Reteaming). Learn the nuanced art of influence and bring people along for the ride. Lean into communication. I’d make all that boring.
Also, leaders in particular need to exert patience with all this and help their people traverse over to the new beginning. Realize that you can’t just snap us into place into the new beginning, instantly. Make patience boring.
Make it boring in your immediate team to have retrospectives and actually talk about your team’s composition. Is there a particular change in your team that you all think you should make to help you better manage your work or feelings of productivity or focus? Make it boring to strategize about that, and come up with a new beginning for your team.
The key to success with reteaming is to focus on the people. Make that the habit. Make that boring.
Thanks for reading my newsletter. Here’s how I can help you.
I’m taking on new consulting clients, and since I’m now part of Artium, I can provide even more to you. Maybe you need to build your first product or move to something like continuous deployment? I can connect you in. I can also do a reteaming needs analysis, or help you through one. Reach out via email. (And by the way, this newsletter contains my views and not Artium’s).
Check out Dynamic Reteaming, the second edition, wherever you like to buy books. The second edition is now on Audible.
I have a draft of my next book, Being a Sr. Engineering Leader - The Hourglass of Relationship Building and Communication completed. Not gonna lie, it still needs a lot of work, but I am sharing it with people who want to provide me feedback to make it better. If you would like to give me feedback on it, email me or reach out on Linked In or Mastodon.