My preferred approach for re-organisations

My overall preferred approach to re-organisations

Be transparent about re-org plans up front

4 bad reasons to not be transparent up-front:

  1. You don’t want to deal with it and would prefer to defer the pain;
  2. You assume the people are incompetent or immature (aka Theory X);
  3. You are (over)confident that you have all the expertise yourself;
  4. You don’t know what to do yet and you’re not comfortable exposing to others that you don’t have all the answers.”

1 valid reason: some kind of legal issue.

Barring legal issues, it’s better to be transparent up-front about re-organisation. This should include the rough process you intend to go through and a rough timeline. Being transparent shows that you respect people, allows you to recruit help, and avoids the “this came out of nowhere” problem.

Draft Share Decide

Even with a re-organisation, not everyone cares to be actively involved. It is also typically not efficient to have a lot of people involved from the get-go. You balance the forces better by having a smaller group draft the new org design before sharing for feedback.

The leadership team creates an initial draft product strategy.

The leadership team drafts a high-level product strategy so that the working group doesn’t need to start from scratch. This initial draft can also include any broader constraints to consider.

A cross-disciplinary North Star working group refines the draft into a TPDI strategy and a proposed org design.

The actual subject matter expertise and influence necessary for a successful re-org goes beyond the formal leadership team. The North Star working group should be cross-disciplinary, influential, and explicitly expected to act with the broader strategy in mind, not the specific team or discipline they belong to. It should be representative but still small enough to progress efficiently.

The goal of the North Star working group is to refine the draft into a cross-disciplinary TPDI (Tech Product Design Insights) strategy and a proposed org design.

The TPDI strategy and proposed org design is shared to the entire group for feedback.

The draft TPDI strategy and proposed org design are shared with the entire group (and potentially higher-level and/or peer leadership teams) for feedback.

This helps create buy-in as everyone has an opportunity to provide input. This is also an opportunity to detect any missed problems.

There may be more stages and rounds of this depending on the complexity of the situation and what comes up in feedback.

NOTE: a lot of unanticipated problems may suggest gaps in who should be in the North Star working group

Sign-up for teams

The best way to deal with the “I didn’t sign up for this”, lack of commitment problem, is to have people sign up.

Sign up with ranked preferences

  1. Share information about each team’s mission and the associated skills / roles required;
  2. Each person ranks which teams they prefer the most. Preferences are necessary due to limited spots.

Nudge and support behind the scenes

Behind the scenes, direct managers should be helping individuals think through their preference selections based on what they like to do, opportunities to develop skills, strategic priorities, etc.

Final allocation

The leadership team, and managers as-needed, resolve the preferences, limited spots, strategic priorities, etc. to create a final allocation.

NOTE: I’ve also seen this done in a more self-organised fashion where the participants themselves resolve the trade-offs. Which way you go here depends on context and the maturity of the participants.




Staff Agile Coach at Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl

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Jason Yip

Jason Yip

Staff Agile Coach at Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl

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