Getting Team Buy-in To Improve

Sebastian Fröstl

Engineering Manager at Atlassian



"One of the latest challenges I have faced is starting as a new manager of an existing team at Atlassian. The team had had a leader before, but he wasn't very focused on people management. What I found was a very dysfunctional team without clear goals. Everybody was basically working on their own projects and their planning meetings never really set out their sprint goals. In addition, the team hadn't bonded together very much."

Actions taken

"This situation was really difficult at first. I decided to step back, and instead of taking immediate action, I first spent time observing the team from both the inside and outside taking notes. To do this, I set up one-on-ones with each of my direct reports and started building relationships with them."

"Because my team was a platform team building a platform that multiple product teams were utilizing, I also looked at the team from the outside. I developed a questionnaire for those teams and asked team leads, managers and developers to fill it out. Based on feedback from this questionnaire, I was able to see the image my team had from the outside."

"After a couple of weeks, I was able to share my observations. I wrote a blog post and involved people by sharing observations I had made with them. Based on this, I made recommendations and took action. The first action I took was to run a workshop with the team to reorganize the way we planned. I had come to realize through my one-on-ones that the team was also unhappy with their method of planning. Not much progress was being made, so they questioned why they were even doing the work they were doing. In the workshop I stated the problem - we weren't making progress, we weren't effective as a team, and the team was unclear of what its goals were."

"I shared the problems I had observed and then the team brainstormed about the problems they were facing. The team then paired up to develop ideas for solutions and presented them to the whole group. We decided to start by only implementing the two or three most important solutions and then over time, we would add more. We also agreed to have a retrospective afterward to evaluate whether the solutions had solved the issues we had been facing."

Lessons learned

"The team is now in a very healthy state. The way we plan and run projects has completely changed, but all of the ideas for change came from within the team."

"As a new leader, forcing your solutions on your new team is a terrible idea. When starting at an organization as a new manager, don't freak out and try to change everything at once. Be methodical and involve your team in decision making. If the team doesn't accept the problem, they won't agree to change."

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Sebastian Fröstl

Engineering Manager at Atlassian

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementSprint CadencePerformance MetricsMentorship ProgramsPerformance Reviews

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