On Building Impactful Teams

Jacob Meacham

SVP | Head of Engineering at Mindbody



"I took over a team that hadn't been in my management chain. There was no one else who was available to take it on so I took it on directly. However, the team was a mess and was seen as a poorly performing group. The project that they were working on was 6 + months past due, there were morale issues, along with other significant issues like poor communication. The situation was further compounded because the team's previous manager stepped out of the role and back down into an IC role, on the same team, which had the potential to make matters even worse."

Actions taken

"I began by looking at what deliverables the team was attempting to take on and I immediately eliminated those that weren't providing enough value. I did this very clearly and publicly. I had a meeting with the stakeholders where I went through line-by-line the items we were keeping and the items I was axing. Additionally, I told them that we would be deliberately not achieving two of the three company OKRs. This was a challenging meeting to have, and I definitely received some heat from it, but it was necessary. The outcome was that everybody agreed on the path that we would be going down. Then, in the spirit of making incremental changes over time that can begin showing impact right away, I started evolving team structures to solve the major issue of lack of communication. I did so first by talking with everybody on the team in order to try and understand why they thought things weren't going as smoothly as possible. From these conversations I evolved some of the team meetings as well as evolving the ways we went about planning and executing on work so that these structures fostered more communication. Furtherstill, I assisted the team's product manager in growing her protection of the team's time. I helped her see where she could bolster the team to be more effective by taking responsibility for the team's output. This was opposed to simply identifying where the team stood and acknowledging the engineering portion. Lastly, after executing all of the above, I was able to determine resource gaps and so I added a couple of more resources to the team. Overall, it took around three months to turn the team around from being a huge failure into a productive humming engine. We delivered on the late project and hit the goal of achieving that single OKR. A couple of months later I handed the team off with its structures still intact. They are still one of the highest performing teams and are still getting a ton of work done. And as far as the manager who returned to an IC role, I gave him extra feedback and support. I wanted to make sure that he felt secure in his role, that he was happy, and that he was performing. In his mid-year review he ended up giving me feedback as well. I was moving to a different team and he appreciated my mentorship so much that he asked to transition to that team along with me."

Lessons learned

  • "The most important action that I took was identifying and aggressively going after the most important goals. No one really cares in six months if half a year ago you stopped an outage from happening or shipped a small feature. What people care about is that you got things done for the business, that you provided value."

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Jacob Meacham

SVP | Head of Engineering at Mindbody

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsLeadership TrainingPerformance ReviewsFeedback Techniques

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