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Gradual, Transparent Scaling Of Teams

Erik Barbara

Engineering Director at Duo Security

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Problem

Recently, I was faced with splitting a team of 12 developers that had grown too large for me to manage individually into two separate teams with different specialties and focuses.

Actions taken

Instead of just surprising the team about the split, I decided to have early discussions with the team in order to warn them about the issues we were facing in terms of scale, as well as the organizational change they were going to undergo.

"When it comes to change management and scaling a team, the sooner you're able to start discussing what the future looks like with your team, the more appreciative they will be and the less of a whiplash reaction they will have."

These started as very informal discussions when the team consisted of just eight people. I knew we would continue to hire, so six months before the teams were split I began having discussions with direct reports in one-on-ones. I explained that within the year we were going to have grown to the size where I wouldn't be able to effectively manage everyone. I also explained I was planning on splitting the team into two and hiring another manager to take over the management of one of the teams.

This helped to provide my team with transparency about what was going to happen organizationally in the future and prevented them from freaking out about what was going to happen. The details weren't concrete, so I was open about this and explained that I didn't know who was going where yet. What I found was that people responded well to me being upfront about what I didn't know.

I would check in every month or so to provide updates and more details, such as that one team would be focussed on data engineering and the other would be focussed on our core op indication platform within our product. I then solicited feedback on which team they'd be more interested in by asking them about their career interests and what they wanted to do. While I couldn't guarantee where they would end up, I wanted to hear their thoughts.

About three months out from the split, I had a number of one-on-one meetings to explain what I was thinking about team splits, so I could gather their feedback and hear their thoughts. Once this was discussed with them individually, we were able to discuss it in a group meeting so everyone could talk about it openly.

From there, we started actively recruiting for the new team's manager. By the time we hired the new manager, everyone was ready for the split to occur and excited for what was to come.

Lessons learned

When it comes to change management and scaling a team, the sooner you're able to start discussing what the future looks like with your team, the more appreciative they will be and the less of a whiplash reaction they will have. Over time, gradually introduce more details as you learn them. You don't have to have all the answers up front, but the more transparent you are, the better they will respond.


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Erik Barbara

Engineering Director at Duo Security


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