One Culture, One Organization, One Mission… Post-Acquisition

Wadah Sayyed

Engineering Manager at Forrester



When my startup was acquired, our organization was doubled in size almost overnight and an existing division was reassigned wholesale to the new product to accelerate our roadmap.

I took on the task of bringing together 50+ startup engineers and 50+ transitioned engineers and creating one team. On the surface, it seemed that the two cultures were polar opposite. However, when double-clicking into each side, there were a lot of similarities in terms of talent level and passion for delivering value for the business. My challenge was to spread this view across the entire organization.

Actions taken

I established a “huddle” of technical and people leaders from both sides, making sure that each member of the huddle had equal footing in discussing and sharing ideas and issues. I also established a standard process for planning and execution, which consolidated us as one unit that operates with one set of standards. That helped stakeholders understand how these groups would come together to deliver value for the business.

Furthermore, I established one-on-ones with key people from the huddle and outside to ensure a fluid, two-way flow of information between those key players and me. I initially used one-on-ones to exchange information and gain trust, but as those relationships grew stronger, they became opportunities for coaching as well.

Celebrating small wins together was particularly important. When a team would hit a milestone, I made sure everyone celebrated it with the team.

As we were spread over three major geographies, I made sure people visited each other quarterly. We rotated people through the process to stay within the travel budget. However, my VP was aware of the purpose and supportive of our plan.

I also ran all-hands to share our roadmap with the entire team and made myself available to anyone who wanted to reach out and provide feedback. That resulted in many one-on-one requests and even more emails that didn’t change the roadmap substantially but helped our engineers establish direct contact with me and thus get to a certain comfort level for future communications.

Finally, I created and shared my V2MOM (Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles, and Measures) for the organization. Creating V2MOM was a powerful tool to paint the destination we were trying to get to, but more importantly, to acknowledge the obstacles we need to work through. The process also helped me outline my commitment to removing obstacles and acting as an enabler for the team. I made sure to describe the V2MOM in the attributes I live by and look for in my teammates.

Lessons learned

  • The charity principle is ever so important, especially in welcoming new groups in and onboarding them wholesale.
  • Don’t take sides in one-on-ones unless you’re willing to do it in front of the entire team. Even then, make sure to side with the right idea rather than a person from your startup tribe.
  • The transformation of culture is far more challenging than delivering on a roadmap. Make sure as a leader to carve time and energy for both. Winning the culture battle will deliver the roadmap.

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Wadah Sayyed

Engineering Manager at Forrester

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsLeadership TrainingPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesCareer Growth

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