Solving a conflict between a team of back-end engineers and a team of ops engineers

Sébastien Preneta

Vp of Engineering at Innovorder



As VP of Engineering at Happn, I lead a team of three ops engineers and a team of seven back-end engineers. There were many conflicts between the two teams. The developers were criticized by the ops team for not paying attention to the deployment process, and the ops team argued that giving them rights was too dangerous. On the other side, the ops team was criticized by the developers team for not being responsible and accountable for the deployment in production. I needed to help them solve this conflict and to stop this squabble.

Actions taken

First, I gathered an equal number of ops engineering and back-end engineers (three from each team) and tried to lighten the mood between the two teams by making them talk about similar things. I built pairs with one person from each team and asked them to compliment each other's work for one minute. For this exercise, they sat back-to-back, and while one person spoke the other listened. Second, I had them use the "Six thinking hats method". They all had to express their feelings on some post-it notes put in a hat, and also their ideas about how to solve issues. Six distinct categories were identified and assigned a color:

  • Managing Blue – What is the goal?
  • Information White – What are the facts?
  • Emotions Red – Intuitive or instinctive reactions without justification
  • Discernment Black – Logic applied to identifying reasons of problems
  • Optimistic response Yellow – Logic applied to identifying benefits of situations
  • Creativity Green – Statements of provocation and creativity. We then used these notes to identify action plans to solve the conflict. Each action plan was assigned to a pair of engineers (one op engineer and one dev engineer). At the end of the meeting, we had accountable engineers who were dedicated to make things happen. I also organized some 10-15 minute meetings every two weeks to follow-up on the action plans.

Lessons learned

Once we agreed on the action plans, the teams began to resolve their conflicts. It didn't happen overnight, but it got better. The three lessons I learned from this is that:

  • To solve a conflict between two teams, it's usually better to gather them in the same room with equal numbers of people.
  • These management techniques don't always work, but they do if there is one prerequisite: the teams both have a common objective to make things better.
  • Actions plans and accountability is key, but follow-up meetings are as important as identifying the action plans. -

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Sébastien Preneta

Vp of Engineering at Innovorder

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