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Gaining Team Insights During Restructuring

Leadership
Internal Communication
Reorganization
Health / Stress / Burn-Out

15 May, 2018

Justin Hennessy
Justin Hennessy

VP Engineering at neto.com.au

Justin Hennessy describes the method he used to get a better pulse in terms of how his engineering team was feeling when they went through a restructure.

Problem

Neto's engineering team is currently going through a restructure to realign our technical teams with our business outcomes. This was triggered by Neto securing round three of its funding, as it allowed us to bring more people on. This has allowed us to start recruiting in the engineering space. However, change is disruptive and my leadership team and I faced quite a challenging time, as there had been a lot of mixed messages about how the team felt about the change and some people were a little uncertain and unsettled.

Actions taken

Post-funding the business was in flux and it was about a month before we could tell our staff what streams they would focus on and how big their teams would be. Because of this, a number of people reported feeling a little unsettled. To try to get a better pulse on what was going on, we tried a team temperature survey, which gave us a 1-10 gauge of whether our staff were satisfied within their current teams, and a 1-10 gauge of how satisfied they were with the Technology Team (which included SRE, Engineering, and Product) in order to get an understanding of how our people felt about both within and outside of their teams. Finally, we also asked them to use three words to describe how they had felt over the last two to three weeks, and out of this created a word cloud. We have a technology all-hands meeting every two weeks, so we shared the results of the survey in this meeting. Going into this, we had been a little anxious about the results and we thought there would be a lot of negatives. However, the word cloud we created using the words our engineering team provided had a lot of positive words, and our scores on our survey were higher than expected. The word cloud, in particular, highlighted that while there had been a bit of frustration, people were enjoying new challenges and learning new things.

Lessons learned

Don't jump at shadows - we thought the problem was much bigger than it was. This was a really good exercise becaise it helped us to get a gauge of how the engineering team felt as a whole. The overall feeling of satisfaction was quite high, despite there being a fair amount of uncertainty within the team. The team changes we made were consultative but may not have been consultative enough for a broader audience. When trying to come up with team structures, find the balance of making the process inclusive while avoiding design by committee.

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