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How I Reduced Silos And Increased Team Productivity

Leadership
Scaling Team
Team processes
Productivity
Collaboration
Internal Communication

27 April, 2018

Edmond Lau decided to change the structure of his team so everybody reported to him, in order to reduce silos. He explains how.

Problem

When I took over WorldGaming in May 2015, I had a team of 12 people. There were four QA's, one project manager, one person working in operations, and everyone else was developers. The team, as well as the company, was very siloed, very crowded and very process driven.

Actions taken

I took a month to observe what was going on in the team and then decided to have everybody report to me, as opposed to having several separate teams. I then started growing the team out accordingly. By Q1 of 2016, I had a team of 26 people, with two product managers, five QAs, and the rest of the team being developers or working in operations. When issues happened there was a lot of blame passed between the QA's and our Ops. I used this as a learning opportunity for the team to sort out our communication, and managed to solve a lot of the politics. This approach was useful - over the course of 12 months in 2016 we were able to launch 14 major features to production and were able to push to production about 100 times in a year. However, there were some challenges. I had a self-managing (holacrazy) team, but not every member could be self-managed. Some team members needed help in learning how to manage time and collaborate better. So, from my standpoint as a manager, having one-on-one's with these types of developers was challenging. I was also managing 26 people directly, which meant I was having 26 monthly one-on-ones for a year and a half. This took a lot of effort on my part and the hours I had to put in were substantial. Because I still had to manage architecture, the investors, marketing and sales, and external-facing integrations. This meant time management was crucial.

Lessons learned

If a manager can't manage their own time well, they probably shouldn't use this model of management. However, if you are comfortable with good time management, this approach can be really useful from a velocity and cooperation standpoint. Your team's collective intelligence can be much more effective than a manager making all of the team's decisions. When there is a tiebreaker needed, I will step in, but most of the time I trust my team to be smart enough to make the right decisions. Through using this structure, my team was much more productive, could deploy more frequently, and a bunch of silos were removed.


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