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Product Organization Structure in a Growing Company

Managing Expectations
Large Number of Reports
Agile / Scrum
Career Path

25 June, 2019

Sergey Barysiuk, CTO and co-founder at Pandadoc, details the negative changes in speed, communication, and processes due to team organizational structure as his company began to grow. He then describes how a restructure in the organization made all the difference.

Problem

As people naturally grow in a horizontal fashion, things often begin to slow down. A lot of that extra information needs to be managed between different teams and becomes quite difficult. In our case, we had small autonomous teams of five people which were composed of engineers, QA's, and designers while being managed by product managers. These teams would work on features and connect with all the necessary people in order to launch those features. This worked perfectly on a smaller scale, but we got to a point in our growth where it became hard to align all of those teams in one direction. We also felt that we started slowing down because teams were now taking on smaller tasks due to limited resources and were unable to take on something larger and more ambitious.

Actions taken

We decided to restructure the organization by creating four bigger units of anywhere from 10 to 20 people, rather than the eight smaller teams we originally started with. We made sure to focus those units on specific functional areas of the product in order to maintain their breadth. Another adjustment we made was to cut the many existing communication channels and just kept a bigger communication channel open to allow the freedom for teams to decide internally. Each unit is managed by a senior engineering manager and a product manager. The senior engineering manager is responsible for engineering, delivery, and people management, whereas the product manager is in charge of product, discovery, and concepts that go to the market. Both managers work together as a team or essentially a small company to manage everyone within these units.

Lessons learned

  • We learned that product and project management were taking care of very different types of tasks and that it is very hard to find people who can do it all. In this way, we found that people are really only good at one or two specific areas and in some cases was the cause for our problems in process and delivery on one end and output on the other end.
  • It is very hard to find people who can do product, project, and people management. It can be done on a smaller scale, but then you have all the drawbacks of a flat organization.
  • By creating larger units, we can now take on more sizeable projects. Those within the units can go on a mission to build something and go back to reform if needed on a per quarter basis without the need of new management.
  • This process eliminated all of the communication problems because the smaller issues are now solved inside the unit without having to seek help from others. It also fostered a sense of freedom and flexibility to do certain things. Engineers started taking on more ambitious skills because they can more easily manage their workload. It became easier and a bit competitive in a positive way where they could deliver something and be proud of what they had done.

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