In January 2021 Redgate’s product development organisation will undertake a “reteaming” process to reconfigure how our teams are assigned to reflect the company’s strategy for 2021. Our approach to these team changes will allow people to strongly influence where in the new team structure they will work, encouraging them to move towards the work they find most engaging.
We’ve applied a team self-selection process for the last two years in preparation for changes to development team assignments in 2019 and 2020. Overall, the process has garnered good feedback from team members, team leaders and divisional leadership. Although we are still able to flex our team structure part way through the year, our reteaming in January has in the main successfully shaped how are teams are organised for the following 12 months.
At the start of this year, our 2020 reteaming process resulted in everyone in the division sitting in their new teams and working in service of our 2020 product strategies by 27th January. 34% of people in the division moved teams or roles, with almost every team having team members leave or new team members join. 97% of people in the division ended up in a team they expressed a first or second preference for and 83% were in a team that was their first preference. Our new or significantly changed teams all hit the ground running; they gelled quickly, new missions were enacted, and valuable software delivered to our users without missing a beat. A testament to the attitude and engagement of everyone involved in the process.
This week I have given everyone in Product Development a heads-up that we’ll be running a reteaming process again in January 2021. We’ll be taking a similar approach, but this time we’ll be doing everything remotely (more on that later). There’s no need for any of our people to do anything just yet, but we’re giving them a heads-up so they can wrap their heads around what is coming. We’ll explicitly kick off the process when we have enough information from our strategy and planning process to be able to create 2021 team charters for our development teams. A Team Charter is a document that defines a team’s purpose, what they are responsible for and what we expect work to be like in the team — you can see the template for our charters, below.
We won’t have all this information for our teams in 2021 until nearer the end of this year. In the meantime, Redgaters may want to chat with their line manager in the coming weeks to explore their personal development aims in preparation for reteaming. At Redgate, we have a large portfolio of products, written in a variety of languages, structured in a variety of ways and that exist at various stages of the product life cycle. That’s a lot of variety, and people may favour some combinations over others. They may also see a change of combinations, moving to work in an area that is brand new to them, as an opportunity for personal growth. It’s also entirely reasonable for them to decide they want to stay in their current team and, in fact, we’ll need many people to do that in order to provide continuous support and delivery of our existing products and solutions.
Why we use a self-selection style “reteaming” technique
It is significantly more effort for us to create the environment, share the information and manage the process that allows people to have a strong influence over which team they work in. However, we gladly invest that time and effort because we believe doing so aligns with our principle that people will be most engaged and motivated in their work if they have autonomy, mastery and purpose. In the case of reteaming that means autonomy over what work they do, the space to gain mastery or develop their skills and to work in service of a clear purpose they understand and believe in.
We have also found that deliberate reteaming spreads knowledge, best practice and innovation throughout our teams, as people joining a new team bring techniques, skills and insights from their previous team with them. It also spreads social connections throughout the organisation and helps break down team silos. While there is theoretically a hit to team efficacy and cohesion when team members change, we’ve found that by improving our reteaming techniques and setting reasonable expectations of handover, if there is a hit at all it is very short-term. Put simply, we’ve found the benefits to teams outweigh the drawbacks.
We have seen that moves can also enable people to level up and encourage personal development. In the last two years, many Redgaters have moved teams to place themselves where they can gain new skills and build their capabilities.
Furthermore, self-selection reteaming is championed by leading figures in the software development community, like Dan North and Heidi Helfand. This collaborative, team member-driven approach to building teams is an increasingly common characteristic of high performing software development organisations. In fact, earlier this year, we were very pleased to learn that Redgate and our approach to reteaming was featured in the 2nd edition of Heidi’s book, Dynamic Reteaming. In the book we are recognised as a progressive organisation and that we’re doing self-selection reteaming as well as anyone else in the industry right now. Which is something we are pretty proud of.
How reteaming at Redgate works
Our approach to reteaming in January 2021 will be broadly the same as it was last time. We’ll:
- Share the overall 2021 plans for product development, including where each team’s purpose will remain the same and where it will change
- Confirm leadership roles around our teams first (many of which will not change from 2020 teams)
- Build team charters to define what life will be like in each team in 2021
- Run an open session for people to explore team charters, chat to product leadership groups and explore their options in depth
- Gather individual’s preferences for which team they would like to be part of in 2021
- Assemble a team structure that meets as many people’s preferences as possible while ensuring we have teams that can meet the needs of product strategies
- Organise new team member start dates and handover with an aim for new team structure to be in place by late January 2021
- Facilitate team-building activities to help new groups form
As before, we’ll be looking to balance people’s individual preferences with the needs of the development teams and Redgate. We’ll ask people to tell us their first and second preferences for their team and the reasoning behind those preferences, but we won’t be able to make guarantees we can meet those as we’ll need to take a step back to see how people’s preferences line up with the big picture we needed to support. For the last two years around a third of people moved teams and I’m sure we will be able to support that level of movement again in the New Year.
Throughout, we’ll endeavour to be open and transparent about the process and highly considerate of people’s preference and concerns. My development managers team and I make ourselves available at any time during the process to chat with people one-on-one about reteaming and their preferences.
What we’ll do differently this time
This time all activities for reteaming will take place virtually. Regardless of national lockdown measures, no one will need to come into the office to take part in the reteaming process. Overall strategy presentations will be streamed, Team Charters will be created electronically (I’m looking at you, Mural), the collaborate open session will be hosted online (checkout SpatialChat for a tool that can help with these kind of events) and we’ll be supporting individuals to consider their team options via one-on-one Zoom calls.
Want to know more?
There are a couple of blog posts available that describe our first reteaming process in detail, explaining in more detail why we wanted to run a self-selection process and how we did it. They may be of particular interest to leaders keen to increase the transparency of their team changes processes and give people more influence over what they work on:
If anyone has any comments or questions, please do reach out and let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.