What’s the most important factor when structuring an engineering team for rapid growth? Many tech companies would say communication.
Fostering open and transparent lines of communication ensures that when teams are stretched too thin, engineering leaders know why, where and when the problem is occurring. Johnnie Thurston, director of engineering at Arrive Logistics, said team feedback serves as the catalyst for reevaluating the effectiveness of existing structures.
“I can speak for all of the engineering leadership at Arrive in saying that our biggest indicator that it is time for a change is always our people,” Thurston said. “As leaders, we rarely have all the answers, and it is vital that we listen more than we speak.”
Communication is also key for successfully executing a restructuring. Employees are much more likely to accept change if they are given an opportunity to shape it through feedback. Roy Shamir, VP of engineering at LeanDNA, sought insight from his team when implementing a restructuring and credits it for helping create a smooth transition.
“One of the most critical steps in this process was to involve everyone when making the plans for these new teams,” Shamir said. “We started with collecting feedback and discussing career goals with each engineer and having substantial discussions with our product team.”
Thurston, Shamir, and Care.com CTO Ryan Safarian have all restructured engineering teams for growth and know how valuable communication is in pulling such a major move off. They recently sat down with us to share their experience and advice.
Johnnie Thurston, Director of Engineering
When did you know it was time to reevaluate the structure of your engineering team? What were the biggest indicators?
Steering a big ship is an adventure in patience, and every engineering organization has lofty goals counterbalanced by legacy software. At Arrive, we are fixated on building the next generation of our products, as well as the teams who will own them. That kind of massive growth requires that we carefully consider our goals and which team structures support those goals.
How did you determine the right structure for your team, knowing that team would see rapid growth in the coming months? And ultimately, how did you decide to structure your team?
At Arrive, we have adopted the textbook agile pod mantra: Gather a group of talented engineers, designers and product managers and give them full ownership over a slice of our larger software goals. Our engineers are domain experts and we celebrate specialization and encourage our people to dive deep into their careers.
Anticipating organizational growth is challenging at the best of times, and as the pandemic continues to shift engineering best practices and organizational strategies around the globe, we are all relearning how to responsibly lead software teams, mentor engineers and maintain a culture that encourages innovation.
What steps did you take to ensure a smooth transition to the new team structure? How did your engineers influence the process?
Most leaders in software follow a similar North Star: “How do I build an engineering culture that becomes the envy of every engineer in town?” Our approach at Arrive is an exceedingly flat org chart. Give everyone a seat at the decision table, then be quiet and listen.
Our teams are the core unit of decision-making. All our values are centered around the team. That trust inspires our biases toward responsibility, independence and diversity. Our engineers don’t influence the process — they are the process.
Photo credit: Built in Austin. Read the complete, original article here.