How do participants feel about annual reteaming?

We’ve found that people appreciate having a strong influence on their destination during team reorganizations and that self-selection reteaming places people into teams they are happy to be part of. But there are difficulties to be aware of and, as with everything, there’s always room for improvement.

In January 2021 we completed our 3rd annual reteaming process at Redgate. In previous posts I have described the principles of our approach to reteaming – to give our staff a strong influence over the team they are part of and the work they do – and detailed the process we apply. In this post I’ll talk about how participants have experienced the process.

After each Annual Reteaming we asked our development team members for their feedback. What they’ve told us has been broadly positive each time but has also highlighted areas for improvement that we’ve been able focus on in subsequent years. We’ve tuned the process to make it as smooth and timely as possible for the organization but also as comfortable as possible for our people. For instance, our first reteaming happened during December which many people found difficult because they had a decent about of holiday booked during that month, so they missed some of the context for decision-making and felt a bit rushed. For each year since, reteaming has taken place in January when virtually everyone is back at work and can fully engage in the activity.

Feedback from our first annual reteaming in 2019

What is absolutely clear from feedback each year is that people far prefer being consulted and involved in these kind of team reorganizations than being moved around by an arbitrary people moving machine (see the below feedback from our first reteaming)!

A close up of the arbitrary people moving machine feedback

Our latest reteaming was our first fully-remote process, so feedback via post-it notes and a whiteboard was not possible! Instead we used an internal survey to gather peoples experiences and observations on the activity.

Here are some of the key results (summarizing the responses from Likert scale questions):

The above shows that:

  • The vast majority of survey respondents were happy with their personal outcome from reteaming (87% agree, 13% neutral, 0% disagree)
  • Respondents were comfortable with the shape of their team and feel they have gelled quickly
  • Respondents felt they had the information and support they needed during the process
  • As a group, we think taking this approach of giving people a strong influence over where they work is a good thing
  • A significant proportion of people (39%) felt anxious about the reteaming process at some point.

That’s mostly good news, but we were obviously drawn to the insight that reteaming can cause anxiety and stress for employees. That’s even though we have always been very mindful of the anxiety caused by organisational changes and why we offer a 1-2-1 coaching conversation for every single person that is part of the reteaming process. It’s our way of ensuring participants have a supportive thinking partner while they consider their team preferences and personal development aims. We also broadly follow the ADKAR change management model to help people become more comfortable with reteaming by explaining the reasons for why we do it, giving them as much information as possible about the process and the teams they can be part of, working with them to shape the team changes, supporting their decision-making process and helping them segue smoothly into their new teams.

A sympathetic solution to the anxiety reported to some might be to say, “Ok, we’ll stop annual reteaming then”, but that wouldn’t be in service of a central principle we hold dear in product development at Redgate – the ambition to give people autonomy, mastery and purpose. It also would not reflect the reality that reteaming, the changing and forming of teams, will always be necessary. People will leave teams, join teams & move teams, and organizations will look to change the shape of their team structure to meet emerging needs. As Heidi Helfand says in her book Dynamic Reteaming, “team change in inevitable, so we might as well get good at it”.

Cancelling deliberate reteaming would also not help break down team silos, create personal development opportunities or spread good practice. No, self-selection reteaming is here to stay, but we should minimize the level of unnecessary anxiety (or dis-stress) caused by a reorganization process like reteaming. While individuals should naturally become more comfortable with the process once they have been through reteaming once, as they’ll know what to expect in subsequent years, we should also strive to reduce anxiety for people new to the activity. For instance, this year we suspect it would have helped if we’d been clearer that people who were happy where they are, and wanted to stay in their current team, would be able to do so. This was actually a principle from the team-forming process lead by our development managers, so in the end everyone who wanted to stay on in a team did just that. But next time we’ll be sure to explicitly call this aim out.

The key point is that, as with any reorganization process, self-selection reteaming can still generate anxiety for participants. It’s therefore paramount that leaders have a deep empathy for their people throughout, and are considerate of the uncertainty and worry that may be being created for some. While the team changes may be necessary, dis-stress is not, and we should do everything we can to ameliorate people’s concerns and reduce discomfort.

If you have any more questions about reteaming at Redgate then check out my FAQ post here.

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