Book Review: Dynamic Reteaming

Dynamic Reteaming

Author(s)

Heidi Helfand


My Rating

star star star star
"Long-lived teams aren't a best practice. Heidi shows why with fantastic stories and patterns we can all learn from."

I love what Heid has done with this book. She's gone to town on disproving a couple of major 'best practices' regarding team design. Through patterns, personal stories, and interviews with a range of people across many organisations, Heidi puts these two best practices to the sword:

  1. Teams should be long-lived and stable
  2. Management should design teams

Chances are you believe strongly in one or both of these 'best practices', especially if you're a manager, and right now you're feeling pretty defensive. But you shouldn't be, because Dynamic Reteaming provides you with an opportunity to increase the productivity of your teams by giving them more autonomy.

Dynamic Reteaming Patterns

You have to respect Heidi's experience and expertise. She's worked in tech for a long time in an a whole range of roles. She's seen a lot of teams from a lot of different perspectives. And she's put her experience to fabulous use by formulating a collection of organisation design patterns... and anti-patterns.

One pattern Heidi introduces is the mitosis pattern, where a team grows and grows until it becomes too large and splits into two teams. Another pattern she introduces is the isolated innovation pattern, where we form a new highly autonomous team to work on something completely new. Even if you're familiar with these patterns, it's just so beneficial to have a name we can refer to them by in conversation.

I chuckled at one point reading this book. Heidi talks about an anti-pattern she's seen where managers will spread out the most talented people. Heidi calls this the percentage anti-pattern. It reminded me of a time I wasn't allowed to work on the same team as somebody else because we were both at the same pay-grade. It was frustrating at the time, though, because I really wanted to work with the person.

All of the patterns are explained in the context of stories. And not just personal stories - to put this book together Heidi has gone out and interviewed a lot of people from very different companies, and those interviews add so much insight and variety.

Humanistic

On so many occassions in my career, the process of defining teams and deciding who works where has been decided by management behind closed doors based on technical and economical factors with little consideration for the people themselves.

I'm not a fan of these hierarchical approaches at all, but even I was suprised by some of the quite extreme stories in this book of companies who have given their teams complete control of what teams are needed and who works on each team. A glimpse of the future, I am convinced.

Again, Heidi made me chuckle where she talks about examples of teams who were so large that their standups were so long and boring, or teams where it felt like there were two separate teams stuck together as one.

I've experienced both of these problems, too, and they are important humanistic cues that should affect the design of our teams as much as economical or technical factors.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and I hope that the patterns will become mainstream. That means you need to read the book to learn about them.

Highlights

"we are used to managers controlling our team structures, our team assignments and the like. it really doesn’t have to be that way."


"people bring new ideas and perspectives when they change teams. there is great intellectual power to team change."


"innovation by isolation reteaming pattern [1. isolated, separate team 2. process freedom 3. working on something new]"


"when teams get too big, meetings start getting longer and more challenging to facilitate, its harder to get agreement and you might notice less participation from some people on teams"


"if you’re switching from a team that you send bugs to to the team that you’re now on, you definitely start to realize that we’re on the same boat together."


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My Books

Designing Autonomous Teams and Services
Patterns, Principles and Practices of Domain-Driven Design
The Strategic Practices of Domain-Driven Design