How to handle a company reorg?!

Disclaimer: all ideas are mine. I don’t talk on behalf of any company and don’t represent anyone else’s opinions.

So your company decided to do a reorganization — shuffle teams and staffs. The situation is specially tricky when the company haven’t figured out the exact details. Some people react as if everything they used to know and love is going to hell overnight.

  • Will I keep my job? What if they lay off my team?
  • Will I be forced to leave the tech stack I spent so much time to learn?
  • Will I like my new colleagues? My new manager?
  • Do I have to prove myself to the new crew?
  • etc.

I don’t claim to have the answer to all those questions because every company and reorganization is different but before I start, let’s take a look at this:

These are some [lucky] Syrian children after adults forced them into a new lifestyle under a civil war. Now that is a change that’s hard to cope with. If you’re working in the IT industry, the change wouldn’t probably be as dramatic — you can always change jobs! But let’s say you’re loyal to your company. How can we make life easier?

In this article, I’ll share my own experience dealing with change plus some quotes and stories.

Learn from that dude in black shirt 👆

Yep! He probably figured it out! I don’t know that dude but look at how he’s posing for the camera of some random photographer while the rest of the kids are probably chatting about the disaster that’s surrounding them.

Change is the only constant in life — Heraclitus

BHAG!

A few years ago I was working at an online retail company who had seen better days. It was bought by a Canadian company to expand their business to the nordic and European region but soon after the acquisition, many key people left. I joined the company after one of their web developers left and there was an opening. The CEO called for a rather expensive meeting where the whole company was invited to a 2-day long brainstorming event to come up with something called BHAG standing for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. It was amazing to see how the old employees came up with minor ideas that was just a bit different from what they have been doing for years. I, being new to the company also came up with some ideas but was “convinced” by the others that they are too radical. The majority were really not up for a change (this highlights the need for internal communication which is another issue). I left the company as it didn’t feel like I can make any difference. A few months later the CEO quit and this time a French company took over the broken ship. I haven’t heard much about their brand ever since.

We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. — Albert Einstein

Welcome it

The only way to enjoy a change is to truly embrace it. I can’t emphasize this enough and there are books written about it (my favorite: Who moved my cheese? by Spencer Johnson). But… what does it exactly mean to embrace the change?

Start from within

We humans are very limited creatures. Our perception of the world is limited by the spectrum of what our 5 senses pass to our heavily filtering neural networks only to be processed by 1.5kg of fat where the results are stored in a heavily filtered memory. That’s why no two people have exactly the same interpretation of the world or even the simplest event.

It’s up to you how you interpret the change. This story does a great job at explaining what I mean:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.”It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil — he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you — and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”

He replied, “The one you feed.”

Adapt to it

This is not just about companies and jobs. In nature, the species that adapt, survive. Tigers didn’t make it, but cats did. Yes, yes, it’s more complicated than that. 🐅 couldn’t suddenly remove their expensive coat and walk around in pyjamas and 🐈 (despite being mysterious) probably didn’t consciously decide to be cute! Some may say they did but whatever! 😸

The ability to adapt to new conditions has probably never been as crucial as it is today. Do you know print designers who failed to go digital and ended up jobless? How about all those retailers whose market is swallowed by Amazon? This happens all the time. It’s important to be aware of it and make an effort to adapt. It’s not gonna be easy. Sometimes your world view changes, sometimes you find yourself at very uncomfortable unfamiliar situations but overall, that old nature rule dominates your survival: the ability to adapt.

Fortunately human beings are one of the most versatile creatures. So put that 150 Zettabytes of DNA into work, will ya?

Influence it

There’s nothing worse than being passive in a change. Your role might be small but in hard times you can win a lot by showing your best side. Think about all the things that frustrated you at work or at the current organization structure. Then try to pick the things you can influence to make it better. The company may choose another way, but at least you’re heard. And that counts big time.

When a system is stable, it’s hard to change it significantly. The easiest time to leave a mark is when the system has recognized the need for a change and is open to it. When other people see disaster, you can see opportunities. Own them!

Keep the good parts

As much as it is important to raise your voice for things that didn’t work out, it is crucial to mention the things that worked well. A reorg may change a lot of things and if there are not enough positive feedback, the steering community may actually take away the good stuff. So think about the things that you like and make sure relevant people know about it.

Appreciate it

Believe it or not, many companies, small or big go down because they fail to adapt themselves to the market. Remember how Microsoft lost the browser post-war to Google Chrome or how Palm lost its innovative WebOS to HP and then LG? Think about how Nokia stuck to Symbian too stubbornly and lost the smartphone market to iOS and Android, two operating systems that didn’t even exist when they had the upper hand in that market.

Microsoft, under Satya Nadella changed focus to a cloud-first approach. Its Edge browser (despite suffering from lack of trust from the web development community) is a much better browser than their IE and in some ways better than the market leading Chrome. (BTW, his last book is all about dealing with change at the organization level).

Nokia got over its hatred and came back with Android (I’ll sure buy one).

And WebOS? Didn’t make it to the PDA market but found a few million users who buy LG TVs.

But some companies don’t make it. Intel lost the mobile revolution. SAAB and Motorola got drained from their patents only to find new owners. Yahoo? Well, somebody got a golden parachute package (anecdotally).

We’re living at amazing times. The marketplace has never been so dynamic. New players come and old players go. In order to survive in such an environment, companies have to change. They have to evolve. If you’re working at a company which doesn’t change with the same pace, you’re sitting in a sinking boat.

Be the change that you wish to see in the world.

Mahatma Gandhi

Back to that little guy 👆. Will he let the war that’s out of his control eat him up? Or will he grow to be the father to the next generation of thriving Syrian children? Only time will show… I don’t even know the guy! 😃 But wish him the best!

If you’re serious about making a good change, I highly recommend Satya Nadella’s “Hit Refresh” specially in Audible format which is partially narrated by himself.

Knowledge Worker, MSc Systems Engineering, Tech Lead, Web Developer