RDD. Re-org Driven Development. Spotting Red Flags in Organizational Health

May 08, 2023


The mere mention can send shivers down the spines of leaders and teams alike. They're often executed when the overall structure is beyond repair—the big shake-up.

In today's fast-paced tech landscape, organizational health is more crucial than ever. A strong, effective team holds the key to unlocking your company's potential. In this blog, we'll delve into the characteristics of high-performing teams and identify red flags that may signal the need for team evolution.

As Alan MacCormack astutely observed, "An org chart is the first architecture draft."

Good old Conway's law provides the mindset to establish a solid architecture. Organize teams as you want the system to look—before embarking on the journey, not after it's already falling apart.

Armed with a clear understanding of what healthy teams look like and staying alert to evolution triggers, you'll be well on your way to fostering a thriving and successful organization.

Characteristics of a Strong Team

  1. Size matters: A balanced team size of 4 to 7 people helps maintain open lines of communication and ensures that everyone has a voice.

  2. Dedication: The team can be funded with less than a 20% member change quarter over quarter, you're on the right track! This demonstrates a commitment to a product stream and sustainable progress.

  3. Boundaries: Adopting a domain-driven design approach ensures clear responsibilities and helps prevent confusion about who's in charge of what.

  4. Cognitive load: Manageable components lead to efficient work. By building, maintaining, and evolving a set of components that fit the cognitive load capability, teams can stay focused and productive.

  5. Cohesion: Autonomy, mastery, and purpose form a winning combination. High internal cohesion allows team members to take ownership of their work and fosters a sense of pride in their accomplishments.

  6. High-bandwidth internal communication: Practices like mobbing, pair programming, and design sessions are common behaviors to facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing.

  7. Low-bandwidth communication between teams: Minimized communication between teams for low dependencies and unnecessary delays.

  8. Member diversity: Different perspectives lead to better solutions. Encourage diversity in background, skill set, and expertise to foster a more innovative environment.

  9. Team goals and rewards: Establish clear team goals and provide incentives to keep everyone motivated and engaged. 

Triggers for Team Evolution

Stay attuned to the subtle signs that a small, localized org change may be necessary. By keeping a finger on the pulse of your team's dynamics, you can proactively shape the organization for upcoming demand and address issues before they escalate and impact overall performance. Staying vigilant helps maintain the health and effectiveness of your organization, ensuring that you can adapt and thrive in today's competitive landscape.

  1. Cadence slows down: A prolonged decrease in productivity can signal that it's time to reevaluate team dynamics, workload distribution, or resources.

  2. Work-in-progress increases: A growing backlog of tasks might indicate a need to reassess priorities or streamline processes.

  3. The process feels heavier: If the team's workflow is becoming increasingly cumbersome, it's essential to identify inefficiencies and implement improvements.

  4. Software grows too large/complex: Overly complex software can hinder progress. Consider rethinking the architecture and refactoring where necessary.

  5. Overspecialization within the team: Encourage cross-training and knowledge sharing to build a more versatile and resilient team.

  6. Increased coordination needs: Communication gaps can slow down progress. Identify areas where collaboration can be improved and foster open dialogue.

  7. Awkward interactions: Address interpersonal issues and foster a positive, supportive work environment to help team members work better together.

  8. People not invested or burning out: Regularly check in on your team's well-being and address any issues that may be affecting their motivation or job satisfaction.

  9. Frequent context switch: Encourage focus and minimize distractions to help your team stay on track and maintain momentum.

  10. Reusability becomes more challenging: Optimize and simplify where possible to promote reusability and minimize technical debt.


By remaining attentive to these red flags and addressing them proactively, you'll pave the way for a healthy and flourishing organization. Prioritize your team's well-being, growth, and development to empower them to conquer the challenges ahead. Never forget that a robust team is the backbone of any successful business.

In the upcoming blog, I will share how to implement a full Re-org Driven Development framework, which guides leaders in adapting their organization ahead of emerging needs and potential issues. Stay tuned!

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