By Lisa Alger, Senior Vice President, Engineering
Last year, Virtual Instruments had a bit of a growth spurt. Not only did we merge with storage performance analytics provider Load DynamiX, but we also acquired virtualization and cloud performance monitoring specialist Xangati. By integrating key technologies and innovative ideas from both companies, we’ve created the industry’s first application-centric infrastructure performance management platform. However, these mergers also came with their own unique set of challenges, including the difficult job of creating a cohesive engineering team that can effectively work together on a unified goal. As the engineering head for Virtual Instruments’ engineering and QA group, it became my job to create this team and avoid post-merger dysfunction.
So how did we do it?
One of the first steps we took when it came to integration was to move everyone into a single building. Not only did this encourage the merged teams to get to know each other, it offered an opportunity to define a culture right off the bat. This doesn’t mean discarding the different teams’ already existing cultures by any means, but rather combining and evolving them to suit the corporate culture of the new team.
Pro tip: Solidifying the team this way also helps with employee retention post-merger.
Start Over (Kinda)
The fact that I was a recent addition to Virtual Instruments before the mergers actually worked to my advantage. I didn’t have a clear allegiance to one part of the team or another, and I wasn’t attached to the way things “used to be.” Not to say I didn’t come in with some biases: I had assumptions from my previous experience in engineering about what processes looked like, but I soon found that my expectations weren’t always realistic or even applicable. In retrospect, I could have gotten the team involved in developing processes earlier on in the integration process – but you live and you learn.
Encourage Growth From Failure
When it comes to merging teams, the goal should always be to bring the best characteristics into the new team and leave the bad habits at the door. It’s important that leaders encourage their teams to identify their own “worst practices” and come together to develop new “best practices.” There will be growing pains and there will be failures, but instead of sweeping them under the rug, team members should feel empowered to address them, act on them, and move on.
These lessons are applicable not only to companies that have experienced mergers, but also those that may be experiencing internal team changes, or just need a culture revamp. To learn more about how we built a cohesive engineering team, check out my article on The Enterprisers Project.