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A framework for successful personnel transitions - designers, developers, and project managers in product engineering teams
May 18, 2023
Abhidhnya Sonawane
Project Manager

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today, I am wise so I am changing myself ~ Rumi

I love this quote. Indeed, change is a constant in life and the workplace. Transitions are a reality of any business, and they happen for varied reasons. As people outgrow their roles or seek to pursue a different path, businesses grow and change projects and processes. These transitions can contribute to both personal and professional growth, leading to greater job satisfaction. Change in projects is inevitable, regardless of which party initiates it.

At Wednesday, each delivery team consists of designers, software developers, and a project manager. We have a framework for transitions called the T-model, which has helped us embrace transitions without impacting project delivery or customer experience. The success of a project is measured by the results it delivers, and the model helps us achieve this effectively. Let's take a deeper dive into it.



Project requirements and personnel expertise

As in negotiations, any project execution succeeds if it's a win-win situation for both parties. What does the project need, and what is the expertise of the person executing it? To effectively evaluate the project requirements and personnel expertise needed for a smooth personnel transition, there are some key steps we can take:

  • Conduct a thorough analysis of the project scope and objectives to identify the specific skills and knowledge required to achieve success.
  • Review the current personnel roster to determine which team members have the necessary expertise and experience, and which may need additional training or support.
  • The stage of the project (Inception/Last Leg/UAT, etc.) and delivery timeline also need to be considered. For example, during the inception phase, architecture decisions are made, and the project concepts are defined. This also allows enough bandwidth for everyone on the team to catch up with their roles and responsibilities. The UAT (User Acceptance Testing) phase is the final phase of the project where the end-users test the software and provide feedback. Triaging issues and actions based on priority is critical here for the launch.
  • Create a detailed plan for transitioning personnel, including timelines, training schedules, and communication strategies.
  • Set evaluation criteria that the team will use in case you need to hire someone. Ensure that your company culture is paramount, along with the necessary skill set.

To cite a specific example, a travel business design project would require a designer with UI expertise to create a visually appealing interface that captures and retains users. Similarly, creating a user workflow for a new project demands someone who can ask the right questions, connect the dots, develop user personas, and conduct user research effectively. Finding the maximum overlap between the two will set a good foundation for the project's success.


Personnel Selection

After evaluating the project's needs and the desired profile, the next step is to find the appropriate person for the job. This can be accomplished through an internal search or by hiring externally. The selection process should involve a review of the candidate's experience, strengths, career goals, and potential for growth and development.

This does not only imply matching the educational qualification but also taking into consideration the softer side of things which includes:

  • Communication Skills: Ensure that the person can effectively communicate with other team members, stakeholders, and clients.
  • Personality fit: Look for someone who will work well with the existing team and contribute positively to the company culture.
  • Motivation & drive: Consider the person's career goals and potential for growth and development within the company. We want someone who is motivated to learn and grow in their role.
  • Flexibility: Keep in mind that projects can change over time. Look for someone who is adaptable and able to pivot when needed.
  • Diversity and inclusion: It is important to have a diverse team with different perspectives and backgrounds. Consider how the new team member will contribute to creating an inclusive and welcoming work environment.


The act of doing.

Regardless of the role, certain action items can lead to successful transitions. These actions are captured in the CTCDC framework, which includes five pillars.


Defining clear goals and milestones for new personnel is crucial. Doing so establishes correct expectations and directs their work effectively. Assigning a buddy/mentor during the transition period also helps, as the new personnel will know someone has their back and can provide guidance and support. This arrangement makes feedback and team collaboration easier.

To ease the new member into the team, start with low-priority and simple tasks. Give them time to adopt the new system and adjust to their new role. This approach can help boost their morale and minimize mistakes and corrections.


Metrics to measure the success of a transition

We need to define a timeframe and metrics to measure the success of the transition. At Wednesday, we have a two-week overlap period for hand-holding, although help is always available!

Metrics to track:

  1. Time to proficiency in the new role: Taking ownership of the module with minimum hand-holding. Contributing to the project as quickly as possible adds to the confidence of the new personnel.
  2. Quality of work produced: The number of review cycles needed, and the number of corrections required typically should decrease over time. An upward trajectory is what we are aiming for. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t account for individual strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Team morale and cohesion: Does the team work well and have a positive work environment?
  4. Impact on project delivery and business outcomes: Our goal is to minimize any impact on project delivery and business outcomes. The best transitions are seamless, where the team and stakeholders feel no difference in results.

In addition, parameters defined by DORA can help measure the efficiency of software delivery after a transition. In terms of the delivery cycle, ensuring these parameters are unchanged or improved will indicate the successful execution of a transition for a project.

Reference: Google Cloud Documentation

For project manager transitions, apart from the pointers in the CTCDC framework, stakeholder & team feedback and timeline impact need to be considered.


Determine when a transition is not working.

Once we measure the above parameters and conclude a significant gap between expected metrics indicates the transition is not working. If a change is not working, it is essential to determine the cause and develop a plan for course correction. This may involve providing mentorship or re-evaluating the fit for the role.

Signs like missed deadlines indicating reduced velocity, the same feedback on multiple work deliveries, and impact on team morale with non-incorporation of feedback are red flags that need to be taken note of and acted upon.


Course correct for a past transition

This situation could be of the right person in the wrong role, requiring corrective actions for project success. This starts by identifying the issues and challenges and developing a plan of what the project needs per the timelines. We need to return to the evaluation's first step and incorporate any insights gained for future transitions. It's also essential to analyze and provide feedback to the buddy/mentor if that area needs work.

Where to go from here?

Pointers highlighted in the T-Model set a blueprint for any transition. Although providing room for individual adaptation can help ensure that personnel transition is more successful as each individual and project is unique, as are the requirements.

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