Navigating Reorgs is Product Management

It's a time of great transition, but it's also a time of opportunity."

Stephen Heidari-Robinson and Suzanne Heywood, Authors of “Reorg: How to Get It Right”, share how reorgs can help companies adapt to market changes, and strategies for product teams to navigate them successfully.


When your company does a reorg, a lot can change. Your team, role, operations, and boss could all be different than they were before the reorg.

Stephen and Suzanne say that while the uncertainty can be challenging, it also presents opportunities for product teams.

In this episode, they discuss what reorgs are and how they impact product teams, and then provide advice on how product leaders can navigate them effectively. With decades of combined experience consulting on reorgs while at McKinsey, Stephen and Suzanne were the perfect guests to speak about these topics.

When most people hear the word reorg, cost cutting is the first thing that comes to mind. However, Stephen and Suzanne cite a study that shows that the most common reason why executives decide to reorg is to adapt to a change in business environment. More recently, the change that executives need to adapt to is the shift to digital technologies. This is a noble mission, however all to often reorgs are done for the wrong reasons:

About 15% of reorgs are driven just by a leader’s desire to change stuff around, almost like marking the organization with their scent as they take over. It turns out probably unsurprisingly, that is the least successful reason for launching a reorganization, which even if you do it well, causes all kinds of disruption.

“People don’t like change often,” Stephen says, “so often they don’t like reorgs, but they dislike uncertainty even more.”

As such, it is crucial for companies undergoing reorgs to not settle on a single answer too early. Instead, it is critical to have competing answers that companies can juggling along the way, because it maintains an openness to other possibilities. It’s also very important, particularly in the diagnostic phase of the work to actually get quite a broad amount of input from the organization on what’s not working today, and equally, what is working today.

Companies may change the organizational structure, internal processes, or hiring requirements in order to develop digital product proficiency. Stephen encourages product leaders to try to get involved in shaping these changes:

Try to get yourself involved in the reorganization. Don’t just see it as something that’s happening to you from the outside. If you get involved, then you stand a much better chance of shaping what the answer is for your area, and that’s either you getting personally involved, or freeing up members of your team to get involved.

He recommends asking what the desired outcomes are, and finding ways to help achieve them. The transition can give you the opportunity to try new initiatives. For example, it could be a good time to get rid of old ideas that are on the product roadmap, or start working in a more agile way. As Suzanne points out:

It’s a time of great transition. But it’s also a time of opportunity, because the organization, in that moment of transition, is often open to doing things differently than in the past. Then it settles back down to a way of doing things, and it becomes very hard to change.

You’ll learn a lot from this episode about organizational design, strategy, and management.

Here are the highlights:

Stephen Heidari-Robinson and Suzanne Heywood

Authors of “Reorg: How to Get It Right”

Stephen and Suzanne's Recommended Resources on Reorgs

What Stephen and Suzanne are Reading and Listening To Right Now

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