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I’m a member of a team that has been developing a product for our company for years. The development started about 10 years ago and all the people of the original team are still here. I am one of the last hires, 4 or 5 years ago. The development team is composed of 21 people (all very senior).

This product brings to the company between 25 and 35% of its annual revenues. We are the only people working on this product (we are also the only ones with the technology stack knowledge, architectural knowledge and business model knowledge behind the product), we have a dedicated HR person (for some tasks we continuously hire interns/junior with fixed length contracts), a dedicated administration person, 2 dedicated sales, 4 dedicated project managers and 2 dedicated client managers. We all work together in a part of the office that has a separate entrance from the rest of the offices and we have a salary much higher than other people in the company with similar roles/positions. Finally we are autonomous in signing contracts with customers.

Recently we signed a contract with a new customer for our product with a lot of new features/customizations that bring in a 2-3 years work. According to our analysis, with this new contract, we can reach up to 50% (or more) of our company revenues. At the same time our company passed through a series of big changes in top management/board members.

These new managers were quite shocked discovering our level of autonomy and are situation of “a company within a company”. There is no fear of being fired/let go because old customers already expressed that they want to continue to only work with us and the cost to transfer our knowledge to a new team is simply gigantic (new management very reluctantly accepted). But the new management wants to create a new team for the new customer in order to spread the knowledge and reduce our autonomy. Also they want to put a high level manager above our team as a touch point between us and the top managers (until now we report directly to the company owner, completely bypassing the company chain of command).

I don’t want to maintain the status quo (I understand it’s unrealistic and probably dangerous), but I don’t want to find myself in the middle of a power war between my team and the new management. How can I help reducing conflicts and try to smooth the transition towards a new equilibrium?

  • So if I understand it correctly the part of the company that brings in 30% of revenue (lets call you Alice) will stay roughly the same and the new 15% customer will get a new dedicated team which will have to learn from the current 30% team (lets call them Bob). Apart from knowledge transfer and maybe a initial seeding of people from Alice Bob will be completely separate from Alice. I'm a bit confused because that sounds like they are just creating a new company-in-company. – Borgh Oct 11 at 7:36
  • @Borgh I think that new managers want to create a new team, put them together with the rest of the company and not in our separated office. Members of the new team should rotate and not work always on our project (no permanent member of my team has been hired in the last 4 years and nobody from my team moved to other company teams or viceversa) – Pravul Oct 11 at 7:41
  • Why has no permanent member been hired in the last four years? – Patricia Shanahan Oct 11 at 8:10
  • @PatriciaShanahan because the current number of people is more than enough to handle the product and its development. Also the work environment and the pay are both very good, so no resignations. As I said, for some repetitive/trivial tasks we regularly hire workers, but only on short contracts (not longer than 3 months) – Pravul Oct 11 at 8:44
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    This whole thing sounds like management doesn't trust your team, and is looking to undermine their influence in the worst possible way. It's very blatant that they don't trust you guys, and want to "extract the knowledge" from the team. Could be handled better, IMO. I do not envy your situation. – AndreiROM Oct 15 at 16:35
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Build trust with the new managers. The fact that there is so much separation between your team and the rest of the company is most likely creating uncertainty for the new managers. With uncertainty come fear and fear leads to unwise decisions, like injecting teams into your team to diffuse your independence.

By showing willingness to include them you diffuse the feeling of separation. Try to over-communicate with the new managers, make them feel like they are part of your team and do so without them having to ask. The purpose of this is to build trust. Once your team has the trust of the new managers it should make your lives easier.

Most managers will be happy with a team that can make the company money and doesn't require micromanagement but this requires trust, and trust is earned.

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    One point - that team has already earnt its trust... the new managers should understand that. What those managers want is to be able to claim they generated that revenue... – Solar Mike Oct 11 at 13:31
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    @SolarMike - that's not how trust works. Sure, they signed a contract, but management wants to know that if they say "jump", their employees will comply. And it's looking as if those employees kind of have the run of the place. So management is probably feeling that their authority is threatened, which is only natural. They're probably also afraid that at any point, a segment of the team could decide that they wanna go into business for themselves, and leave the company high and dry. Again, a valid point. The situation is very delicate, and could easily escalate. – AndreiROM Oct 15 at 16:33
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    @AndreiROM Yeah, it strikes me that the word "trust" can have many different shades of meaning. "These sales figures prove these people can be 'trusted' to use their professional skills to turn out a quality product to keep the steady customers happy" is not the same thing as "I, a new manager, feel a personal connection to these people -- I 'trust' them to be frank with me, and to cheerfully do their best to comply with new policies as they are announced, instead of rebelling if their egos are bruised by a proposed change." – Lorendiac Oct 16 at 16:22
  • @lorendiac - you nailed it – AndreiROM Oct 16 at 17:19

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