Managing Organizational Changes as First-Line Managers

In Jimdo, we evolve by change. At the same time, we learn about how we manage these changes. Candost Dagdeviren, Payments Engineering Manager, had a discussion with other managers and collected answers to two questions.

Recently, I asked two questions to all engineering managers to brainstorm, learn from others, and share our experiences. Here are the questions: 

  • With many changes happening in Jimdo, how are you managing these changes in your teams?
  • How do you approach your team members when we are moving a person from one team to another? What are your techniques?

After talking with 6-7 engineering managers within the 16 managers group, here are the results of the discussions.


We often manage changes with transparency. When there is transparent and open communication between the leader and the team, team members don’t feel surprised and can ask questions to understand better.

Being clear about the information’s current state when sharing it with the team is important. For example, while sharing premature information about any change that might or might not happen, telling them the information is more of a whisper and everything is still in discussion helps the team to understand the current status of the change.

In case the premature information never happens or transforms into another information, the questions raised by the team are still from an informed perspective. The surprise element is removed. 

 The other impact of transparency is that transparency builds trust. If what we, as leaders, say matches with what happens 80% of the time, the team starts to trust. The team realizes that there is no secrecy, and they can rely on the information we give. 

The information we share might or might not be right. We might share too much or too little, but we can learn how much to share only by trying and failing. When we embrace failure and learn from our mistakes, it makes us authentic. And authenticity builds trust as well.

Question Time 

Transparency builds trust, but it also manufactures questions. Increasing transparency will also increment the number of questions asked. More questions will lead to more transparency and honesty. The leaders’ job is to provide information to empower people to do their jobs well. Therefore, we have to create time to get questions from our teams and answer them as much as we can. When we transfer our knowledge, our teams will move us to the right information as well. 

"Don’t move information to authority. Move authority to the information."

—L. David Marquet

Bringing the topic to the team when there are talks around a change before it happens is valuable to remove the surprise element and clarify doubts. Having early discussions and gathering questions helps everyone to be aligned and destroys hierarchical context silos.

"I feel by having the early chats first fosters an environment for bi-directional communication and shows that I will share what I can with you when I can, so please ask your questions."

—A Head of Engineering at Jimdo

We can only set the scene right for the team when we accept ourselves fully, be transparent in every façade, and create a bidirectional communication.

“The Only Constant in Life is Change”

When Heraclitus said that, he probably didn’t think of our current age. In our time, we often don’t think about Heraclitus as well; we think about something else. In Jimdo, we think about how we change our customers’ lives. We have a mission to let people thrive in their businesses. When small businesses join this mission and want to thrive in the digital world, they take a huge step to change.

If we forget that we are changing lives, we will forget to change ourselves.

When you are finished changing, you're finished.

Benjamin Franklin

As leaders, our job is to keep reminding people that our mission is based on a change. We can neither live nor thrive without changing ourselves with our users.

"We evolve by change."

In Jimdo, we adjust our organization to adapt to our evolution. We have to explain that the change is normal in growing and dynamic environments. Our feet come to the ground when we set the scene right: change is natural. We manage the change better when we talk in real life instead of having hypothetical conversations.

Additionally, as first-line managers, we focus on growing people in our teams—the growth itself means change.

“You shouldn't hold people back just because, but give them the opportunity to be the best versions of themselves possible” 

—An Engineering Manager at Jimdo

Setting the scene right helps us take a step back and enables us to see the bigger picture in a changing environment.

Holistic Thinking

The dynamicity of Jimdo usually pushes us to stay in our bubbles because there are many things going on at the same time, and we have more information available than we can handle. Many leaders discard the huge amount of information coming through them to keep their focus on their work. Therefore, they also eliminate looking at the problems, the need, and the situation holistically.

It’s our job as first-line managers to give the context when there is a change. In this information flood, we need to explain the situation and why do we make a certain change. Without seeing the overall picture and recognizing the need, it’s difficult to justify the change and explain it to our team members.

It’s also important for managers that we need to understand the motivations and desires of the people involved in change. Communicating and deciding on the changes that will happen in our teams is a difficult process.

Finding the Right People and Team for the Change

Decisions for changes are difficult and finding the correct people to enable changes is complex. There is no other way than to understand the mental model of the team and how individuals in the team want to grow. Analyzing and finding out the state of the individuals and the team is important to implement changes.

We can build a structure or insert process, but if it doesn’t match the team's mental model, those efforts are doomed to fail.”

—An Engineering Manager at Jimdo

Once we match the holistic approach with the team’s mental model, then we are apt to succeed. However, finding the team’s mental model is not that easy. An Engineering Manager recommends using Reimann-Thomann-Model.

“One tool I’ve used to do this is the Riemann-Thomann-Model. It is not a perfect model to represent the dichotomy of human relationships, but the 8 primary axes are a close enough facsimile to begin understanding team dynamics. I took this approach from a workshop I attended several years ago. You consider an individual on the X-axis of closeness vs distance. Then consider their desire for change vs consistency. Then do the same for yourself. The gap between both points helps you understand the communication challenges between two mapped individuals.”

—An Engineering Manager at Jimdo

The other aspect of finding the right people is very much aligned with the people’s motivation. We’re thinking and planning changes in the organization top-down. However, the changes can also come from the bottom-up. Some of our team members seek change. If we want fluidity between our teams, we need to analyze our team members’ desires and help them to do the change they wish.

"If the motivation comes from engineers themselves, and we have sufficient team members and culture to allow for members to change easily, we can reduce the impact and salt that might come from these changes."

—An Engineering Manager at Jimdo

Once we fully understand the team –and as first-line managers, it’s our job–, only then we can enable ourselves and senior leadership to find a better team and people to implement the change.

After finding the people, we have to support the people who are impacted by the change. 

Supporting Direct Reports during the Change—Growth

As the leadership, we choose people according to their wished (or planned) growth trajectory. We know that every change can be connected to growth. However, understanding people’s growth plans and matching the changes with their plans is difficult.

That’s where the coaching skills of the leaders come into play. It’s easy to tell the person that they will start reporting to another manager starting tomorrow. It’s not so easy to handle this transition. We have to ensure to offer good offboarding from the existing team and proper onboarding in a new team.

"We usually forget one of the most important aspects of the change: the transition. When we create a great transition between teams and managers, our team members feel safe and become receptive."

—An Engineering Manager at Jimdo

The good handover also enables people to continue their growth in their careers. Without the handover between managers, it’s difficult for employees to explain and justify all the great things they have done in their previous teams.

Thinking and acting holistically is one of the musts for all managers, especially in dynamic environments such as Jimdo. To evolve by change, we have to know our teams well, find the correct people and ensure to have a great transition and handover when we move people from one team to another.


Some of these topics are challenging. They require trial and error. As with every learning, there is no better way to learn from our mistakes. We gain experience and learn when we try. We can read every book, watch every video online or join every workshop on all these topics. If we won’t take action and fail, there won’t be any learning at all.

Closing Thoughts

These are the learnings coming from a few discussions between software engineering managers. Having these conversations break knowledge silos and make us strong. If you have anything more to add to the discussion, please post them in the comments. We have to share our experiences and knowledge to evolve Jimdo and let our users thrive.

Cover Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

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