New Relic just did something that few companies our size have ever done: We reinvented the process of how we build software. And so far it’s making our engineers very happy.

Check out Project Upscale

This short video reveals how Project Upscale empowered our engineering operations into “full ownership teams” with the autonomy to decide for themselves what to work on next. There’s input from management, of course, but they really do get to choose. Perhaps even more radical, during a special offsite event, all of the more than 100 participating engineers—not their managers and executives—were able to self-select which teams they wanted to work on!

Just don’t call it a “re-org.” This is a lot deeper than just shuffling teams around. In our quest to reduce lead times and cut dependencies between teams as we continue to grow, we didn’t just change who reports to whom, we redesigned the idea flow—how an idea becomes work that gets done and then functionality that can be delivered to customers—and how the work gets done. The goal was to create a structure that allows New Relic to become a large company, while shipping software in a way that feels like we’re a smaller company.

As part of implementing our plans, we wanted to change our team structure to become more cross-functional, so we created new teams and gave our technical staff the chance to choose the teams they want to be on.

Self-selection success

While some engineers had concerns going into the self-selection portion of Project Upscale, in the end—and thanks to careful preparation—every engineer found a home on their desired team, and they now express wholehearted enthusiasm for the process. Amazingly, that all happened without management pre-selecting anyone or restricting anyone’s choice—and we still ended up with teams equipped with the right combination of skill sets.

project upscale event

The biggest change in Project Upscale, though, is only gradually taking shape. One key goal was to change the product group’s focus from individual productivity to team productivity—the team is now the key unit. Success is no longer about individuals proving themselves, but about teams proving themselves.

What it’s like working at New Relic

Preliminary evidence shows that beginning to happen, but it will be a while before we can meaningfully demonstrate and share the results. So stay tuned for more blog posts and videos on Project Upscale in the coming months. In the meantime, check out New Relic’s Careers and Culture page to learn more about what it’s like to work for New Relic.

Brent Miller is a principal engineer & architect for New Relic. He traded in his training as a botanist to become a frontend engineer, and has spent the past decade building UIs that are easy to manage and helping the engineers around him become better at what they do. View posts by .

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