product development organizations
that display high adaptivity, innovation and resilience
We believe one essential meta objective of every business is to stay resilient for as long as possible in the face of competition and market landscape changes.
This means applying org design that maximizes adaptivity in order to keep discovering constantly changing market demands.
Structurally, this requires investing in improvements along both axes of the Org Topologies: more autonomy (with fluency of delivery) and better alignment (with fluency of learning).
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Meet Organizational Topologies
In the video below, Alexey Krivitsky and Roland Flemm, present the key idea behind Org Topologies.
High Adaptivity as a Target?
Organizational transformation is not a project with a fixed end date. It is an ongoing learning effort to get closer to the ideal state, making incremental changes over time.
And what is the ideal state worth pursuing?
We believe it is an organizational ability (of all the employees, teams and departments) to re-focus and keep doing what's most important and most valuable at any given moment. This is a state of high organizational adaptivity. And your organization can get better at it, improving its fit for adaptivity continuously.
We discovered two essential dimensions that need to be mastered on the journey of getting your organization fit for adaptivity. Continue reading to learn more about the two dimensions and how to navigate between them.
Towards better (team) delivery
For many organizations we know, "agile transformation" means creating "agile teams". This is indeed a step in the right direction. However, it is impossible to get to a higher state of adaptivity by relying on individualistic work. Jelled groups of people organized in teams are better at adapting to changing environments than individuals. Teams absorb the complexity of uncertainty, acquire new skills, and discover and deliver at the same time.
Organizational improvements along this dimension increase the capabilities of teams to work across the entire technology stack, delivering results faster and in a constant flow. This dimension is closely related to what Scrum people call the "Definition of Done" and the DevOps techniques of "Continuous Delivery".
Mastering this dimension allows teams to work on customer problems end-to-end. "End-to-end" means teams don't have blocking dependencies between each other - i.e. no queues, no waiting, no hand-offs, no victimization or unclarity of responsibility. Lean production requires multi-trained individuals in cross-functional teams to improve delivery and learning. We see organizations tend to focus most on this dimension: Creating better teams.
Yet, from our experience of years of consulting, focusing only on improving the performance of individual teams is not enough. When each team focuses on a specific aspect of a product (such as a certain feature or a product capability, e.g. the product catalogue search) the joint result of all the teams will unlikely provide a seamless and joyful customer experience (e.g. finding and buying a product at minimal clicks). The product might look like a Frankenstein to its customers, lacking holistic design.
Towards better (customer) experience
As we mentioned above, improving performance of individual teams is not enough to provide good customer experience. And also, when teams are driven by narrow focus and local interests, this creates a fragmented and conflicting view of reality, jeopardizing the organization's general ability to foresee upcoming changes and adapt at the customer level.
So organizations also need to focus on a second dimension we call "Value Consolidation". It means how broadly and holistically do teams, departments and the entire organization understand the value they deliver to their customers.
Value consolidation implies enabling teams to work together with broader focus and wider responsibilities. Not only cross-functionally, but also product-wide thinking of integrated user journeys and holistic customer experiences.
In practice, such organizations have fewer backlogs, fewer roles, and less bureaucracy. There are fewer steering wheels to be turned when the organization needs to adjust its course. This is a better fit for adaptivity.
We worked with many leaders and teams who would like to improve the adaptability of their organization. They try different approaches, do experiments, but in the end lose the drive and accept the status-quo. We think this happens because organizational design as a domain is unknown to managers and engineers.
To create a better understanding of organizational design, we have described seven "classical" organizational archetypes we discovered through years of consulting and supporting transformations. We plotted the archetypes along the two aforementioned dimensions.
We believe that this overview of options provides a common language and makes it easier to compare and contrast options of organizational design. This overview can facilitate a valuable discussions in any organization seeking to improve its adaptivity: "Where are we?" and "Where are we heading to?".
Clarity on these questions is vital for the success of any transformation, connecting the "top-down" and "bottom-up" efforts on the transformational journey.
Download and learn more about the Org Topologies - a thinking tool to guide your organizational transformations.