Org Topologies and The Feature Team Adoption Map
While studying organizational design, we created a visual representation of our findings using the Org Topologies Map. When explaining our concepts at various conferences and meetups, some people ask questions about the relationship between the Feature Team Adoption Map (FTAM, as known from LeSS) and our Org Topologies Map (OTM). Some people from the LeSS community even alluded to the fact that they are practically the same or at least that the OTM builds upon the FTAM. The purpose of this article is to clarify the similarities and differences between the two.
The Feature Team Adoption Map
Just to align our thoughts on the FTAM, let's start with a short explanation of what it is and how it is used.
The FTAM is a map with two axes: The vertical axis describes the LeSS Product, from component to customer problem. The horizontal axis describes the "cross-functionality" of a team, i.e. the technical activities they master. The mapping reflects a team's capabilities of the combination of these two dimensions and is an indication of how adaptive a team is at a certain point in time. At a glance, it tells us if our teams are component teams or feature teams and if our teams are over-specializing in a certain direction.
The purpose of the FTAM in LeSS is to help in defining the scope of teams when forming feature teams, to define the size of a LeSS adoption, and to set future improvement goals.
According to LeSS, The FTAM is used at the organizational level and focuses on organizational capability. FTAM is called a map as it was used mostly by management to plot improvements for the organization. Such mapping can look like the picture below.
The current technical activities or capabilities (horizontal axis) are mapped in relation to the product technology breakdown (vertical axis). Such mapping could tell us for instance that on average, teams code their component and then hand it off to testing teams. By making these mappings, we visualize how to mix teams to create teams that can deliver tested features.
We have difficulty seeing how the FTAM could be created at the organizational level to analyze the current state. There are simply too many different teams with too many variations in capabilities. We think FTAM can be created at the team level to compare teams and see how different the team's capabilities are. In the picture above, this team currently has the skills to integrate at some component level. We see what the team will need to learn about the product (Vertically) and how to expand their Definition of Done to become more adaptive in the next few years.
The Org Topologies Map
The Organizational Topologies Map (OTM) is a map that is built on seven organizational archetypes. We have grouped the archetypes in relation to each other and in relation to an archetype with the highest level of adaptivity possible.
The horizontal axis of the OTM describes which capabilities are in a team. The scale range is from individual work (no team at all) to perfect teamwork, meaning that a team can deliver a Done product autonomously. The vertical axis shows how the teams are organized among each other. It shows how they are aligned to be able to understand and work on a larger value domain. The lowest level is low alignment with individuals working on unrelated tasks. The highest level of alignment is that everybody in the organization understands and works on any part of the product. The vertical axis is focused on the interactions between the teams, whereas the horizontal axis is focused on the interactions inside them.
The OTM is a thinking tool that helps people understand where their group, department, or organization is located on their journey toward higher adaptability. The OTM will clarify what deep change needs to happen to grow adaptivity in a certain direction (crossing a paradigm shift).
Creating an instance of the OTM is done at the level of a department, group, or organization. We map a department to one of the seven archetypes to have a conversation on where they are now, where they want to move toward, and what this means for the structure of the teams and the way they are organized among each other.
The picture below of the journey of a department at a dutch bank tells us that in their starting position somewhere in time, the bank did not work with stable teams. They had individuals and groups working on tasks (Y0 and Y1), and component teams trying to work on features (A2). Their anticipated goal was to move to the B2 archetype, meaning they planned to create value areas where multi-disciplinary teams deliver customer features. This would require teams to be reshuffled to improve the feature teams (horizontal growth) and require new practices to work on features with groups of teams in value areas.
There are similarities,
When we started exploring the problem space of adaptivity, we had LeSS in the back of our minds. We are LeSS-friendly people because LeSS is pretty adaptive. The idea that OTM would be similar to FTAM was an observation we never were aware of until someone asked us about it. We were surprised, as the two tools are very different, although we need to admit that at a first glance, novices might be confused by some obvious similarities.
are two-dimensional graphs and have an x-axis and a y-axis
talk about teams in the domain of agile organization design
clarify the degree of specialization of teams
have an x-axis that has something to do with team capabilities
have a y-axis that has something to do with understanding the product
can be used to monitor growth toward a better state of adaptivity
plot items against a perfection vision of high adaptivity
help to leverage bi-directional team growth to reach a sweet-spot
But they are not the same.
There are essential differences between the two maps:
It was not intended that way, but we see the FTAM can be a great single-team scorecard to assess the current capabilities of a team. The FTAM gives insight into the current adaptivity of a single team and can be used to show the anticipated future state of a single team, an area, or the whole organization. The OTM gives insight into the current and future adaptivity of areas, departments, or organizations, not single teams (we use a different kind of mapping technique for that, see the poster case study).
The FTAM only considers inner team capabilities, while the OTM looks at inner team capabilities and the interactions between teams.
The FTAM's vertical axis is "Potential technical work scope inside the team", which is "how much each team knows of the Product domain". The vertical axis of the OTM shows how things are organized between teams to align and collaborate around the understanding of value. This leaves room for the application of many product-oriented practices that create value alignment.
The x-axis on the OTM shows inside-team collaboration, which determines the level of team autonomy and describes both cross-functionality and cross-component-ness. In the FTAM, the x-axis only describes the cross-functionality of a team. The cross-component-ness of the team is on the y-axis of the FTAM.
The FTAM is a template that needs to be filled in per team to make use of it. The OTM can be used as-is to compare, recognize and locate your org design in relation to perfection. Both current and future states can be drawn on the map, but the map itself does not need any customization to reflect a certain context.
The tools are both focussing on the domain of org design and in their own way try to clarify organizational change. The FTAM uses average team capabilities to plot organizational change and OTM tries to categorize and bring understanding to organizational designs using archetypes. The FTAM is also a useful tool to help solve the puzzle of creating feature teams when moving toward multi-disciplinary teams at the feature-, or area levels (Archetype levels A and B on the OTM).
(C) 2023, Alexey Krivitsky and Roland Flemm. Org Topologies.