Organizing Toward Agility
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Organizing Toward Agility

Design, Grow, and Sustain Self Organizing Structure at Scale

About the Book

The traditional approach to organizational design has got it wrong, completely wrong. 

The way we structure organizations, along with the accompanying management system, is based on concepts that are over 100 years old, and is built to meet the needs of the industrial age. The goal back then was to drive down the price of production, and eliminate scarcity. Organizations did this through the principles of division, standardization and control.

But we are no longer live in the industrial age. We live in an age of change, an age of uncertainty, an age of complexity.

From hierarchy to value network, from command and control to self-organization, from departments to teams, many organizations no longer create value the way they used to. But organizational design as not kept pace.

We need for a different approach to getting organized, one based on a new way of thinking about organizations.

This book provides a set of thinking tools and design skills to help your leaders grow structure that promotes, rather than inhibits, agility. Change agents all types can use this book to help them design their organization around value creation, rather than the familiar concepts of control, bureaucracy, and power.

Agile Organizational Design presents new methods guided by a very different mindset than the one that help up design organization for the industrial age. This book will present how to design organizing structure around the following principles.

Principles for Agile Organizational Design

Organize around Teams

Team matter more than departments. Teams that are cross-functional. Comprised of people who are both experts in their respective fields, but also able to pinch hit and swap roles. We need to design for teams that are both capable and empowered to get the job done with a minimum of interference. Key is the ability of people to team with each other. Another is putting the right support structures in place to enable those teams to be successful.

Organize Through Markets

Avoid adding a slew of mandated centralized services. Instead, connect teams through markets. Set up any enterprise services up as voluntary, and bring the benefit of market mechanics inside your organization; and avoid the cruft, senselessness, and even immorality that comes with command side decision making.

Organize For Change

The real world is not always so accommodating to the need for dedicated, stable teams, that have minimal handoffs with other teams, Change happens. And we will need to adapt. Team stability and no cross team hand-offs often counteract each other. The answer is to arm our knowledge workers with the insight and understanding required to form together into teams..

Organize Around Social and Domain Boundaries 

Teams of 5 -8 is often the golden rule in most agile circles. But if we want to scale with agility we need to consider how to achieve social density are larger scales. Structuring people into groups of 5, 15, 35, 150 all have merit when we think about varying levels of social density. We can also take a page from Domain Drive Design and align our organization and solution architecture according to domains that can be delivered and managed by independent, full stack teams.

As I go through how to incorporate these principle into your organization, I'll share a set of *organizing constraints* we can use when thinking about our organizational design. Ignoring any one of these constraints means we are likely to have less organizational agility a a result.

Another key aspect of this book are team Collaboration patterns, used to discuss different ways a person can engage with teams to create value. They are especially helpful for people who provide support functions and want to understand their place in an increasingly agile world.

This book is written so that the reader is taken through simpler concepts that apply to smaller scales at first. These concepts are then elaborated and expanded upon as the book progresses, using real world examples to articulate these various concepts and practices

About the Author

Jeff Anderson
Jeff Anderson

My mission in life is to help technology knowledge workers be awesome at what they do. Having been in the market since 1994, I have transitioned my initial passion for agile software engineering to provide advisory services to clients that want to thrive in a world of uncertainty and learning.

Over the last several years I have been running an Agile/Lean transformation service to help clients move from command and control towards feedback and self organization.

Our team has a solid track record coaching teams on foundational agile practices, guiding end to end organizational transformation to embrace a more agile mindset, and focused coaching of product and operations teams on how to embrace design thinking and validated learning.

I admit to an unbridled enthusiasm for any method or practice that bring creativity and joy to the value creation process, and get a kick out of turning leading edge thinking into contextualized, practical tools.

I also love to supercharge complex workshops through a combination of crowd awareness, passion, and above all humour. I’ll often iterate over a vast array of models/workshops in real time to adapt to the crowd's thinking and evolving goal of the session.

My most important skill is growing the talent around me. I continue to provide passionate, motivated people with a suite of leading edge skills that take their leadership to the next level.

I have presented at numerous conferences, nominated for a Brickell Key award, and am a founding fellow of the Lean System Society. I have also wrote a book on agile organizational change, The Lean Change Method.

Table of Contents

  • Next steps before publishing
  • Introduction
    • So Why Am I Writing About Organization?
    • Principles for Agile Organizational Design
    • Organizational Design Constraints
    • Team Patterns
    • How this book is organized
    • Sources of Inspiration:
  • From Industry to Uncertainty
    • The Industrial Era
    • The Rise Of The Industrial Machine
    • Ch-Changes, Turn and Face The Strange
    • From People to Machine, back To People Again
    • Time For A Radically Different Approach
    • The Modern Organization
    • The way We Organize Is Changing, Slowly
    • The Imperative Of Moving Towards A Human Organization
  • The Team
    • The Need For A Little Taste Of Agile
    • The Importance Of The Team
    • Agile Helps People Team
    • Radical Transparency
    • Cross Functionality
    • Frequent Market Feedback
    • Team Space
    • Operating Norms
    • Stability and Dedication
    • Small, and Socially Dense
    • Continuous Change
    • Pattern: The Team Worker
    • Anti - Pattern: The Department Worker
    • Constraint: Agile Teams Deliver Value To The Market
    • Constraint: Functional Departments Grow Capability
  • Teaming Is A Verb
    • Teaming is How Humans Generate Value
    • A Team Is A Safe Space To Perform The Act Of Teaming
    • Agile Teaming at Work
    • Teaming With Kanban
    • Extending The Team Up or Down-Stream
    • Connecting the Greater Team Together
    • Anti-Pattern: The Cross Functional Team of Siloed Team Members
    • The Pair
    • The Feature Cell
    • The Mob
    • The Swarm
  • Roles And Jobs For An Organization Of Team Workers
    • Job-Automons Vs Thinking Human Beings
    • The Sports Team: A Metaphor for Thinking About Jobs
    • Let The Team Decide Who Does What
    • And Now For Something A Little More Formal
    • Constraint: Coarse Grained Jobs Comprised of Many Overlapping Roles
    • From Job-Automons To Human Beings
    • Constraint: Grow Helicopter-Shaped People
    • Constraint: Define Interactions across Fine Grained Roles Not Wide Jobs with Separated Duties
    • Some General Role Advice For Agile Teams
  • Truths, Myths, and Lies About Agile Teams
    • The Need To Build Upon Agile Teams
    • There Are No Independent Teams
    • Stable Teams Erode Agility
    • Agility Does Not Come from Agile Teams
    • But (Agile) Teams Do Work In The Enterprise
    • In Summary:
  • The Ecosystem of Agile Teams
    • Safe, Effective Hyper - Collaboration @ Larger Scale
    • Constraint: Group People into Contexts Boundaries Guided By Dunbar’s Numbers
    • Introducing The Ecosystem Of Agile Teams
    • Pattern: The Agile Ecosystem Member
    • Mapping out An Agile Ecosystem
    • Team Impact Mapping To The Rescue
    • Defining Your Team Model in Five Easy Steps
    • Step 1: Domain Context Clustering
    • Step 2: Impact Mapping
    • Step 3: Team Mapping
    • Step 4: Team Definition
    • Standing Up Teams and Ecosystems
    • A Few Key Principles To Pay Attention To
  • Operating An Ecosystem Of Agile Teams
    • Scaling through the Agile Practices we already Know and Love
    • Agile Long Term Planning
    • Ecosystem Level Kanban
    • Defining Ecosystem level Events
  • Teaming In An Agile Ecosystem
    • Independence and Autonomy Are Not The Same Thing
    • Constraint: Manage Cross-Team Dependencies Through Teaming
    • Pattern: Traveling Team Worker
    • Anti Pattern: The Ad - Hoc Team Member
    • Pattern: Group Member
    • Collaboration Pattern: The Enabler
    • Collaboration Pattern: The Service Provider
    • In Summary
  • Re-teaming In An Agile Ecosystem
    • Balance Team Stability with Team Independence
    • Introducing Dynamic Re-Teaming
    • Constraint: Continuously Balance Team Stability With Eliminating Team Hand Offs
    • The Re-Teaming Ecosystem Lifecycle
    • Re-Teaming Patterns
    • Common Re-Teaming Pattern In An Ecosystem
  • Revisiting the Organizational Hierarchy
    • The New Role Of The Hierarchy
    • Seniority Equals Mastery Not Authority
    • The Advice Process
  • The New Enterprise
    • A New Organizing Mental Model For The Modern Age
    • Foundational Organizing Structures For The New Enterprise
    • A Brief Note On Visionary Pragmatism
    • The Market
    • The Identity
    • The Edge
    • Constraint: The Majority Of People Works In Edge Teams
    • The Core
    • Positional Leaders As A Core Team
    • A Special note On Context Boundaries
    • Constraint: The Core Travel to The Edge
    • In Summary
  • Organizing Patterns To Collaborate At Scale
    • Allowing Team Type Patterns To Evolve Over Time
    • The Agile Team and Agile Ecosystem
    • The Traveler Pool
    • Enablement Core
    • Anti Pattern: The Governor
    • The Service Center
    • The Community Of Practice
    • Mapping Team Patterns To Team Topology Patterns
  • Improving The Edge - Sharpening The Blade and Strengthening The Handle
    • The Agile Bubble
    • Pushing Past the Inertia Facing Systematic Changes
    • A Metaphor for Agility: The Blade and The Handle
    • Getting The Dialogue Started
    • Scaling Out The Discussion
    • Laying Out Your Edge and Handle Using A Canvas
    • A Brief Side Note on Lean Change : An Open, Incremental Approach to Change
    • In Summary
  • The Software Organization
    • Your Org and Software Are Really One System
    • The Peril Of Ignoring Conway’s Law
    • Introducing The Inverse Conway Maneuver
    • Introducing Domain Driven Design
    • Organizing around Domains
    • Representing The Software Artifacts Of Your Business
    • Identifying Domain Aggregates and Context Boundaries
    • The Modern World Of Micro-Services
    • When We Need To Organize Around Technology Instead
    • In Summary
  • Conclusion
  • Notes

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