Agile Organizational Design
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Agile Organizational Design

Growing Self - Organizing Structures 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 for Cross Functionality

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.

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 With Flexibility

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.


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

  • Introduction
    • Principles for Agile Organizational Design
    • So Why Am I Writing About Agile Organizational Design?
    • 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 Team is The Core Building Block
    • A Mental Model For Your Organization
    • The Power Of Decentralization
    • The Goal of Self-Organization
    • Why Agile Teams Work
    • Agile Teams Deliver Value To The Market
    • Functional Departments Grow Capability
  • Other Building Blocks To Scale Agile Teams
    • The Need To Build Upon Agile Teams
    • There Are No Independent Teams
    • Foundational Organizing Structures
    • The Market
    • The Identity
    • The Edge
    • The Core
    • The Majority Works In The Edge
    • The Core Travel to The Edge
    • Agility Does Not Come from Agile Teams
    • Organize Around Social Boundaries
  • Facilitating an Organization Mapping Exercise
    • Before we get started
    • 1 - Identify Market Actors
    • 2 - Define Identifying Goals
    • 3 - Map Edge Capabilities and Teams
    • 4 - Define Core Capabilities, and Teams
    • A Special note On Context Boundaries
  • Refining Your Organization Through Collaboration Patterns
    • Why are Patterns Important
    • Collaboration patterns
    • Dedicated Team Member
    • Traveler Pool Member
    • Service Provider
    • Enablers
    • Communities of Practice
    • Dynamic Team Member
    • Agile Ecosystem
  • Defining Jobs and Roles in an Agile Organization
    • Traditional jobs and roles suck
    • The Sports Team: A Metaphor for Thinking About Jobs
    • People Play Many Different Roles
    • Example - A Typical Tech Product Organization
    • Role Personas
  • Reimagining The Hierarchy
    • The Industrial Hierarchy Is Broken
    • Seniority Equals Mastery Not Authority
    • The Advice Process
  • Scaling Agile Behavior For Continuous Organization
    • Truly Stable Teams Erode Agility
    • The Need For Continuous Evolution
    • Agile Enables Teams To Organize
    • Agile Behaviors of a Self-organizing Team
    • Scaling Agile Enable Larger Groups To Re-Organize
    • Agile Behavior For Re-Teaming
  • Facilitating Continuous Organization With Agile Practices
    • Forecasting Change With Agile Long Term Planning
    • Organizing Around The Work With Kanban
    • Balance Stability With Eliminating Hand Offs
  • Using Kanban to Enable Continuous Evolution of Organizing Structures

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