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Organization and team topologies

Organization and team topologies is a great workshop activity for getting context about an organization and its teams. It is a great activity for understanding the business context, structure and teams.

Activity instructions

Let´s participate on a collaborative activity to understand and map the organisation various teams, their missions and dependencies. The Vision is the ultimate goal. It is long-term thinking. You must describe it as a clear and concise statement that everyone understands and adhere to it with passion. The mission statement describes the team’s unique contribution towards the organisation vision.

With a clear vision and great team alignment and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved!

Step by Step

  1. Share and then write down the organisation vision
  2. List all the teams on the organisation, then write their mission. Color code as per the four fundamental topologies.
  3. Draw and then describe all teams’ interaction mode. Color code as per the three team interaction modes.

 

FOUR FUNDAMENTAL TOPOLOGIES (step 2)

  • Stream-aligned team: aligned to a flow of work from (usually) a segment of the business domain
  • Enabling team: helps a Stream-aligned team to overcome obstacles. Also detects missing capabilities.
  • Complicated Subsystem team: where significant mathematics/calculation/technical expertise is needed.
  • Platform team: a grouping of other team types that provide a compelling internal product to accelerate delivery by Stream-aligned teams

THREE TEAM INTERACTION MODES (step 3)

  • Collaboration: working together for a defined period of time to discover new things (APIs, practices, technologies, etc.)
  • X-as-a-Service: one team provides and one team consumes something “as a Service”
  • Facilitation: one team helps and mentors another team

 

Below is a sample image from this activity.

  • Sample Vision: “Our vision is to create the best experience for our online buyers.”
  • Sample team mission – Customer Experience : Our mission is to provide all UI components that our e-commerce needs
  • Sample team mission – Pay Champion: Our mission is to keep all payment related components under control while providing the best APIs for all our amazing feature teams
  • Sample interaction mode (Customer Experience -> Pay Champion): creation, configuration and support of all payment related components

This activity is very useful for depicting the organisational teams’ topologies, describing their individual missions, their dependencies and how it all connects to and supports the organisation vision. This activity can be run in a few hours. Typically, it is an opening session for other sessions going into further detail about teams’ boundaries, ways of working and interactions.

This activity is inspired on the book Team Topologies: Organizing Business and Technology Teams for Fast Flow by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais. Please consider using color and marks for identifying the types fo teams and its relationships.

 

This post is part of a series of posts on inception related activities.

You cna find this activity in workshop: Accelerate the business workshop (Mural template)

Prep work for the organization and team topologies session (optional)

I have run this session in two ways: (1) draw it together with everyone in the room (virtual or presential), or (2) send an email with a questionnaire beforehand, prepare the board and then review and adjust it with everyone in the room (virtual or presential)

Please find below the content of the email and questionnaire I use for option 2.

Dear Team Leader,

In the week of MM/DD/YYYY, we are having our Platform Accelerate Workshop (you should have already received the meeting invites for these sessions). The Platform Accelerate Workshop comprises several sessions designed to align on strategy and accelerate our platform backlog of work, enabling us to understand our current state and explore the next steps for success.

To ensure the workshop’s effectiveness, we kindly request your participation in a short questionnaire. This will provide us with a comprehensive understanding of our team structures, dependencies, and pain points within the organization.

Your input is essential as we prepare for the workshop. Based on your responses, we will analyze team structures, identify dependencies, and assess critical pain points that hinder our collective progress for the platform. This questionnaire will serve as a starting point for our collaborative workshop, enabling us to make informed decisions and design effective strategies moving forward.

We appreciate your valuable time and contribution to this endeavor.

Thank you,

[Your Name]

Questionnaire:
1. What is your team?
2. What is your role in the team?
3. Based on the following Team Topology definitions, please identify the type of team it falls under: “FOUR FUNDAMENTAL TOPOLOGIES:
• Stream-aligned team: Aligned to a flow of work from a segment of the business domain.
• Platform team: A grouping of other team types that provide a compelling internal product to accelerate delivery by Stream-aligned teams.
• Enabling team: Assists a Stream-aligned team in overcoming obstacles and detects missing capabilities.
• Complicated Subsystem team: Involves significant mathematics, calculation, or technical expertise.” (Source: “Team Topologies”)
4. Does your team depend on the work of another team? If yes, please list the team name and the dependency.
5. Does your team provide services or work to another team? If yes, please list the team name and the service/work provided.
6. What are the main pain points your team faces today? Please list up to five.
7. What is your team’s long-term goal (more than a year from now)?
8. What is your team’s short-term goal (up to six months from now)?

Paulo Caroli

Paulo Caroli is the author of the best-selling book “Lean Inception: How to Align People and Build the Right Product” (the first on a series of books on business agility). He's also the creator of FunRetrospectives.com , a site and book about retrospectives, futurospectives and team building activities. Caroli writes on this blog frequently. Receive the next post in your email. Sign up here.
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