4-22 Applying concepts to structures they weren't designed for
There is an assumption that happens when it comes to implementing new ways of working as it relates to the organization design. In my experience, this assumption gets glossed over, and the problems of not following this assumption don’t get highlighted enough.
The assumption or expectation in Lean and Agile frameworks that teams are structured in a certain way; that they’re oriented around a product or value stream. The practices that are associated with those principles and ways of working are often highly dependent on teams being oriented this way to be effective. I think it gets talked about, and I think we could stand to highlight more of the problems that happen when trying to adopt practices that aren’t designed for a company’s organizational structure.
This means that when you haven't taken the time to identify products/services and align teams around them, a lot of the practices are hard to use and some of the principles are really difficult to use a guides. This is why when you have organizations or groups or teams that haven’t organized this way, they struggle with getting the value from the practices as they're often described:
Without organizing the team around a product and its context, it makes it hard to be able to make sure the team has the skills and capabilities it needs to be able to deliver.
When you don’t have a dedicated team, and when you have variability in the teams capacity, the team has a hard time learning what they can commit to from sprint to sprint.
For example, having a group of people who aren't really a team, who don't have shared goals they are collaborating on:
Does it make sense for that group to do planning together?
Does it make sense for them to have a standup where they talk about the progress and impediments of their goals?
Of course not and when put that way, it frankly sounds silly.
Teams have to make an intentional decision about how they want to work and their ways of working. The changes that they need to make to their organization to be able to work that way OR they need to adapt the practices to their context. If a team is unwilling to change their organizational structure, adopting practices that are talked about in ways of working associated with Lean and Agile may not work and probably don't make sense.
I have seen people who don't understand the principles, practices, or problems they’re trying solve implement practices that don't actually add value because they're trying to do "what the book says", as opposed to actually understand the context that they're working in and figure out good ways to get to the outcomes that they want. I've also seen that when some teams reach a point they're unwilling to do what it takes to make the changes necessary to actually get to the outcomes that they want or need.
Some teams forget that the reason for doing ANY of these activities is to get to some outcome. They are designed to help move discovery, development, and learning forward in appreciable way. Teams can lose sight of the purpose of their routines or activities and how it should be helping them deliver value. Instead, they slavishly follow activities without getting the outcomes from the activities they should be getting. And that’s a shame, because then that just means their wasting time.
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