The Disciplined Agile (DA) principles were recently refactored and as part of this refactoring, a principle was added: “Organize Around Products/Services”.
While it is just one of the eight principles, this new one aligns very well with lean thinking. It also addresses many challenges which leadership teams experience with agile transformations. Such transformations require change to happen in not only the delivery teams within an enterprise, but also supporting functions such as finance, human resources, operations and procurement.
Some benefits of a product or service-centric organization include:
- A reduced likelihood of the “throw it over the wall” syndrome. When delivery teams are responsible for not just the enhancements to their products or services but also the resolution of escaped defects there is more skin in the game for them to build higher quality solutions. This also encourages teams to take a holistic view of a solution and not just its usability and functionality.
- Securing funding is less challenging when we organize around solutions rather than the individual projects to evolve those solutions. Based on the strategic value of the product or service, governance leaders should be able to allocate a tranche of funding for a time period such as a quarter or a fiscal year. That funding will determine how much value can be added into the solution over that time period.
- Better team cohesion and a reduction in the waste that comes with repeatedly going through the Forming-Storming-Norming (and Adjourning) phases of team development. When we organize around solutions, the delivery team remains together until that product or service is no longer needed by the organization. Prerequisites for high performing teams such as psychological safety and radical candor are more likely to develop and be strengthened within long-standing teams rather than short-lived ones. The team would also gain greater knowledge of the business domain which would increase the value they can provide to stakeholders while they are enhancing their assigned products or services.
- It addresses the inherent problem that how we structure an organization is not how the work on products or services is actually accomplished.
This is not to say that organizations don’t need project management as the hard and soft tools of the profession are still critical to implementing successful change. There will always be some changes which are “one and done” and those will remain fair game for project teams. Nothing would prevent product/service owners from organizing the allocation of funds within their annual allotment to projects if that makes the management of this funding easier for them.
But if we are looking to increase alignment, organizing around products or services is a good way to cut through the silo thinking which develops when we are organized by function or capability.