The Team Topologies book suggests that organizations should adopt a team-first approach to organization design instead. This approach promotes creating small, long-lived independent teams with clear ownership of business areas within the limits of the team’s cognitive load, and also kept within appropriate trust boundaries using Dunbar’s number. Dunbar’s number, as defined by anthropologist Robin Dunbar, relates to how trust dynamics between people change based upon the size of the group they are in, i.e., a smaller group has higher trust levels than larger groups. If the size of a group reaches a Dunbar number, e.g., 15, 50, 150, we should expect the trust dynamics to change. If you are interested in reading more, look at this article: Dunbar’s number and Communities of Practice.
It is essential to be deliberate when designing channels to avoid pure “open space” models for online communication. Instead, try to be more explicit about creating groups and collaboration spaces based on group trust boundaries. Having dedicated chat rooms/channels for teams is essential. It is equally important to create dedicated channels for certain types of communication within larger groups or departments that the team might be part of, enabling the group members to have a closer trust boundary since they might be working on more closely related things.
As described in the previous Team Dependencies section, we must strive for “non-blocking” dependencies between teams. If our teams face scenarios where they have to wait for another team to complete some work before they can continue, we would consider this a “blocking” interaction, which we want to avoid. After recognizing this awkward interaction, the teams can then be purposeful about a collaboration over a short period to create an X-as-a-service interaction allowing the consuming team to self-serve in future interactions.
One technique introduced by Team Topologies that can be especially useful within a remote setting is the Thinnest Viable Platform (TVP). This concept encourages teams to consider the simplest way a blocking interaction can be changed to non-blocking. In many cases, simply adding information to a wiki page and making it visible to other members of the organization can significantly reduce the cognitive load for employees in a remote environment. You can find out more about TVP in this article: What is a Thinnest Viable Platform (TVP)?
However, in our consulting activities, we often observe that organizations need more clarity on team boundaries and organization structures, mainly when working in remote settings. Starting by better understanding team boundaries and dependencies is essential. The article shares ways to approach that, including identifying boundaries and consolidating them in the Team API and dependency tracker artifacts. Furthermore, you can also start adopting Team Topologies interaction modes to more accurately describe the dependencies in your teams. That should give you an excellent shared language to describe existing dependencies and how to transform them or identify new ones.
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