I would like to initiate this blog by introducing the term “modularity”, a well known term in technological systems. We already know that any modular technological system can be broken down into components that are loosely coupled and as need arises can be mixed and matched to interact or even exchange resources. It is quite intuitive to see how this underlying decoupled and still minimalistically coupled logistics can be extended to define an organizational delivery structure with loosely coupled units that are autonomous, self-organizing and also scalable. So can we say that “modular organizations” are possible!
Organizations can be structured in various ways that determine how the organization operates and performs. Just like any other continuously evolving virtually managed organization Axelerant also had its fair share of challenges to define most optimum and viable organizational delivery structure to meet its service delivery needs. We started with typical projectized organization extending with specialized functional vertical groups and eventually emerging as a matrix organization to allow for a delivery support umbrella.
Taking a level further, borrowing from spotify and their structural success story, it was pretty intuitive to extend our service delivery structure and divide our business into small, tightly knit “squads” or futuristic centers of excellence focusing on “a” value chain [eventually expected to be SBU’s (strategic business units)!!].
Interactions between squads (interchangeable to “modules” or “components”) though is limited, the structure does allow for extensive flexibility of intellectual property cross-sharing by guilds and chapters as functional and support leaderships, inter-squad resource demands based on specialized skills demand and squad member movement should there be saturation.
As CMM best practices indicate, organizational structures are also organizational enablers to meet companies strategic visions and benefit realization, extending the matrix structure with self equipped and autonomous squads has helped us to ensure individual and team satisfaction levels by
- redefining and extending the role of project manager to squad leaders executing simultaneously on value add squad programmes (emergent, squad vision-led, strategic and operational) in their mini-ecosystems
- autonomy to define own operational procedures and activities and sill follow minimum viable company wide baselines
- higher level of team bonding, influence, loyalty and support enhancing cultural effectiveness inherently.
- eliminating the need for centralized resource management and decentralizing appraisals
- easier adoption and management of change transformation on introducing new practice tools and techniques thus minimizing enterprise risks.
In a nutshell provide a structural skeleton to make happiness possible!
But are we really done?
For extended and efficient scalability of open source practice, and with appropriate structure as an enabler to this scalability, we do realize that there has to be consistency in the degree of modularity defined
(a) to not impact other mini-ecosystems/squads and their central meaning.
(b) have a consistent and minimum viable baseline/norms culturally and otherwise to ensure we still are a one unit with a common vision and a mission statement.
More on challenges, where and how agile fits in and scaling open source practice in part 2.