In Sun Tzu’s book, “Art of War”, there is a section on “Waging War”. I quote: “As for military operations, let us consider an army of 1000 attack chariots, 1000 heavy chariots and 100,000 armoured troop, all provisioned for a campaign of 1000 li”. Tzu further added, “…Allow expenses for maintenance and manufacture of chariots and armour…”. And, most of all, ensure victory. Tzu wrote about this in the section “Deployment”. I quote, “Being prepared for all circumstances is what ensures certain victory…”
Equating that to Lean-Agile teams, we should organize our teams around features (feature teams — the “attacking troop”) and components (component teams — the “maintenance and manufacture of chariot and armour” component of the army)…and most of all, the ability to release value (“a victorious army”) to the marketplace.
Feature teams consume the output of component teams. Just like the aforementioned “Art of War” excerpt, the output of the people maintaining and manufacturing chariots and armours are consumed by the attacking troop in chariots and armours. A right balance/mix between these two must be achieved for optimum solution/value.
On releasability — “Task Oriented versus Value Oriented”: You can claim to be the best agile team and team of agile teams in your tribe; however, if you are not delivering value to the marketplace, then you are ‘doing’ something that is not necessarily ‘producing’ something of value for delivery to the marketplace! Think about that for a moment. Agile teams and team of agile teams should be focused on producing value — small vertically sliced stories of value — to the marketplace… and not focused on tasks. One common anti-pattern of an agile team is this: Product Owner is keeping a story from not being accepted because some tasks of that story were not checked off/completed…even though the intent of that story and the acceptance criteria of that story had been achieved… together with that story’s definition of done! Again, do not focus on task! Instead, focus on value… and deliver it fast — deliver customer value in the shortest sustainable lead time — to the marketplace! This is a very critical and important mindset shift to achieve: “Think of value instead of task“! This is the hardest thing to do for most people coming from the “Waterfall” mindset. They keep thinking in terms of Tasks within a WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) within a Project. For them to completely transform to the “Lean-Agile” mindset, they must start thinking in terms Value, the Team’s Capacity/Velocity, and Prioritized and Correctly sequenced Values spread over a Program Increment (PI) or series of Program Increments (note: commit only to the current PI; the next two PIs are uncommitted forecast of Values).
To summarize, just like Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”, organize your teams around features, components…and most importantly, around releasabilty — the ability to release value, on demand, to the marketplace, with ease! Otherwise, what’s the point?