All the labels we use for different kinds of systems

Terms like squads, tribes, feature teams, chapters, guilds, labs, departments and towers are merely labels for different kinds of systems.


System: A set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or interconnecting network; a complex whole.

What makes a squad or a feature team. different to a tribe, or to a guild? Primarily, the difference is in the purpose of the organisational units (or systems) in question.

Purpose: The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

With a few other characteristics we can quite easily describe and differentiate any two organisational systems or sub-systems:

  • 􏰀Purpose
  • People/skills needed to fulfil purpose􏰀
  • Assets owned
  • Measurement approach
  • Mission
  • Constraints
  • Interfaces

N.B. Measurement approach is how the system will be measured against its purpose and mission. Constraints represent the limitations on the freedom of that system (its “boundaries” or “guardrails”). Interfaces means how does it communicate with other systems and sub-systems: inbound and outbound, reporting and so on.

All these characteristics can change over time, both in a directed way and in a emergent way; team and organisational retrospectives are a key tool in managing and monitoring this evolution.

Leave a Reply