Teams and Business Units

Teams are to the organisation like organs are to the body: specialised functions making sure that the whole is healthy and energetic. Business units are larger body parts including several teams who cooperate closely towards a common BU primary driver.

There is a difference between a team and a group of people. A group of people is, well, a group of people. A team is a group of people working towards the same objectives. In order to be functional, this requires a high level of trust and collaboration. A bunch of individuals struggling over who has the most power is not a team.

Using the self-governance vocabulary, teams are also called circles. More than 10 people in a circle is usually not a good idea, for efficiency reasons. Recommended are 6-8 people. If you feel like you're starting to become heavy, consider splitting the circle in two (create a new domain and populate it) and retain links between the new circles, if needed (described below).

In a top-down management organisation, every circle has a manager who is ultimately responsible for team decisions and actions, moving information both up and down in the organisation. In a self-governing organisation, every circle is linked with each other in a structure where transparency is high, and information flows more freely in all directions needed.

We make sure to link all circles with each other, assuring that the principle of “Equivalence” is alive. The circle is linked in two ways: One co-worker is selected to represent the team in the higher circle (usually the business unit) and one co-worker is selected to represent the higher circle in the team. Each of these two roles are responsible for information flowing either up or down the organisation. We do this on all levels of the organisation. This makes sure that there is no power-over because two individuals who are members of both the higher and the lower circle have consent and objection rights in both circles.

In other words, the higher circle can’t decide over the lower circle because of this double-linking. Additionally, double-linking increases the bandwidth of information because two people filter information according to each different (and limited) perspective.

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Who and how to select people for the double-linking is like any other role selection process (described below), including a term limited in time. When new circles are formed or in the beginning of transitioning to self-government, quicker rotation is a good thing so that everyone is invited to contribute and understand and respect the roles. Don't rotate too fast though – consistency and retainment of knowledge is also a good thing. Find the right balance.

If teams are double-linked into their respective business unit, then what happens with the management teams? Short answer: They are no longer needed. Classic top-down managers are considered bottlenecks and should be converted into leaders instead. This doesn't mean that the same people (the original managers) can't be selected for the double-linking roles – of course they can, if they have the motivation, skill and time for it. But now everyone is invited to take full responsibility of the whole and we also rotate the roles so that the organisation becomes more dynamic. The business unit itself is now considered a team, albeit a larger one, represented with double links by all teams in the BU.

Final notes: The double-linking explained above create one main structure that is easily visualised in an organisational map. As of writing, we use the tool Maptio (app.maptio.com) for his. The whole organisational structure is dynamic and should be as close as possible to the actual and real need of the outside world – creating value as effectively and efficiently as possible whilst making sure that all co-workers are motivated, healthy and innovative.