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Pattern: Communicate Through Tribes

Create groups of people who have similar skills but are on different teams to cross-pollinate ideas across the company and provide valuable whole-organization perspective

A company is moving from a hierarchical Waterfall approach to the quickly evolving and complex world of cloud native. In traditional organizations, decision making and knowledge sharing are done according to hierarchy, and managers or lead architects are responsible for knowing everything about their assigned projects. In cloud native,however, engineers are given ownership over microservices and need to make decisions quickly and independently. Delivery processes are being fully automated.

In This Context

In a changing cloud native world, with ownership for application services divided across teams, managers don’t know enough to provide effective advice, much less make good decisions. At the same time, managers have the illusion of knowledge and control—they don’t know what they don’t know—so the team’s abilities and effectiveness are only as great as its manager’s capability.
• Cloud native tech is complex and takes time to learn.
• Most delivery decisions in cloud native happen during automated delivery processor very close to it.
• Dependencies between teams and a need to get permission for any change slowdown delivery.

Therefore

Create domain-specific tribes that operate outside of normal management hierarchy.Use tribes to share specific technical and organizational info and to provide perspective and advice for complex decision making.
• Members of tribes belong to different teams.
• Meetings are regular and open-ended.
• Tribes play advisory and coordination roles but have no decision-making power.
• All the tribe members are knowledgeable in the tribe’s domain.

Consequently

The company has groups that cross-cut traditional organizational units. This helps those people who are closest to and most knowledgeable in a particular domain subject identify areas for running experiments and making changes.
+ Tribe members share ideas and advise one another on issues and problems.
+ Managers have limited ability to intervene.