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Supply Activity Plays

Review of Benefits

Reminder of some high level benefits when aligning talent within the organisation in support of a more agile team-based structure:

  • Enable workforce flexibility where people can easily be deployed to teams anywhere with in the organisation based on talent needs, and not traditional management structures.
  • Allow deployment of the workforce more objectively ensuring that people are working on the agreed highest customer and business priorities within the delivery organisation.
  • Insight and visibility where talent hotspots or gluts exist that may be holding back the organisation. Provides opportunities for optimisation, up-skilling and cross skilling.
  • Simplify talent pool specific skill development, being able to bring the right levels of knowledge to the work, and better share this knowledge.
  • Maximising consistency of the delivery model across the organisation, with consistent messaging of each talent pools' role responsibilities.
  • Understand talent mix by employment instrument. That is, understanding the mix of permanent employees, contractors, and consultants in each talent pool. The adjustment of which affects labour cost, flexibility, and risk exposure.


Clearly define the talent pools that will be covered in this new agile reporting line design, remembering the concept of delivery teams will create demand requests. This new design needs to enable a simple and intuitive mechanism for requesting talent, optionally specifying the skill level, experience, and specialisation attributes these people have. The result should allow a reduction of reporting layers, and facilitate skill development opportunities within the talent pools.

Similar to the delivery team design, successful transformations pivot the whole organisation at once, or - for larger orgs - include multiple business units aligned to one or more value streams (see: 2021 Business Agility report key findings p.6, detail p.15).

Note that when a transformation program is split into parts (or waves, or phases) processes will need to be adjusted to allow a blend of agile team supply structures to operate alongside more traditional line management centric talent pools. This hybrid approach will introduce another level of complexity towards responsibilities, ownership, priorities and interactions.

Creating Design Guidelines

Provide design guidelines that offer guidance on how the new talent pool structure should look and feel from a 'supply' perspective. This is the talent that will be supplied to meet the delivery teams' demands. Some things to consider:

  • What is the desired type of Talent pool groupings and how many layers of groupings will there be; with the aim of keeping the layers as shallow as possible. A recommendation is no more than 3 or 4, this still allows for the right type and depth of conversations when prioritisation calls are being made regarding the work and people. Some examples:
  • Overarching Talent groups, such as full stack engineers, or marketing
  • Groupings of talent within the overarching, such as full stack engineers with java specialisation, or retail consumer marketing
  • Detailed grouping within the Groupings example: Advanced Java full stack engineers or small retail consumer marketing
  • The preferred sizing of the groupings balances communication and trust against the size and level of the grouping. Some examples:
  • Overarching talent type 500 to a maximum of 1500 individuals
  • Groupings of talent types, up to 150 individuals
  • Detail grouping of talent types, 8-15 individuals
  • What skills and capabilities will be needed to support the allocation of talent to the delivery demands. This includes an ongoing understanding of the work, knowledge and evolution of common practices in delivering the work, recruitment, optimisation and general management. Some example roles are:
  • Overarching Talent Lead
    • common terms are Chapter Area Lead or Domain Area Lead
  • Talent grouping lead
    • common terms is Chapter Lead
  • Detail grouping lead
    • common term is sub chapter
  • Specialist roles
    • Scrum Master
    • Release Train Engineer
    • Enablement groupings
  • Establishing clear responsibilities for these roles will reduce the complexity of interactions at each level of talent grouping. It will also ensure individuals can be clear of their role when placed within their delivery teams.

Talent to Demand Needs

Delivery defines the business outcomes needed to fulfil the organisation's strategy. Then, working with the Talent (supply) areas, they capture the desired amount and types of talent that will they require for success. Doing this across all the areas of the organisation provides collective visibility as to what the talent needs are, and to which priorities they will be working.

  • Understand the work behind each demand request, and how it aligns to the organisations' strategies and priorities. This can be more objectively enabled if an agreed measure is chosen to rank the demand requests (DVF, WSJF, cost of delay, perceived value vs cost, and many other ways)
  • Start assigning the available talent to the teams, ensuring that in cases of contention the highest priority outcomes are worked on first.
  • Contention is very likely. There is always more work than talent and funding, so this matching gives an understanding the capacity constraints.
  • Allow Delivery to either revisit their priorities, pool similar work better, or enable recruitment to fulfil the Talent demands
  • Often this is a process that includes iterations where visibility is honed, and conversations continue attempting to resolve contention and constraints.
  • Sometimes not all things can be resolved, this needs to be escalated, leadership needs to make their now informed decisions and tradeoffs - "captains calls"
  • As part of these iterations, it's important for talent pool leaders and delivery leaders to discuss the proposed work with the individuals that would be doing it. This entire process is for naught if individuals refuse their assignments.


Both the Talent supply and Delivery demand groupings need to work together to ensure that individuals feel secure, confident and informed.

Transparency, trust and communications play key roles in a transforming organisation. As soon as possible, clearly communicate to individuals that are effected by the new structure and team designs and let them know the following minimum information:

  • Their role in the new ways of working structure
  • Expectations of them in their role
  • What team they will be assigned to, and who are the other members in the team
  • What is the purpose of their team
  • Who has an Agile specialist role within the team, and what is the purpose of the role
  • Which other teams are in the grouping, and what are those teams' purposes
  • Who is the grouping owner

If only some areas of the organisation are transforming, it is just as important to let the rest of the organisation know what is going on, so they can understand which work is done where and by who in the new structure. This will minimize negative impact on the flow of work, avoid negative rumours, and reduce the panic or uncertainty often felt by individuals in a major change program.

Try, Learn, Iterate

Implementing and running the new organisational design will provide an abundance of learnings, a regular cadence should be in place to ensure that these learnings are reviewed and implemented. Try not to implement all things at the same time, as this will lead to change fatigue and potentially confusion. Instead, pick the items that will provide the highest team delivery outcomes. Some examples of what has worked is

  • Quarterly design review in alignment with business outcome based reviews
  • this is when any change in business priorities occur, and the delivery grouping has to take these into account
  • when looking at these priorities, Delivery leads update their forward forecasts so the delivery grouping can understand how they are tracking in their current and future ambitions. This forecasting provides a crucial wealth of information for talent pool planning, skilling, acquisition and better understanding of capacity constraints.
  • Push back on work demands that exceed known talent constraints.
  • Look at ways to enhance individuals' capabilities and their ability to deliver outcomes
    • Example; pipeline management, testing harnesses, industry associations, training etc.
    • Tooling tips or new tooling acquisition to augment or enhance productivity

While the work is being reviewed and demand needs are changing, it's a great time to implement some of the organisation design learnings. Continuous improvement of practices should be occurring as often as possible, and can be assisted by bringing a Talent grouping together on a regular cadence to share what they've learned in their cross team and cross company assignments.