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The unFIX model

The unFIX model is the latest alternative to the scaled frameworks we have known so far. A new concept and visualisation by Jurgen Appelo.

It's time for a paradigm shift, with the arrival of SAFe, LeSS, S@S, Holacracy, Management 3.0, the Spotify model and the alternative to matrix organisations - the unFIX model. It took the creator of the model, Jurgen Appelo, 12 years to put this system together. The components and ideas may be familiar, the names and the unified concept and its visualisation are new.


The actors in the unFIX model


The crew or team (CREW, SQUAD, POD, CELL) 


In the unFIX model, a team is made up of 3-7 people, with an optimal number of 5. The members work together most of the time, but may also spend some time each week in the forum. We distinguish 7 standard teams according to the following areas: value stream, facilitation, capabilities, leadership, platform, experience, procurement.


However, most teams are usually a Value Stream team. These are self-organising, cross-functional, autonomous teams (in the LeSS framework, "feature teams"), operating by internal agreement, based on commonly agreed rules. They decide everything: roles, methods, goals, production flow, relationships with other teams, and thus they are the ones who most determine the customer experience. Based on the principles of dynamic reorganization, these teams are stable but never static, members can become flexible teams at any time. The term "crew" refers to the ship or aircraft crew who together are responsible for the whole passenger experience.




It is vital that the team has a captain who takes full responsibility for the work of the team as the primary contact with the outside world, similar to the captain of a ship or plane. This does not mean, of course, that he gives orders to everyone; in fact, he has few decisions to make on his own. A good team is self-organising and everyone is aware of their own responsibilities. Each member should also be a leader in his or her own area, but the captain is the one who is responsible for the work of the whole team. The base can determine who can become captain. The captain can be appointed or elected. However, he/she may not have Line Manager privileges. Career development, promotions and salaries are not his or her business, and he or she is forbidden to discuss them with team members. Depending on the business, you could call him Product Manager, Project Manager or Platform Manager. A Line Manager role would make the team more inflexible, resilient and defensive to change.



Each team has a base of 10-150 people. The bases are made up of different types of teams organised according to different value streams. The base is in fact an independent business capable of operating autonomously. It is a home base for everyone, a person can only have one base, which gives its members a sense of purpose, recognition, security, a sense of belonging, a common culture, a toolbox and career opportunities. Ideally, a base is a customer domain, not a professional domain. Something like a tribe in the Spotify model, or an Agile Release Train (ART) in the SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) model. However, the scheduling and synchronisation of work across teams does not have to be uniform, and sometimes it is explicitly preferable to have no synchronisation. The most important task of the base is to continuously reorganise itself based on the needs of the customer experience. Since the organisational structure is highly dependent on the product architecture, a change in the architecture must imply a change in the structure. Hence, the base must do everything possible to keep the teams as flexible as possible. For example, it should minimize the rules and standards for reorganizing teams to make it as simple and conflict-free as possible.




Members of the management team usually focus on the following areas: product, technology, marketing, but there can be up to 4-5 members of the management team. Generally speaking, leaders have line manager authority over all members of their base. Each of them has 3-20 direct reports. Thanks to this, whatever happens to the teams, the management of the base always remains stable. A team member can change teams up to five times a year, but his or her supervisor remains the same. Only the members of the management team are responsible for recruitment, salaries, promotions, etc. Of course, they can delegate tasks to team leaders and the forum chairman. But there must be a leader who represents the whole management team and the base as a whole.




2-3 leaders can easily manage a base of 12, but when the base swells to 50, problems can arise. That's when creating forums can make sense. Forums are optional departments of between 2 and 40 people, designed to bring together employees working in similar areas to talk and make decisions together. The base managers decide which forums are needed and can delegate part of their tasks to the forums, in areas such as standardisation, creation of templates, toolkits, infrastructure, development of collaboration between teams, individual development, etc. Each base member must participate in at least one forum meeting. The forums are therefore the link between the teams. The forum differs from the chapters in the Spotify model in that there are no line managers. The forums are therefore used to optimise the base.


The president (CHAIR, MODERATOR) 


The forum chair is the manager of the forum, not of the people who make it up. It is a part-time job, usually done by an experienced member of the base. The "first among equals" who moderates the discussions and decision making.


The superbase (SUPER-BASE, DIVISION) 


In organisations with more than 150 employees, staff must also work with other departments outside the base. To facilitate this, several code-dependent bases can be set up as superbases, each with its own management.




Finally, to facilitate collaboration between bases or superbases, superforums can be created, which can be likened to the more common Community of Practice (CoP), Community of Interest (CoI) or Centre of Excellence (CoE) units. They are usually bottom-up and organised on a functional, technical, geographical or market basis, similar to forums. This larger organisational unit can play an important role, for example, in standardisation, standardisation of toolkits, infrastructures, etc.


Sources of the unFIX model


The unFIX model brings real, authentic versatility and flexibility to the enterprise of the future. It draws heavily from Heidi Helfand's book Dynamic Reteaming. Some of the key ideas highlighted are: 


  1. The ability to reorganise teams quickly and easily is vital in an era of major environmental change and successive crises. 
  2. Conway's Law is inescapable: without flexible organizational structures, there is no flexible product architecture. 
  3. Employee well-being and development are as important as customer satisfaction. And individual development and advancement cannot be achieved by sticking to one team. 
  4. Instead of competition between teams, cooperation between teams should be encouraged! 


The second most important resource is Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais' book Team Topologies, which is heavily relied upon in creating standard team typologies. Last but not least, he cites virtualisation and hybrid working as his main inspirations, which are also indispensable concepts in our post-Covid world, where office work will never be the same. 

More information on the unFIX model is available on the website.



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