The definition of Tribe Model Management (TMM) is a strategy where product development staff are separated into specified units so that they can then work on a particular aspect of a product. This model tends to be used more commonly in Agile product development. For example, where several ‘squads’ works within the same business area, they can then be grouped into a bigger team called a ‘tribe'. One of the reasons TMM came into being is there was an increasing trend to innovate team structures within modern organizations that were growing quickly. The model itself first emerged as a strategy to assist the development department of Spotify.
The original idea of the model was to compartmentalize the development team. As a result, a number of different names were given to the groups and bands within groups. Not surprisingly, the concept has evolved and some businesses have come up with further naming conventions and broader groups. Some are:
A squad The smallest unit and consisting of a group of autonomous engineers who collaborate closely on a specific aspect of a product.
A tribe This is a collection of squads. They are grouped in this way as they will be working in the same business area.
A chapter A chapter is a group of developers within a tribe but who operate across different squads. Typically, those people in a chapter will have similar skill sets but may be engaged in marginally different facets of the product.
A guild Like chapters, guilds operate across different groups but their remit is even wider and can operate across tribes. Members of a guild will be linked by the sharing of knowledge, experience, and best practices.
Some other names that have arisen as the concept has evolved are ‘crew’, ‘party’, ‘unit’, ‘faction’, ‘troop’, and ‘lineup’, and there is little doubt there are even more in existence.
The most appropriate time for an organization to use the TMM concept is when it is already quite large but either is or anticipates, it is going to expand quickly. Small businesses can exist with ambiguous role distinctions within their respective workforces. In fact, sometimes this approach is necessary. However, as the product line grows, staff numbers expand, and products become more complicated, TMM makes more sense. However, in order to transition to a TMM method, such an organization will need to adopt an Agile product management strategy, which is intended to shape a company so that it can release regular product functionality updates and utilize feedback from the market.
Some questions that need consideration before adopting the development of the product to the model are: is your team able to evolve to scale with the growth of the enterprise? Is it currently possible to provide the appropriate resources to each of your departments or groups? Is it possible to keep future bureaucracy to a minimum? And, can speedy planning and a slick release of the product still be achieved?
There are a number of advantages of using the TMM concept. Firstly, the TMM is able to reduce the amount of time it takes to bring the product to the market as well as release updates for it. Also, it fosters greater know-how in each aspect of the development of the product as expertise is shared more readily. Furthermore, TMM minimizes dependencies across the project. Groups can more easily overlap their portfolios and tasks tend to be more flexible. Using the TMM also helps to eliminate unnecessary processes, and increases clarity and accountability. Finally, the model increases the business’ chances to invent, evolve, and innovate.