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Re-Imagining Team Topologies For Non-Tech Teams


"Team Topologies: Organizing Business and Technology Teams for Fast Flow" by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais (2019) is a seminal work that provides a framework for understanding and optimizing team structures within an organization. Initially written for technology teams, the principles and strategies delineated in the book have broad applications that extend beyond the tech industry. This article explores how "Team Topologies" can be adapted and applied to non-tech teams, providing valuable insights for improving team performance, communication, and efficiency in various organizational contexts.

Understanding Team Topologies

In "Team Topologies," Skelton and Pais (2019) introduce four fundamental team types and three interaction modes essential for fostering a high-performing organization. The team types include Stream-aligned, Enabling, Complicated-subsystem, and Platform teams. The interaction modes encompass Collaboration, X-as-a-Service, and Facilitating. These structures and modes are designed to address specific functions and collaboration needs within an organization, ensuring that teams can work together effectively while minimizing cognitive load.

Stream-aligned Teams

Stream-aligned teams are organized around the flow of work and customer value streams. Their primary focus is delivering a continuous stream of value to the customer. In non-tech environments, stream-aligned teams can be seen in customer service, sales, and marketing departments, where the primary goal is to maintain a direct line of communication with the customer and ensure their needs are met promptly (Skelton & Pais, 2019).

For instance, a sales team can be structured as a stream-aligned team, with each member focusing on different aspects of the sales process, from lead generation to closing deals. Organizations can enhance responsiveness and improve customer satisfaction by aligning the team's efforts with the customer journey. This alignment also fosters a sense of ownership and accountability among team members, as they are directly responsible for specific outcomes that contribute to the organization's overall success (Berger & Berger, 2018).

Enabling Teams

Enabling teams provides expertise and assistance to stream-aligned teams, helping them overcome obstacles and adopt new skills or technologies. In non-tech contexts, enabling teams can be found in human resources (HR), training, and development departments. Their role is to support other teams by providing the necessary resources, training, and guidance to enhance their performance (Skelton & Pais, 2019).

For example, an HR team can act as an enabling team by facilitating professional development programs, conducting workshops on effective communication, and offering coaching sessions to help employees improve their skills. This support structure ensures that stream-aligned teams have access to the expertise and resources they need to excel in their roles, leading to higher productivity and job satisfaction (Cameron & Quinn, 2011).

Complicated-subsystem Teams

Complicated-subsystem teams manage and develop specialized components that require deep expertise and are often reused across different teams or projects. In non-tech industries, these teams can be likened to finance, legal, and compliance departments, where specialized knowledge is crucial for the organization's operations (Skelton & Pais, 2019).

A finance team, for instance, can be considered a complicated-subsystem team. They manage complex financial systems, ensure compliance with regulations, and provide detailed financial analyses that inform strategic decisions. By centralizing this expertise within a specialized team, organizations can ensure consistency, accuracy, and efficiency in handling complex tasks, thereby supporting the broader organizational objectives (Edmondson, 2018).

Platform Teams

Platform teams create and maintain internal platforms that streamline the work of other teams by providing reusable services, tools, and capabilities. In non-tech settings, platform teams can be represented by departments such as IT, facilities management, and administrative support, which provide essential services that enable other teams to focus on their core responsibilities (Skelton & Pais, 2019).

An IT department, for example, serves as a platform team by managing the organization's technology infrastructure, providing technical support, and developing tools that enhance productivity. By centralizing these functions, the IT department allows other teams to leverage technology without having to manage the complexities themselves. This approach improves efficiency and ensures that teams have reliable access to the tools and services they need to perform their duties effectively (Duhigg, 2016).

Interaction Modes

The three interaction modes—Collaboration, X-as-a-Service, and Facilitating—define how teams work together to achieve common goals. Understanding and applying these modes can significantly enhance communication and cooperation within non-tech teams (Skelton & Pais, 2019).


Collaboration involves working closely to solve complex problems or achieve shared objectives. This mode is advantageous when innovative solutions and diverse perspectives are needed to address multifaceted challenges. In non-tech environments, collaboration can be seen in cross-functional project teams, where members from different departments come together to work on a common goal (Edmondson, 2018).

For instance, a product development team might include marketing, sales, finance, and manufacturing representatives. By collaborating, these team members can leverage their diverse expertise to create a product that meets market demands, adheres to budget constraints, and can be manufactured efficiently. This collaborative approach ensures that all aspects of the project are considered, leading to more comprehensive and successful outcomes (Sinek, 2014).


X-as-a-Service refers to teams providing specific services to other teams, enabling them to focus on their core activities. This mode is akin to a service-oriented approach, where specialized teams offer their expertise as a service to the rest of the organization. In non-tech contexts, this can be seen in legal departments, where legal services are provided to other teams to ensure compliance and mitigate risks (Skelton & Pais, 2019).

For example, a legal department might offer contract review services to the sales team. By providing this service, the legal team ensures that all contracts are thoroughly reviewed for compliance and risk management, allowing the sales team to focus on closing deals without worrying about legal complexities. This service-oriented approach enhances efficiency and reduces the cognitive load on the sales team, enabling them to perform their duties more effectively (Berger & Berger, 2018).


Facilitating involves teams acting as enablers or coaches, helping other teams to improve their processes and capabilities. This interaction mode is particularly relevant for teams focusing on continuous improvement and organizational development. In non-tech settings, facilitating can be seen in departments such as HR and organizational development, where the focus is on enhancing the overall performance and culture of the organization (Skelton & Pais, 2019).

For instance, an organizational development team might facilitate workshops on team dynamics, leadership skills, and process improvement. By acting as facilitators, these teams help other departments identify areas for improvement and implement strategies to enhance their performance. This facilitating role fosters a culture of continuous learning and development, which is essential for long-term organizational success (Cameron & Quinn, 2011).

Applying Team Topologies to Non-Tech Teams

Adapting the concepts of "Team Topologies" to non-tech teams requires a thoughtful approach that considers different departments' unique characteristics and needs. By understanding the core principles and applying them to various contexts, organizations can create a more agile, responsive, and efficient team structure (Skelton & Pais, 2019).

Case Study: Applying Team Topologies in a Healthcare Setting

Let's consider a healthcare organization to illustrate how "Team Topologies" can be applied to non-tech teams. In this setting, the primary goal is to provide high-quality patient care while ensuring efficient operations and compliance with regulations. By adopting the team types and interaction modes outlined in "Team Topologies," the healthcare organization can optimize its team structure and improve overall performance (Edmondson, 2018).

Stream-aligned Teams

In the healthcare setting, stream-aligned teams could include patient care teams organized around specific patient groups or medical conditions. For example, a cardiology team could focus on providing comprehensive care for patients with heart conditions, ensuring that all aspects of their treatment are coordinated and streamlined. The healthcare organization can enhance patient outcomes and satisfaction by aligning the team's efforts with the patient journey (Skelton & Pais, 2019).

Enabling Teams

Enabling teams in the healthcare setting might include departments such as medical education and training, which provide ongoing education and professional development opportunities for healthcare professionals. These teams support the patient care teams by ensuring that staff members are up-to-date with the latest medical knowledge and skills, enabling them to provide high-quality care (Cameron & Quinn, 2011).

Complicated-subsystem Teams

Complicated-subsystem teams in healthcare could include specialized departments such as radiology and pathology, which require deep expertise and advanced technology to perform complex diagnostic procedures. By centralizing these functions within specialized teams, the healthcare organization can ensure consistency, accuracy, and efficiency in diagnostic processes, supporting the broader goal of patient care (Skelton & Pais, 2019).

Platform Teams

Platform teams in healthcare include administrative support and facilities management, which provide essential services that enable patient care teams to focus on their core responsibilities. For example, the facilities management team ensures that the hospital's infrastructure is well-maintained and that all necessary equipment is available and functional. By providing these services, the platform team supports the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the healthcare organization (Duhigg, 2016).

Interaction Modes

The interaction modes of Collaboration, X-as-a-Service, and Facilitating can be applied to enhance communication and cooperation within the healthcare organization. For instance, collaboration might involve cross-functional teams working to develop and implement new treatment protocols. X-as-a-Service can be seen in departments such as IT, which provide technical support and services to the patient care teams. Facilitating might involve the medical education team conducting workshops and training sessions to help healthcare professionals improve their skills and knowledge (Skelton & Pais, 2019).


"Team Topologies" offers a robust framework for understanding and optimizing team structures within an organization. Organizations in various industries can enhance their performance, communication, and efficiency by adapting the principles and strategies outlined in the book to non-tech teams. Whether in healthcare, finance, or any other sector, the concepts of stream-aligned teams, enabling teams, complicated-subsystem teams, and platform teams, along with the interaction modes of Collaboration, X-as-a-Service, and Facilitating, provide valuable insights for creating a more agile and responsive team structure. By embracing these principles, organizations can foster a culture of continuous improvement and innovation, leading to long-term success and sustainability (Skelton & Pais, 2019).


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