The Focused Solution Team (FST) is a value creation structure where a group of people work together on a particular product or group of related products. They typically work on one Minimum Business Increment (MBI) or Minimum Viable Product (MVP) at a time.
FSTs can be as small as long as they have all of the skills required to build the product/service that’s asked of them. When this number is less than 8-10 then the FST is essentially the same as a cross-functional team focused on a particular product/service. But in many cases, the product requires more than 8-10 people so that value can be delivered faster. In this case the team can be built up of a combination of Feature and Core Teams along with any specialists required, as shown in Figure 1, Example Focused Solution Team.
Figure 1. Example Focused Solution Team
Use Kanban to request work items to be done by people whose skills are required across teams or have them provide people temporarily as needed.
When to Use a Focused Solution team
- A single, cross-functional team is too small to work on an MBI or MVP.
- When starting an Agile transition, it is often useful to find the people necessary to do the work on an MBI and organize them into a group of feature and core teams.
Creating a Focused Solution Team
- Identify the skill sets and capacities needed
- See who you have available
- Ask if you can put these people on a team with limited availability to other groups without adversely affecting the other groups? If you can’t, be aware that they will be needed outside of their area of focus.
The FST now represents a cross-functional team with most of the dependencies, handoffs and hand backs being within the FST. Members of an FST should be dedicated to the FST. They can help other teams, but be aware that if this happens too much they won’t be focused and additional, induced work will likely be created.
Comparing the Focused Solution Teams to Other Value Creation Structures
To better understand the Focused Solution Team structure it is useful to compare it to other value creation structures, including Agile Release Trains (ARTs), as shown in Figure 2, Value Creation Structures.
Figure 2. Value Creation Structures
After establishing ARTs to manage dependencies, FSTs should be split out from them wherever possible. If you manage the dependencies across the teams in an FST rather than an ART, there will be fewer dependencies. Note also how FSTs provide a path to create teams larger than 8-10 people when more skill sets are needed. They also create a path to smaller groups of teams than ARTs.
FSTs are not small ARTs
A common misconception is that an FST is nothing more than a small ART. This is not true, and Figure 3, Comparing FSTs with ARTs highlights some of the differences.
Figure 3. Comparing FSTs with ARTs
Note that DA FLEX used to call these Dedicated Product Teams. They have been renamed to Focused Solution Teams.