Optimizing Teams for Fast Value Delivery

2024-05-08 Ron Eringa

One of the major advantages of working with agile teams is their emphasis on continuous value delivery. In this blog, we will provide some guidelines on how to set up your teams for optimal value delivery and explore the patterns Scrum employs to ensure this.

The Value Stream

Value is delivered through the concept of a Value Stream—a sequence of activities required to deliver a product, service, or experience to a user or customer. A value stream begins and ends with a user or customer, spanning the journey from the initial idea or signal to the final product, service, or experience.

Fast and continuous value delivery can be achieved by understanding and implementing certain patterns when constructing a Value Stream. In our book “The Professional Agile Leader”, we outline how to organically grow teams using the concepts of component teams and feature teams. In this article, we will use the unFIX model (a pattern library for designing your organization) to illustrate some of these patterns. Here are some key patterns for building an lean and effective Value Stream.

Single Team, Single Value Stream

A fundamental rule for creating fast value is to keep things simple. When feasible, construct a single, multidisciplinary team to manage the Value Stream. In Scrum, this means having one Product Backlog and one Product Owner who decides which tasks to include in the backlog. This avoids confusion and facilitates quicker decision-making.

In the image below, the green area represents the Value Stream:

This Value Stream is constructed with these key patterns:

  1. Unified Work List: Ensure all tasks within the Value Stream can be pulled from a single list of work items (the Product Backlog in Scrum). This avoids confusion and ambiguity.
  2. Single Accountability: Assign one person to optimize the value created in the Value Stream. This individual (known as the Product Owner in Scrum) represents all stakeholders and has the authority to make decisions within the Value Stream. This pattern prevents decisions from being bounced between multiple people.
  3. Cross-Functional Teams: A Value Stream should include all necessary roles and disciplines (known as the Value Stream crew in unFIX or Developers in Scrum) to complete the work. This prevents impediments and optimizes flow.
  4. Team Accountability: Ensure the team responsible for the work is accountable for the quality, planning, and execution of tasks within the Value Stream. This fosters autonomy and a sense of ownership.
  5. Empirical Feedback: Use empirical feedback from actual users to continuously verify that value is being created.

Single Value Streams and Scaled Teams

Working with scaled teams can be complex, time-consuming, and slower. Therefore you should only consider a scaled agile approach when necessary. In the Value Stream below:

  • Too many people or disciplines are needed to create a single product or service, exceeding the capacity of one team (typically around 10 people).
  • There are a high number of inseparable dependencies between teams.
  • It is impossible to split the product\service into smaller products\services.

These are all good reasons to create multiple teams that work in parallel on the same Value Stream. The described patterns for optimizing the Value Stream have not changed though:

  • there is still 1 PO and Product Backlog
  • the teams are still cross-functional (apart from the teams that support them) and autonomous
  • they still need feedback from the users.

Multiple Value Streams Without Scaling

Scale only when necessary to avoid excessive complexity and sluggishness. If you can split a product or service into multiple value streams, you can apply the principles of a single-team value stream without the complexities of scaling.

The situation below describes multiple Value Streams where customers perceive the total solution as 1 service:

The situation below describes multiple Value Streams:

Advantages of Multiple Value Streams without Scaling:

  • Autonomy and Ownership: Reducing dependencies between teams encourages autonomy and ownership.
  • Rapid Adaptation: Each Value Stream can independently make decisions, enabling swift adjustments to changing business conditions or customer demands.
  • Growth Potential: This approach supports growth, as teams can explore new business opportunities that might lead to new Value Streams and Value Stream Crews. This is how companies like Haier (read more: “Start-up Factory”) are expanding their business.

Challenges of Multiple Value Streams without Scaling:

  • Feedback Facilitation: Gathering feedback from stakeholders may require better facilitation due to the potential increase in stakeholders who may only be interested in the value delivered by a few teams. A Sprint Review conducted by a single person might not engage all stakeholders. Consider using a “Bazaar Mode” Sprint Review, where all teams conduct their reviews in parallel.
  • Unified Product Perception: Customers may perceive the combined Value Streams as a single product (e.g., Microsoft’s Office Suite). Introducing an extra layer of decision-making, such as an overall Product Backlog and a chief Product Owner (or Product Manager in SAFe), may seem beneficial. However, this can lead to more discussion, politics, and slower decision-making. It is advisable to adhere to the pattern of one Product Owner and one Product Backlog per Value Stream and replace centralized decision-making with decentralized decision-making. Make sure to clarify how decisions are made among the Product Owners (see articles on 6 types of group decisions and 7 levels of delegation).
  • Redefining Products: You may need to redefine a single product into a series of products or services within a suite and communicate this change to stakeholders.
  • Increasing Complexity: As the number of Value Streams grows, so does the need to manage them effectively. Leaders can benefit from practices such as Obeya rooms and Portfolio Management combined with decentralized decision-making.


By focusing on creating lean, effective Value Streams and embracing agile principles, you can unlock your teams’ full potential for delivering fast, continuous value. The right balance between single and multiple Value Streams will depend on your specific organizational needs. As you experiment with these approaches, remember to stay agile in your thinking, continually adapt based on feedback, and embrace the iterative process. This will not only enhance your ability to deliver exceptional value to customers but also foster a more fulfilling work environment where your teams can thrive and innovate. Moreover, empowering the people within the Value Stream to devise their own solutions is crucial, as they are best positioned to address complex challenges using their collective wisdom. This collaborative approach often leads to more innovative and effective solutions. Ultimately, the goal is to cultivate an organizational culture that continuously seeks improvement and delivers outstanding value.


Ron Eringa

Ron’s mission is to create organizations where people love to work and create value to the world. As trainer for Scrum.org, writer and frequent speaker he is enthusiastic about leadership development. Ron has helped many organizations to develop learning journeys for their Agile Professionals. Founder of Agile Leadership School.

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