A Path Less Taken
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A Path Less Taken

Photo by Jacob Morch on Unsplash

The unFIX Model — A Pattern-Based Approach to Organizational Design

Introduction to the unFIX Model

The banner that is visible at the top of the unFIX Model website leaves little doubt about what the model does, and does not, seek to accomplish. It reads as follows:

A Brief Digression Into Recent History with Agile at Scale

Over the years, many ideas have surfaced with respect to what “agile at scale” can look like — to name a few examples:

  • Spotify Engineering Culture — although never intended to be a “model” or a “framework,” what Henrik Kniberg articulated via a couple of
    short videos
    about Spotify Engineering Culture almost a decade ago continues to be influential
  • Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) — SAFe is particularly common in large enterprises, most notably in big private-sector companies and quite a
    few federal government entities, where it’s not at all uncommon for there to be dozens and even hundreds of teams across the organization. There are various flavors of SAFe, and it borrows heavily from Scrum, Kanban, and DevOps, along with other sources.
  • Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) — As its name suggests, LeSS is a means of applying the basic tenets of single-team Scrum, where to put it in simple terms, teams are clustered together, and where additional coordinating roles are included to provide coordination across those clusters.

The unFIX Pattern-Based Approach

If you’re wondering at this point why I used the terminology “pattern-based approach” to title this blog post, there are several reasons:

  • Based on my own experience, and that of many other agile practitioners, I’ve found that when organizations promulgate a framework or methodology, in a top-down fashion, bad things tend to happen
  • Patterns resonate with many people in the agile community. Not only is the term “pattern” familiar to many in a software development context, it implies that a spirit of innovation and experimentation applies, where there is often more than one way to do something, and where discovery is a natural part of the thought process.
  • Appelo himself uses the term as the title of the blog post “Don’t implement frameworks; try some patterns.”

What unFIX is NOT

I hinted at what the unFIX Model is not at the beginning of this post. Let’s now dig deeper, and to do that, we’ll turn to Appelo’s blog post “The UnFIX Model.” In that article, he says that the UnFIX Model is NOT:

  • A framework. As soon as the term “framework” is used, it implies that there are certain things that must be in place. However, everything is optional in unFIX. “A better description would be a pattern library.
  • A set of processes. The unFIX Model focuses on organization design patterns and organizational structure. Organizations are free to develop their own processes, and/or to leverage them from agile, Lean, Devops, and other sources of inspiration.
  • IT- or software development-centric. Although it’s certainly true that unFIX works perfectly fine for technologists, it can work just as well across the various business units, departments, groups, and teams that might exist in any organization.
  • Top-down. The wreckage from top-down approaches litters the organizational landscape. The pattern library of unFIX favors a bottom-up approach.
  • A plug-and-play replacement. Chances are, there are plenty of things that are already in place in your organization that are working fine, or maybe just need some adjustment. The unFIX Model assumes that you’re open to experimentation, so that you can jettison the things that impede organizational growth and innovation, and keep the things that are net positives.

unFIX Model Components

Let’s now unpack the basic components of the unFIX Model:

  • Crews (teams), where each team has a Captain
  • The Base (a Business Unit, in medium- to large-sized organizations; and in smaller organizations, the Base can encompass the entire
  • Chiefs (leadership team)
  • Forum (cross-cutting group consisting of members of various Crews, which has a Chair (moderator)


I hope that this brief overview will motivate you to take a closer look at the unFIX Model. Based on what I’ve uncovered about it so far, it has a lot going for it. For example:



This collection is for anyone who is looking for Lean-Agile content on a range of topics, with a particular focus on techniques that help with coaching and facilitation.

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Philip Rogers

I’m an Agile practitioner at TextNow — I love to work with Agile teams to help them collaborate and deliver, and have fun while doing it.