Created by
Nikos Vasileiou

Last update
June 14, 2021

Talent pods

Improve ownership and accountability of work through small, yet flexible, fixed teams in the Engineering talent pool.


Formating Hero Squads on per Mission scope works great for maximum flexibility and optimal allocation in the Engineering talent pool. However, over time, this can lead to some inherent drawbacks:

  • Lack of ownership of developed features or components.
  • Lack of continuous improvement through retrospectives and follow-up action items.
  • Less transparency and more challenging work on the management side to help individuals grow and get better in their role.

This add-on introduces the idea of Talent pod, a more concrete, yet flexible team, in the ecosystem of the Talent pool.

What is a Talent pod?

  • A team of 3 or more Engineers that, by default, stay together for a long time.
  • Flexible enough team to lend people here and there, if needed, to assist on running missions, returning back to their home team when and if no longer needed elsewhere.
  • Contributors to the Guardian Squad, either as a whole or as individual contributors across pods.

A Talent pod can exercise component and feature ownership. If they have worked on feature A, the probability of working on the next version of the same feature is much higher, leading to better and faster development cycles.

Talent pods foster more meaningful continuous improvement ceremonies and better bonding among members.

To highlight the key differences from the default Squad formation of Agile Squads framework, here is how a Talent pool is looking without pods:

 Talent Pool (no pods)
| E1  | E2  | E3  | E4  | E5  |
| E6  | E7  | E8  | E9  | E10 |
| E11 | E12 | E13 | E14 | E15 |
| E16 | E17 | E18 | E19 | E20 |

With Talent pods, the Talend pool is becoming a pool of teams instead of individual contributors:

 Talent Pool (with Pods)
| POD1 | POD2 | POD3 | POD4 | POD5 |
| E1   | E5   | E9   | E13  | E17  |
| E2   | E6   | E10  | E14  | E18  |
| E3   | E7   | E11  | E15  | E19  |
| E4   | E8   | E12  | E16  | E20  |

During a cycle, Hero Squads and the Guardian Squad are formed on a pod (or multiple pods) level:

| Hero Squad | Hero Squad | Hero Squad | Guardians |
| POD1, POD3 | POD2       | POD5       | POD4      |

An alternative scheme for Guardian Squad allocation is to "borrow" members from various pods:

| Hero Squad | Hero Squad | Hero Squad | Guardians   |
| POD1, POD3 | POD2       | POD5, POD4 | E1, E7, E20 |

As a general rule, a Talent pod can keep its member for a long time. However a good practice would be to rebuild pods, maybe once or twice a year, to create diversity, knowledge sharing and new people dynamics.