Amazon's Agile Work Culture: Two Pizza Team Rule

Amazon was one of the first companies to apply agile ways of working on a large scale – without relying on Scrum or other agile frameworks. A core element for agile teams at Amazon was the "Two Pizza Teams" rule.

Amazon's Two Pizza Teams: Not as Easy as It Seems

The "Two Pizza Team" rule states that a team can only be big enough to be fed with 2 pizzas. Incidentally, the rule comes from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos himself.

Even though decades have passed since the origin of this pizza rule, Amazon is still keeping the "two-pizza team rule" alive. See: Introduction to DevOps on AWS. The idea of small, self-organized teams therefore seems to have a timeless universal validity. 

Even if the idea of small teams sounds simple, there are a few other preconditions that need to be considered in order to be able to exploit the effect of small teams on the agility of the company. 

So let's take a look at how you can measure and improve this management philosophy and its preconditions in your teams:

Health Check: Amazon Two Pizza Team

The core idea behind the "Two Pizza Teams" rule is that smaller teams can act and react more quickly. This agility is often an important differentiating factor in the development of software in order to remain competitive.

However, for these small teams to actually act faster, a few preconditions need to be met:

  • The team has a clear objective and feels completely responsible for achieving it.
    Strictly speaking, a team without a common goal is not a team, but a group of people. If the team does not take responsibility for a clearly defined goal, the team size will not be able to contribute much to agility.
  • The team members cover all the necessary skills to achieve their own goals.
    Does your team only consist of people from the same specialist area? That's not an agile team: Agile teams are cross-functional and have all the roles and skills they need within the team to achieve their goals: Business analysts, product designers, developers, etc. The composition should always match the team goal.
  • The team has all decision-making powers and resources and is therefore not dependent on third parties to achieve our goals.
    If the team is heavily dependent on other teams or decision-makers, this nips any agility in the bud. The team must be able to independently try out technologies, generate data for decision-making and obtain direct customer feedback.
  • The team has direct access to customers in order to obtain customer feedback.
    If a two-pizza team simply works through a backlog without having any customer contact, this is only promising to a limited extent. For your organization to really become more agile as a whole, each team must have direct access to its own customers in order to receive and respond to customer feedback without detours.
    See also: Amazon's principle of customer obsession

So before you run off to downsize your teams, you should definitely take care of these preconditions. A good workshop format to check this "Two Pizza Health Check" is the following retrospective:

Amazon Two Pizza Team Retrospective

With this Two Pizza Team Retrospective, you can examine the preconditions together with your team and initiate further development:

Health Check Items

Answering on a scale

We have a clear team goal for which we take full responsibility.

👍 👎

We have all the skills in the team to achieve our goals.

👍 👎

As a team, we have everything we need to achieve our goals independently of third parties.

👍 👎

As a team, it is easy for us to gather customer feedback and respond to it.

👍 👎

Open questions

What skills or knowledge do we lack most in the team?


In which situations are we as a team dependent on third parties to achieve our goals?


What would help us to respond more quickly to customer needs and feedback?


Conclusion: Amazon's Two Pizza Team Rule

The Two Pizza Team rule has rightly retained its relevance over the years. However, it is important to note that the size of the team alone is no guarantee of an agile organization.

Only in combination with clear team goals and self-effective teams that can develop solutions in direct customer contact without internal dependencies can an organization reap the benefits of higher customer satisfaction and faster development speed on the market. 

Depending on the company context, it is often not enough to just look at individual teams. As a rule, the organizational structure must also be questioned in order to create the conditions for a high-performance agile company:

"To truly become a high-performing agile organization, you must look at your organization structure differently and be willing to change your mindset and behavior." 

Tom Godden, AWS Enterprise Strategist
Source: Amazon Executive Insights

See also in this context: Amazon's "Day 1 mentality"

I hope the Two Pizza Team Retrospective can provide an impetus to create these conditions for your team. And perhaps it can also provide some good food for thought at an organizational level!

Bonus: Would you like to learn from other agile pioneers like Netflix?

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Need a team boost? Do this: The Spotify Health Check Retrospective!

First Health question: "😍 We love going to work, and have great fun working together."

Sounds good? Try our retro tool for free below.

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