Usefull Differences Between CAO and LeSS To Understand

The Creating Agile Organizations (CAO) approach is about creating agile organizations that can easily be adapted, it is not about (de)scaling Agile and it is not the same as LeSS. I love LeSS, it is a great framework, but CAO is broader than LeSS. LeSS is to CAO, what LeSS is to single-team Scrum; LeSS is more specific because it has more context it builds on—e.g. multiple teams doing Scrum. 

CAO provides an approach for designing your organizational framework and coaching its adoption. It is important to note that it does not have specific structures, rules, events, and artefacts to build upon. 

Some Differences

Below are some more differences that might be worth recognising and benefiting from.

A systemic approach, with 2 sets of guidelines, to evolve an Adaptable Organization Design and coach its adoption. A (scaling)framework could be used as a starting point. (De)Scaling Framework with experiments, guides, principles, rules, roles and artefacts
Covers Product, Operational and Customer focus for products and/or services. Covers Product development focus for products and/or services.
Systemic approach to organization design on the overall company level Systems Thinking on Product (Group) and Scrum level
Product Definition from The Outside In. Consists of users, business model, and required organizational elements to bring/keep product into the hands of the customers and users Customer-Centric Product Definition. A broad complete end-to-end customer-centric solution that real customers use. It’s not a component, platform, layer, or library.
Product Group consists of all organizational elements required to achieve its purpose or function, such as cross-functional teams, shared functions, systems, and roles. Has a market focus and/or profit and loss responsibility.  Product Group consists of all people involved in the product. The majority of the teams are customer-focused feature teams. LeSS Huge adds Product Owner Team, Undone Department, Support and Coaching.
Value Areas are defined and grouped based on end-user usage of functionality. Areas where users spend most of their time addressing their needs/solve their problems, hence Value Areas.  Customer requirements that are strongly related from a customer perspective are grouped in Requirement Areas
Value Areas can have 1 or more teams because work is not necessarily complex, and dependencies are not necessarily reciprocal and unanalyzable. Each Requirement Area has between “4-8” teams.
Uses Cross-Functional teams with any Iterative-Incremental Process LeSS is Scrum, it’s about figuring out how to apply the principles, purpose, elements, and elegance of Scrum in a large-scale context, as simply as possible.
Supports Commodity Platform Group for cross-product group shared functionality that is not product specific. Recommends to Avoid Platform Group, as “platform group” is considered just part of one same product. True cross-product platforms, not involved with speculative features are not a problem.
Defines how to design shared services. Defines criteria for how to decide to include or exclude functions from the teams and Product Group based on the type and intensity of dependencies (reciprocal, sequential, pooled) Silent on shared services. Recommends including all functions within the feature teams/Product(Group) because the assumption is that dependencies are reciprocal.
1 or more PBL per Product Group. (Input and/or market units can have separate PBL) 1 PBL per Product (Group)
The system’s perfection goal lies in its ability to achieve its purpose without the need to add or remove anything from it. A perfection vision might include, but is not limited to: Processes, Practices, Organizational structure, Behaviors, skills, and competencies we value in people The perfection goal is to improve the Definition of Done so that it results in a shippable product each Sprint (or even more frequently).

Excellent Combination

CAO and LeSS work very well together, as many CAO ideas came from doing LeSS adoptions. Also, I have been teaching lots of CAO in my LeSS courses over the years and so have other CLTs started to do so.