How to avoid building Non-Self-Organizing Teams

By | September 20, 2013

A true Agile teams should be “Self Organizing” one.  The Agile principals states that “The best architectures, requirements and designs emerge from self-organizing teams”. Considering that statement true, every manager would like to have such a team, because architecture, design and knowing the requirement well are the building blocks of any product and the superior they are, more the chances to build a better product. As we know that change never stops, it’s a constant process, projects and teams are not an exception, they also suffer because of constant changes and have to strive hard to deal with it and be continuously in the process of being self-organized.

It’s difficult to list the characteristics of a self-organizing team because there are so many of them; so instead, we take an inverse approach and use a list of characteristic of a non-self-organizing team. If any of following exist in your team, you have to take an action to avoid such practices to become a self-organizing team.

Characteristics a Self-Organizing should not have:

  • When an issue comes team members wait for instruction from manager.
  • Team does not know exactly what adds value to the company.
  • Team manager assign work to the team.
  • Manager randomly initiates meetings to discuss issues and feedback.
  • Team members resist in helping other team members.
  • Team members claim ownership of their code.
  • Goals of project, release and iteration are not clear to the team.
  • Individual performance is more important than team performance.
  • Team is more concerned about productivity rather than adding value.
  • Team wait for instructions and commands from the management.
  • Team lead is assigned by management.
  • Team members rarely ask question to explore more about the product and try to confine to the information provided to them.
  • Team work in silos, privately and not share a common place.
  • Team member don’t express their opinion in the meeting regarding issues, ideas and opportunities.
  • Individuals instead of teams are held responsible or rewarded for any failure or success that is sign that team lacks collective team responsibility.
  • Team collaborates rarely with the customer.
  • Teams are not mentored and taught on the regular basis to improve their self-organizing skills.

Words of Caution:

There is a big misconception around the concept of self-organizing teams. Many times people assume that self-organizing team are not managed or controlled. That is not true; although agile self-organizing teams get more freedom and participation in their work as compare to traditional teams but they are still need a lot of guidance from management. The truth is that now self-organizing teams are not supposed to be “Micro” managed, they are encourage to participate more in the project and take ownership and responsibility of the project.

Another misconception is that a team becomes self-organized as soon as they are named or titled as self-organizing team. In fact teams need to be trained extensively in the beginning and continued to be trained though out the life of the team to become and remain self-organizing.

Author: Mobeen Siddiqui, Provides Agile coaching services in Minnesota, particularly in greater Minneapolis area.



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