Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Agile Way: Is Self-Organizing Team Effective?

Self Management requires the maturity of understanding agile mindset.

Self-organizing teams means knowledge workers have to manage themselves with discipline. Self-organizing teams choose how best to accomplish their work, rather than being directed by others outside the team. Does such self-organizing team still need managers? And, more crucially, is it effective?

Self Management requires the maturity of understanding agile mindset. In order to self- organize adequately, you need all the skills and knowledge needed to do the work. When an organization experiments with the agile way of working for first time, it needs to be choosy in the selection of the members who have the *agile mindset* to prove its success and set as an example to demonstrate its working for the subsequent teams. It is natural that the self organization takes time and it requires a great degree of leadership to handhold them. It would take effort to make team self-organized. So the leadership skills are needed by the Self-Management to coach the team towards self-organization.

Becoming a self-organizing team does not happen overnight. There is the risk that you will be stuck with the team you got given, which will include individuals not ready to self-organize, not prepared to respect other team members, and not inclined to learn how to behavior with self-disciplines. What the agile manifesto says is that the best work comes from self organizing teams. It does not say that all teams should be self-organized. It is unusual that a team self organizes into something that is fair and that enables everyone to have an equal voice and contribute their best. It is an ongoing process to keep tuning the team to deliver high performing result.

Plan Driven vs. Value Driven: Traditional Projects are "Plan Driven" - mostly budget and schedule are estimated and scope is fixed. The project manager (PM) intervenes to manage them. Agile Scrum is "Value Driven" with fixed budget and schedule wherein the scope is estimated by the team based on the high-value items and ROI criteria identified by the product owner (PO). The notion of cost management could be related to the Self Management's view on team velocity, product burn-down charts and evolving agile enterprise value management (EVM).

The well-trained leaders and managers are still important for project and team success. In Agile team setting, the work previously done by the PM is often distributed across multiple roles, especially the Product Owner (PO) and Scrum Master (SM). Some organizations simply change the title of the former PM to PO or SM without providing training or vetting their aptitude of the people for those roles, which are critical for the success of the team. A PM resource and SM resource are not always interchangeable and often have rather different personality types and different drivers for job satisfaction. Therefore, well-trained team leaders or managers are still crucial for project and team success, especially for the situations such as:
(1). When a hybrid Agile approach is necessary in a contracting environment or other similar circumstances that require managing customer expectations 
(2). When you scale a single team to large, complex enterprise-level projects that require integration with other projects or business requirements and/or integration of multiple Agile teams.

Self-organization is an agile way to improve digital workforce’s satisfaction, creativity and productivity. However, it is an ongoing process, and it is also not about eliminating the managers, but need to have high mature, and more effective leaders for oversight, not micro-managing, and deliver ultimate value for customers, not just on-time and on budget.  


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