Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Spectrum of Self-Organizing and Self-Managing

So the focus of structure experiment needs always to be on exploring the various pathways towards desired (not defined) goals.

Self-organization comes from chaos theory. Living systems are self-organizing—there is no genetic manager. Human systems are living systems, therefore, human systems are self-organizing, by definition. The problem is we are taught to be managed out of this natural state of being, by well-meaning people who believe outside control to deliver more effective results at industrial age. Such a command-control management style is the root cause of many business issues such as low employee engagement, lack of innovation, 'toxic culture,' etc. However, forward-thinking organizations today are on the journey of digital transformation, what's the optimal digital management style? There's a whole spectrum between minimally self-organizing and fully self-managing. If the organization were larger, some of the management burdens would likely be shared between the teams. but how much is right? That depends on the context.

Self-organizing is about empowerment and trust: You know the team will deliver the best outcome and give them the freedom to do it on their way. The roles are cognitive, and not necessarily overtly acknowledged by the team members or the member who takes on the role. In other words, the selection of roles is done automatically and naturally. Assigning a "leader" in the form of a project manager, or "team leader," from the outside imposes upon the team an external force, not within the team itself. That project manager is rarely assimilated by the team, and the team will generally self-organize without the externally assigned project manager. Specifically, what high innovative and high-performing teams DO NOT WANT:
- Managers to micromanage how the team builds the servers.
- Managers that make decisions on architecture, tooling, processes, practices.
- Managers demand KPIs for every little thing.

A self-organizing team has full authority in decision making: Since self-organization will occur naturally and most of the time without, or in spite of, external direction, sometimes teams will form when we would not want teams, for example, small groups within a larger team will self-organize into cliques. This is one reason most of the agile approaches recommend smaller teams: to reduce the potential of smaller teams forming to the detriment of the larger team. However, since self-organization is a natural human activity, sometimes the only way to overcome the negative effects of self-organized cliques is to physically separate the members. A self-organizing team, thus have full authority on the practices, processes, tools, engineering methods they would like to use to build the product. The team have all the right skills to make the right architectural and design decisions and are left to do it.

The team is self-organizing in being disciplined enough to do the work: So it's all about bringing decisions within the team and bringing the skills to make good decisions within the team at the same time. It becomes "self-managing" when those decisions are ones "management" traditionally consider to be theirs to make. The team is self-organizing in being disciplined enough to do the work. They do not decide on what work needs to be done, but rather how the work is to be done. A team can be self-organizing in determining the best and most efficient method of delivering the commitments they had made at the beginning of the sprint. Teams naturally gravitate towards self-organization, if not interfered with. The important part of people outside the team can play (customers, stakeholders, etc) is to set clear goals and establish clear boundaries. The only thing the business wants to see at the end of each sprint is working software that meets the business requirement. The business should also expect professionalism from the team. The business has a right to have transparency into this and allowed to inspect what the team is doing, but they should not dictate to the team how to do it and how to measure their own performance. The team organizes by itself on how it will address the problem that has been presented to it. No one on the outside directs this. The focus is to manage and organize work, It requires people who can manage to organize. It is all about taking responsibility. defines management as the organization and coordination of the activities of a business in order to achieve defined objectives. Management is concerned with outcomes. The outcomes are too unknowable in the knowledge industry to make such focus useful—indeed, it is often detrimental. So the focus needs always to be on exploring the various pathways towards desired (not defined) goals. The goals themselves will change, just as the pathways you take will change. Self-organization allows you to adapt to current context and circumstance, to emerge the next most useful evolutionary change to get where you think you need to go next.


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