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Agile Self-Organizing Teams

“Knowledge workers have to manage themselves. They have to have autonomy”, leadership guru Peter Drucker states in his Management Challenges for the 21st Century.

So what is a self-organizing team?  In many situations teams will be comprised of a group of people working together but not really dependent on what the others do to complete their individual tasks.  Teams should have four main qualities:
  • Collaborative tasks to fulfill a defined mission. Tying it to the overall vision, mission and strategy.
  • Clear boundaries in terms of information flow and alignment with other organizational teams, resources or decision-making policies. Roles, responsibilities and interfaces must to be defined.
  • Authority to self-manage within these boundaries. Must adhere to the overall organizational governance.
  • Stability over some defined period of time. Possibly defined in a project lifecycle or some other overarching documentation.

In addition to these qualities, five essentials of self-organizing teams are:

  • Competency: Individuals need to be competent for the job at hand. This will result in confidence in their work and will eliminate the need for direction from above.
  • Collaboration: They should work as a team rather than as a group of individuals. Teamwork is encouraged.
  • Motivation: Team motivation is the key to success. Team members should be focused and interested in their work.
  • Trust and respect: Team members trust and respect each other. They believe in collective ownership and are ready to go the extra mile to help each other resolve issues.
  • Continuity: The team should be together for a reasonable duration; changing its composition every now and then doesn't help. Continuity is essential for the team.

 Self-organization is not just about the whole team.  Each team member will need to self-organize and figure out what to do and how to do it. Every day, everyone on the team has to coordinate their self-organization with the rest of the team. This is normally accomplished through daily meetings such as the “Daily Standup”.

These teams are not out there on their own, operating in a bubble or silo. Their efforts must be coordinated with other self-organizing teams. As all teams, self-organizing teams must produce a product or service that creates value for the organization and its customers. They are accountable to make their progress visible, and work within the governance of the organization.

References:
  1. Peter Drucker
  2. Sigi Kalternecker & Peter Hundermark
  3. Nitin Mittal (Infosys)

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