Self-Organizing Teams… Really?

February 2, 2015 CollabNet VersionOne

“Why aren’t self-organizing teams allowed to self-organize?”

This question came up in a Certified Scrum Developer (CSD) class I was in last week… To clarify, what he went on to say with more specificity was, “Why don’t we let our agile teams self-organize ‘at creation’ when we’re putting together a new team?” He went on to note that, in his experience, this is determined by ‘Management Fiat,’ primarily based on the talent and maturity of the individuals. Hmmm, interesting question…

What does Scrum say about this?

The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams

One Agile Consultant in the class said he’d been doing this for a long time, and he’d never been in an organization where folks were allowed to actually self-organize into agile teams. They were all handpicked by someone at the management level.

But what if we gave the teams a goal and let ’em fly? What if we truly allowed them to self-organize into agile Scrum teams on their own, without being told who would be on what team? Would we end up with a bunch of experienced folks on one team and a bunch of inexperienced on another? Would it become a bunch of cliques, like high school? Would we have agile teams that consisted of only developers, and other agile teams only of testers?

Maybe.

Let’s assume that it did. Then what? Would we expect management to say, “Stop right there. We need to be smart and fair about this. You go here, and you go there,” until the teams were more evenly spread with the ‘right mix’ of roles and experience. I suspect this is what would happen in the vast majority of cases.

But management isn’t impervious to making mistakes. The teams should be allowed to as well. We’re empirical. We inspect and adapt. If there’s a change needed among the teams, allow the teams to make the change. Involve management as needed.

Have you ever been given that kind of freedom to self-organize into agile teams? If so, what was your experience? If not, are you willing to have a conversation with management to give this a shot?

What is Scrum? Scrum is easy. Scrum is hard. Let’s hear your thoughts.

 

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