On Being Self-Organized

On Being Self-Organized

Enabling, Nurturing and Protecting Self-Organizing Teams

About the Book

Self-Organizing Teams have developed a lot of airtime in recent years, having been mentioned explicitly in the Agile Manifesto.  The problem is that there is little in the way of guidance on how these teams work and how they need to be enabled, nurtured and protected.  There is no “manual for Self-organizing teams” that explains how it works.  So team leaders and managers in many organizations decide to just jump in without guidance and try to figure it out by themselves.  I mean, how hard can it be. 

The truth is that creating a great team is hard enough as any manager should already know.  But the concept of self-organizing teams doesn’t make this process any easier.  Trying to enable or participate in a “self-organizing” team can be difficult and extremely subtle in what works and what doesn’t. It can be personally confronting on many levels, and requires a level of tolerance, agility, commitment and discipline that is far away higher than most ordinary teams.

I would have thought that it was both fundamental and obvious that you cannot manage a “self-organizing team” into existence.  You can create the environment and structure, but then it is by definition up to the team members to manage themselves, with suitable guidance and support from the organization.

But often the first thing that happens is a team’s manager call a meeting and announce “congratulations, you guys are now a self-organizing team!”. The second sentence can be one of:

1) “Now, here’s what I want you to do”

2) “Now, off you go and self-organize yourselves for the next sprint”

Or similar statement.

Either of these two sentences from a manager can be dis-enabling.  The first immediately undermines the announcement of the first sentence, by continuing directive behavior.  The second sentence (unless closely followed by subtle influence and support) basically puts the onus back on the team, but without letting them know anything about what just happened. The obvious questions arise but are unanswered:

•         “what are our boundaries?”

•         “What can and can’t we decide as a team?”

•         “Who do we turn to for problems?”

•         “What resources are available to help us make this transition?”

That self-organizing teams fail to start or gel is unsurprising.  And this just creates an excuse for managers to step in and say “this isn’t working” and go back to past practice.

This book aims to provide guidance in how this works, for both managers and leaders who must still participate in this process, as well as the participants, the team members and the managers who are all now part of this team structure.  There are answers to the obvious questions, or at least ways of defining and agreeing on the answers.


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About the Author

Adam Russell
Adam Russell

Adam Russell is a highly experienced digital delivery professional with a deep understanding of delivery success in software development, software package and systems integration projects.

His ability to successfully deliver projects is founded on more than 40 years of experience in the software development industry, starting as a developer, moving into technical support (mostly pre-sales), and finally, project management.

Adam's experience ranges from 1-person start-ups through to the largest global enterprise customer and vendors. At the top-end, Adam managed the PMO for the largest internal software development team at Australia's largest telco, which peaked in size at 700 personnel, of which 75 worked in the PMO.

Adam's breadth of experience can be seen quantitatively in the 2-part article on Linked in "My Career in Numbers - A Data-driven IT Project Management CV" |https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/my-career-numbers-data-driven-project-management-cv-adam-russell/

Adam's strength is to bring together people from all company areas and levels to work on value enablement through software or digital components. Adam does this by focusing the team on the outcomes that need to be enabled. 

Although experienced in most Plan-based and Agile methodologies, Adam is not bound to any specific one, preferring to assess each problem on a case-by-case basis and selecting the minimal toolset necessary to support each project.

You can see Adam's complete work experience, publications, and other information on LinkedIn - https://au.linkedin.com/in/adamr99 - and Adam blogs extensively on his website https://adamonprojects.com and other publications, e.g. Medium.

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