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How much self-organizing is your team?

These days, many companies on the Agile road are talking about “self-organizing” or “self-managing” teams. Especially managers like to talk about team structures and optimal productivity. But what are actually self-organizing teams?

Self-organizing is a gradual movement from total hierarchy to more and more trust that people are capable of making good decisions themselves. Interesting to know are “The Seven Levels of Authority” (Jurgen Appelo), just click on the picture below to enlarge it.

seven-levels-of-authority

It describes who makes a decision: a manager or one or more team members. And it’s not black/white; there are seven stages from authoritative “Tell” to complete trust with “Delegate”.

There is no general optimal level of authority for teams. It’s depending on the context. What is the subject and how much self-organizing do we want to be on this particular subject? See some examples in this picture.

examples-7-levels

What about here at BVA Auctions in Amsterdam? How self-organizing are we as Scrum team at BVA Auctions…?

The perceived level of Authority will be slightly different for each team member. But, I think we are quite lucky over here. Let’s give some examples of what we could decide ourselves or as a team. Between brackets are my own perceived levels.

  • We can decide how we want to structure ourselves as a team (level 5: Advise). Of course we asked feedback from our IT manager at BVA Auctions and together we agreed on splitting ourselves into 2 multidisciplinary teams. Whenever this structure is not supporting us anymore we will change it.
  • If someone wants to take a day off, he will inform his colleagues and together we will work it out (level 7: Delegate). No manager involved, result is written on the scrum board.
  • When we need a new team member, we will organize the first interview ourselves and select the best candidates. Our IT manager will have the last talk and final decision (level 4: Agree).
  • We decide ourselves what kind of technical tools (development or monitoring) we want to use (level 7: Delegate). Just together as a team we choose the best option. Sometimes our IT manager brings in a handy software tool.
  • We are proud about our own cool project and wanted to tell other developers about it. So, we created this tech blog ourselves and all team members can publish posts (level 6: Inquire).
  • Setting up the architecture for the new platform is sometimes not easy. Normally we first make our own decisions and explain it later (level 6: Inquire). But sometimes we already want to include our IT manager in the discussions (level 4: Agree).

DevOps

In acting as a self-organizing team, a transparent, respectful and honest working atmosphere is required. We easily ask each other for help, this is not an issue. We openly discuss the problems we encounter within the team and also with our IT manager; there is no need to hide it. This builds up the mutual trust that is needed. The end result is that we enjoy our work and improve our effectiveness as a team.

How much self-organizing is your own team?
I hope your answer is positive. That you feel empowered, that trust is growing and you are not practicing Agile in words only…

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About Paul Sanders

Paul Sanders works as freelance Agile Coach. He stands for transparency and self-organizing teams. Paul's background as professional life coach enables him to really coach teams/individuals and improve overall communication. In the past he was an elite athlete in fencing (schermen), eight times Dutch champion.

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