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Ingredients of an effective self organizing team

By / Filed under Collaboration, Self Organization / January 7th, 2011



Remember Lightning McQueen, the rookie race car of Cars, who dreams of winning the Piston Cup? At every impasse, what pushes him forward is his dream to hold the coveted trophy. And guess what? He does not even have a driver. When you think self-organization, think Lightning McQueen. No one needs a driver, if they can find enough passion and motivation within themselves to surge forward. Essentially, self-organization is all about understanding what you want to do, having a sense of ownership, making your own decisions, having a choice on doing things the way you want to instead of being directed, and being open to feedback.

Self-organization applies to everything in life: the moment you’re forced to do something, you stop believing in it. It should come from within; it should be intrinsically motivated. Self-organization harbors autonomy.

Values that strengthen Self-Organization

Self-organization by itself often does not achieve as much results as it does when coupled with other factors like Focus, Prioritization, Collaboration, Commitment, Respect and Courage.

It is easy to lose sight of the objective and purpose when there are a variety of tasks at hand. Without well-defined goals and clear focus, people tend to wander around and work on the periphery without coming any closer to achieving the objective, thus leading to chaos. Once the goals are defined, it is essential to prioritize them. Prioritization and focus complement each other: focusing on the objectives enables us to prioritize, and prioritization provides a clearer focus.

Another aspect that fortifies self-organization is collaboration, which basically enhances teamwork. Without healthy discussions, openness and readiness to do what it takes to achieve the goal even to the extent of correcting own mistakes or helping another to correct his, the team would collapse. Teamwork involves more than just working together. It includes respect and trust for each other. If one person cannot show respect to another or to the principles that define the organization, the foundation would crumble over time.

Commitment emerges from a sense of ownership towards the task to be done. In autonomy, everyone is empowered to make decisions, manage their processes and do what it takes to bring the work to its logical conclusion.

Collaboration and commitment give rise to courage that questions blind compliance. Without the courage to challenge situations, be open about what worked and what didn’t, self-organization would founder. Courage involves taking risks, and without risks, there is no scope for innovation.

The elements mentioned above are some of the pillars that uphold the architecture of self-organization.

Putting in perspective

In a self-organized community, there is no real need for hierarchy, in the strict sense. Everyone is the leader, everyone is the manager. Candid communication, constructive criticism and continuous iterations with prioritized goals and clear vision help accomplish the targets. In the perspective of Agile methodologies and specifically Scrum, self-organization plays a significant role. It is up to everyone to foster an environment where self-organized lifestyle can bring about benefits and joys.

Your turn:

What are your experiences with self-organization? Have you seen self-organization fail? If so, what were the factors (or their absence) that contributed to the failure?

Related posts:

  1. How Agile & Scrum contribute to Team Morale
  2. 10 methods to keep your team motivated
  3. Why Vision,Goals and Belief in a team are key to the success of an agile adoption.
  4. Scrum and Maturity of the team
  5. Robert Gallen – Sixteen Essential Patterns of Mature Agile team
  6. Focus and the Distributed team
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