What Does A Self-Organizing Team Look Like?

All methodologies of Agile show value in the ability for one team to self-organize.  The Agile Manifesto itself includes self-organizing teams as one of the principles.  The principal reads, “the best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.”  What exactly does it mean, though, for a team to self-organize? 

The Concept Behind Self-Organization

self-organizing teams

The main idea behind a self-organizing team is that the team is in control. This is demonstrated by:

  1. Managing their own work

  2. Setting their own goals (partially contained in the sprint backlog)

  3. Deciding who does what

  4. Members placing higher emphasis on the team’s goals rather then individual goals

  5. Members being cross trained to support many functions the team needs

  6. The team is given what needs to be accomplished and the team decides how do it

    Teams that lack these elements are more prone to being micromanaged. It is up to the Scrum Master to prevent this. Having the Scrum Master educate leadership with the proper mindset helps.


Selling the Benefits

Benefits of self-organizing teams

A self-organizing team without leadership’s buy-in to the idea is not a self-organizing team. Leaders need to be made aware the team needs to be in charge. They need to be sold on the idea by being made aware of the benefits.

  1. Efficiency - Team decides how to meet deadlines. Being experts, they know the quickest way to reach deadlines and can meet them quicker.

  2. Agility - As priorities shift, the team can dynamically shift along side the changes without going through red tape.

  3. Customer First - Teams are built to best serve the needs of the customer. Teams listen to the customer and the market rather than their manager.

  4. Time Saving - Delegating and micromanaging is inefficient and time consuming. Leadership has more time to focus on improving the business in other ways.

  5. Cross-Functional - Members are cross trained on the team’s functions. This prevents bottlenecks by not having to always rely on one person.

  6. Employee Satisfaction - The team is empowered and in control of their destiny, therefore much happier.

Explaining these benefits to your leadership team will help them see the value in encouraging teams to be self-organizing.