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Extend Self-Management to Self-Organizing

Planning Is for Collaboration

12 November 2013

In Self-Management with Unity of Knowing and Doing, I discussed purpose and action, or knowing and doing in the self-management framework. Let me illustrate and recap this framework here (the highlighted words below are the key elements of the framework):
  1. I got an idea to write this article during a trip I went on to an Agile conference recently. I verified that the idea aligns with my purpose (personal product vision) of sharing my thoughts with others to advocate Agile. I put this idea into my personal management backlog (personal product backlog and sprint backlog). This is the knowing part. It's about the world coming into my mind.
  2. When I was back from the conference and got some available time from my time bank (tomorrow's to-do list and timebox), I pulled the idea out of my personal management backlog and started to write this article. This is the doing part. It's about my mind coming to the world.
  3. Unity of knowing and doing is about confidence and change management (confidence and change). Confidence is about managing our inner changes, such as worry, anger, anxieties, or happiness. Change management is about managing changes in the world. Unity of knowing and doing is managing both our inner changes and outer changes so that our knowing and doing, or purpose and action, can be consistent. It's about both our mind and the world being well placed. While I'm writing this article, I worry if my writing has value. To manage my worry, I talk with people around me to get quick feedback. And I plan to use quick delivery of this article to get feedback from readers. Along with this kind of (inner and outer) change management, I can focus to write the article.
In self-management, planning is simply pushing an item into the backlog, and pulling it out to work on it. In a self-organizing team, there are many interactions, synchronizations, and collaborations, so more comprehensive planning is necessary. This makes me think of the purpose and usage of planning. Why do we need a plan?

The idea I got is: Planning is for collaboration in a self-organizing team. During the trip, I treat myself (a speaker) and the hotel, the taxi, the airplane, the conference organizer, the audience, and other speakers as a self-organizing team. Scrum values (commitment, focus, respect, openness, and trust) are part of this self-organizing process.
  • Me as a speaker and traveler: I did enough preparation of my speech as a commitment to the conference organizer and audience. This also showed my respect for them. I delivered the speech with focus on the given timebox and openness to questions. As for logistics, I figured out the hotel, the taxi, and the airplane. Though I didn't need a Gantt chart, I still needed some planning to make sure all the parts associated with my trip and speech could synchronize and collaborate well. This is what I see as the purpose of planning: It's for collaboration within a self-organizing team. If I can do all the things myself (for example, I drive by myself, live in a tent, and put my speech on a website rather than present it aloud to the audience), then there's no collaboration needed, and there's no need for comprehensive planning. If I can have power over everything -- for example, if I can use the hotel, taxi, and airplane anytime without booking -- I again don't need a plan. Only if I treat myself as a team member in a collaborative and self-organized system do I need a plan so that I can work together with everyone else in the system.
  • The taxi, the hotel, and the airline: They are not machines. They are people behind them. While I book a service from them, I trust their commitment. If I worry about whether they can provide the services I request, I talk to them with openness. For example, when I book the taxi, I talk with the driver about my airplane schedule and express my worry about the traffic. We then figure out the starting time together, and I trust his commitment that he can provide the service on time. This is the planning for the collaboration with these service providers.
  • The conference organizer, the audience, and other speakers: The conference organizer and audience are my customers. I needed to do some planning to fulfill their requirement. I treat other speakers as my partners. Though they required no careful planning, I did spare some time to meet and talk with them. I had a good conversation with Linda Rising and Kenji Hiranabe about Agile and the Unity of Knowing and Doing, for example. We need a plan to co-work with our customers and partners.
The collaboration involved in a trip and in a conference is not Scrum, but it does touch base with the planning aspect of Scrum as a collaborative system. In a Scrum team, there are more collaborations and synchronizations. Without collaborations and synchronizations, it's not Scrum. Collaborations and synchronizations will not happen automatically. We need mindful planning to make them happen.
  • Product vision, sprint goal, and Definition of Done: They are goals of a Scrum team. Definition of Done is the quality goal. The goals are planned by the team and are the basis for subsequent plans, such as the release plan, sprint plan, daily plan, and real-time responsiveness to changes. Goals are about the collaboration of a self-organizing team. Planning makes the collaboration happen and gets the goals implemented.
  • Daily Scrum: The daily Scrum is not about reporting. It's about synchronization of what you did since the last meeting and what you will do before the next. The synchronization is for collaboration. To support this, every team member needs do some planning, to think ahead about how his or her work over the next 24 hours will impact other team members' work, what we each require other team members to work on over the next 24 hours, and how the whole team's work in next 24 hours can integrated together. This is the purpose and usage of planning in the daily Scrum.
  • Inspection, adaption, and transparency in daily work: Interactions and responding to changes in daily work are similar to the interactions and planning in a daily Scrum, but they are more real-time. You still need some mini-planning to increase synergy and decrease interruptions within the whole team. Planning lets you have efficient and effective collaboration in daily work.
In conclusion, planning for collaboration is a necessary mind-set for a Scrum team member. Think and do. We can practice this in every Scrum artifact, event, and pillar. Considering the self-organizing team, the stages of collaboration, synchronization and planning, and the Unity of Knowing and Doing are reexplained and extended as:
  1. Knowing is pretty much about my mind. The world comes into my mind.
  2. Doing is pretty much about the world. My mind comes to the world.
  3. Unity is pretty much about others. I work together with others to achieve the common goal and the common good.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

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Tom Mellor, CST,CSP,CSM,CSPO,REP, 11/16/2013 4:38:08 PM
Trust is not one of the Scrum values (though many people believe it is.) That is not to say that Scrummers don't value trust, but the requirement of trust is expressed in the Agile Manifesto, so it is redundantly expressed as a Scrum value. A minor matter, but as a trainer I sensed it needs clarification. (The other Scrum values identified in the article are valid and the one missing is courage.)

I sense that Glen might be oversimplifying the concept of self-management, which is a natural part of self-organization. There is lots of healthy debate about whether self-organized teams need management (see this argument by Esther Derby advocating they do: I believe from observation and experience that teams can "mature" to self-organization, but they need a culture that supports it. That can be tough to find. Insects and other "societal" animals actually self-organize effectively (see this paper for a comparison of the qualities and benefits of human self-organization compared to insect self-organization:

We would expect effected directed or self-directed teams to collaborate effectively, but might hypothesize that that self-directed teams may do it better. However, their are many influences on behavior, both cultural and individual, that would almost certainly affect the quality of collaboration. We might also hypothesize that an organization with an "agile culture" would find effective collaboration might occur more "naturally." I don't know of any controlled studies that have examined these traits.

Planning is a natural by-product of collaboration among team members, provided they are trying to achieve a goal. Conflict will arise in the process because humans have egos and other psychological influences that affect their behavior in a community. Certainly self-interest can have significant influence and the more that the organization focuses on and rewards the behaviors of the individual rather than the collective team, the greater the motivation to put individualism and ahead of the group. We cannot simply demand that people effectively self-organize and manage themselves if we do not give them the knowledge, support and empowerment to do so. In short, we cannot expect them to naturally behave like ants.

Thanks to Glen for an article that inspired some inspection, research, and thought about the topic of self-organization.
Glen Wang, CSM, 11/17/2013 9:53:21 PM

Yes I know Zen. Scrum has Buddhist roots.


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