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March Toward Self-Organizing Teams

Small steps that can help teams become self-organized

14 April 2016

Wajih Aslam

What are self-organizing teams?

A self-organizing team is a team of people who have a required set of skills and are committed to achieving a goal through effective team collaboration.

Steps for developing a self-organizing team

You can follow the steps below to overcome the hurdles encountered during the making of a self-organizing team.

Ensure effective team collaboration

Collaboration among team members is the key to successfully achieving the development goal. Because the Agile team is formed by selecting people with specialized skills that are required for completing the goals, collaboration is essential. However, the team must ensure that the collaboration is precise and effective.

Usually a newly created teams or monitored task-based teams are more concerned about the individual task and ignore other team members who require their help. This misguided focus causes the whole team to slip from the target release date.

To promote effective collaboration among team members, you can initiate a point system for those helping other team members and who are making an effort to ease their hardship. This can be a short-term practice until the team develops the habit of effective communication.

Motivate the team

Self-organizing teams need to be motivated all the time. Motivation helps the team to maintain a regular pace of success. One way to motivate the team is to regularly celebrate successes. When the team gets the thumbs-up for their work, it builds their confidence.

Conduct technical training

Teams need to get the required technical training to maximize the quality of their work. Training can be conducted by external trainers or by internal trainers within the team. Training not only increases skills but also increases the team members' understanding of the importance of their roles, further boosting their confidence.

Swap roles between members

Swap a team member's role or focus area with another member's for a while. Individuals working in the same area for a long time can become bored with their work, and a change can refresh them. By doing this, the team will become further self-organized and each member will learn more about different areas of expertise. They can become backups if someone leaves the team or is on vacation.

Conduct knowledge-sharing sessions

Promote knowledge-sharing sessions that are specific to your business domain so that team members can gain a deeper understanding of the product. This understanding can help them do their part better.

Build a trusting relationship

To become self-organized, teams need the freedom to do work in the way that is necessary for their success and to make technical decisions themselves.

If the goals are achieved according to the planned target, there is no reason to micromanage the team. The team must decide for itself which areas need improvement and should not be criticized by external stakeholders for their decisions in this regard. Trust can be the biggest hurdle, because people become cautious or guarded if they feel monitored. This results in lack of innovation and improvements.

Remove the fear

Self-organizing teams should be fearless when it comes to failure. They should be allowed to fail early in the cycle to learn from the failure and become successful. Create an environment that encourages the team to try innovative things. Fear of failure should be out of mind so that the team can learn, adapt, and improve with the passage of time.

Promote transparency

Transparency and involvement must exist within the team. The team should know the product vision. The requirements must be clear. Encourage the team to speak up about the true progress of the implementation and highlight any impediments early on in the cycle. The more the team is involved in the product life cycle, the more likely it will take ownership of the product.

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.

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