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Self-Managers in Self-Organizing Teams

22 March 2016

Robin Hackshall
Enigma Consulting and Solutions

The Scrum Guide notes the following about the Scrum team:

Scrum Teams are self-organizing and cross-functional. Self-organizing teams choose how best to accomplish their work, rather than being directed by others outside the team.

In order for a team to be self-organizing, members of the Scrum team may need to become self-managers. Some of the criteria of being a self-manager (as defined by Focus Education UK Ltd., © 2014) are listed below:

  • I am happy to have a go at something new even if it is hard.
  • I am able to set myself a target or goal.
  • I can think about more than one way to solve a problem.
  • I keep going even when the going is tough and others find it easy.
  • I enjoy taking responsibility.
  • I can work within a time frame.
  • I enjoy challenges, especially open-ended or deeper-thinking ones.
  • I recognize risks that may be involved when tackling my work.
  • I can use success criteria to check how successful a task has been.
  • I am able to assess risk and make sensible decisions.
  • I can call on a range of strategies to help me overcome a problem.
The first thing that you may notice is that the language is quite "soft" and that it is not specific to Scrum or software development. There is a reason for this. These criteria are used by teachers at my daughter’s school as assessment criteria for the self-managing skills of 5- to 11-year-olds. The purpose of teaching these skills is to empower the pupils' learning.

If children of that age are able to achieve these skills, then every member of a Scrum team should also be able to develop and exhibit them, making themselves self-managers as part-of a self-organizing team.

These are not the only behaviors that will be assessed at my daughter's school. In time, pupils will look to become (and be assessed against criteria for) effective participators, resourceful thinkers, reflective learners, independent enquirers, and team workers. I think that these are all behaviors that Scrum/software development team members should exhibit.

My daughter has already become a self-manager, and I am looking forward to her coming home from school to tell me about the next behavior that she is learning. This will allow me to see how well my team is exhibiting the criteria for that behavior.

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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