The concept of “self-organization” is core to effective self-managing teams.
If you have been in a leadership role where you manage or lead others, there’s probably a good chance that you are familiar with leadership theories such as Theory X and Theory Y. Just to make sure you are aware of these, here’s a quick overview.
Basically, there are two styles of management – authoritarian (Theory X) and participative (Theory Y). Theory X states that your people are unmotivated and dislike their work, which means you need to use an authoritarian approach to make sure they get their job done. This usually means there’s a quite a bit of micro-management going on.
Theory Y states that your people are self-motivated and take pride in their work, which means that management should allow more autonomy and decision-making power.
If you are trying to start up a new Agile team, you will need think in terms of Theory Y and apply a light-touch approach to managing people.
What does this mean?
Tip #1 – Coach instead of direct
For an Agile team to develop a sense of identity and empowerment, the team must be given the opportunity to learn by doing, and often by failing. This means that you have to trust them to experiment to some degree and let them find the best solution to problems. Even if you know the answer, it is often beneficial to guide them towards the solution rather than telling them the solution and exactly how to implement it.
Tip #2 – Trust but verify
You need to trust your team to do their best work, but you also need to teach them that you will be validating their work along the way and see how they are doing. Avoid giving vague instructions, and walk away expecting great results.
Tip #3 – Genuinely care about your team
It’s hard to purposefully show that you care about your team and make it appear genuine, but you can still show your team that you have a stake in this game. Ask them to share their successes, concerns, frustrations, all the good and the bad, but also share how you see things. Be transparent, candid, and supportive. This means finding out how the team is adapting to new ways of working, and doing your part to help them learn and grow as professionals.
Establishing and leading a self-managing team is can be a very difficult task for manager and leaders who are used to giving out explicit instructions. However, if you view this as an opportunity to build a new leadership style, as well as creating a high-performing team, the investment in time and effort will not seem quite as daunting!