Monday, April 28, 2008

Self Organizing Team

A Self organizing team is a very powerful concept that liberates the manager from the agony of mundane tasks. In most cases people are not used to managing themselves and managers are not used to not manage certain things. Here are some problems the managers face moving towards a true self organizing team:
  1. Managerial ego: Some managers think "What would the team do without me?" The team needs my help to solve problems”. And they get satisfaction from the fact that they were able to help their team at every single occasion when the team needed his/her help. But in that process, they forget that they are making the team more dependent on him/her leaving him/her less time to do the real managerial tasks.

  2. Fear of losing touch with details: They always like to know each and every minute detail so that they are aware of everything and can answer their superior’s detailed questions. However, in some organizations this quality earns them respect.

  3. Forced involvement in development issues: Sometimes team members have disagreements amongst themselves on various issues such as design choices, engineering practices etc. Inevitably, these disagreements then go to the manager to get resolved. Thus, even if the manager is trying to stay away, he/she gets involved in the argument to save the productivity of team.

  4. Fear of not doing things the right way: Every manager has his/ her perspective on what is right e.g. right engineering practices, the right way to solve a problem etc. The manager keeps thinking that if he does not make the decision, the team will solve the problem in a "wrong way". This keeps the manager more involved in small decisions.

It is difficult to achieve a truly self organizing team. It is very tempting to use the decision making authority you have as a manager. But if that becomes a routine, most of your time will be consumed in making small decisions that could have been made by some other team member. It is difficult to resolve the above mentioned problems. You cannot make your team self organizing in a day. You have to train your team for months.

After working for months to achieve a truly self organizing team, the result is gratifying. The gains are phenomenal. You can save at least 50% of your mundane work. This gives you that 50% time to think about future architectures, long term career development of your engineers, attend conferences etc. Your job will be much more interesting than it was before.

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