Self Organizing Agile Teams


Agile teams self organize to implement product backlogs…Imagine a small group of highly creative individuals, who are tasked to develop the complete design for a product, that typically includes the modules for web interface, database design, algorithmic design, and a FPGA interface that implements the data processor.

Now, consider for a moment that you are playing the role of a conventional project manager, responsible for getting work done from this team, and you are experienced in the Waterfall model of product development. What will you do?

You will exercise your authority to assign each module to the individual, whom you think is the most competent to work on that part of the product. You prepare a work assignment plan and publish it, so that you can hold each individual accountable for their assignments. In other words, you think that your job is to see that the plan is followed rigidly and all controls are in place, to ensure the completion of this project within budget.

Did you ever try to find out what happened with these creative individuals? They actually resented your authority and did not accept the rigid plan that was shoved down their throat. They seemed to feel that they had no role in the way modules were assigned to them, neither did they accept rigid controls in the project. In short, you killed their creativity, that might have been exploited for the benefit of everyone, had you followed a different approach.

So, what is the best way to get things done from a group of highly creative individuals, who are sovereign independent people in their own right?

First of all, we need to respect the creative spark in each individual. Nature has blessed each one of us with inherent capabilities and each individual knows what he can do best. Moreover, no creative individual likes to be told what to do and what not to do. We are born free and we do not want to be controlled. We always have a yearning to create something unique, and if we have the freedom to create, we contribute our best.

With this revelation in mind, what is a Waterfall project manager supposed to do?

He needs to let the group of creative individuals self organize and let each one of them own the modules. The project manager’s role is that of a facilitator. He lets the individuals freely interact and come up with innovative solutions. There is more informal communication within the team, to resolve problems on the fly. The project manager, also called the Scrum Master in this role, conducts daily stand up meetings that do not last longer than 15 minutes, where the team members share the progress on each of their modules. The Scrum Master helps to solve problems and remove obstacles that hinder progress on the project.

This is the Agile way of executing projects by self organized Agile teams. Isn’t it the natural way all projects should be done?

Places to go from here:

The Agile Manifesto
Self Organizing Teams in Agile Software Development



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