The terms self-organized and self-managed teams evoke visions of anarchy from people who are outside of the Agile bubble. However, in a well-run Agile organization, that is far from the truth. Where anarchy will occur is when self-managed and self-organized teams are implemented incorrectly. Avoiding mistakes of when implementing Agile teams means everyone must understand what the terms self-managed and self-organized do and don’t mean so that your Agile implementation won’t go down in flames.
A self-organizing and self-managing team determines how the team will respond to their environment to accomplish the common goal they have committed to deliver. The team will collectively determine how to solve the problem they have been given and how to deploy assets and people to be effective. Managers and leaders that used to have the responsibility of shaping the plan and deploying individuals within the team now must influence the team by changing and influencing the team’s environment.
What self-organizing and self-managing does not mean is that the team gets to decide the goal they will pursue. The goal is part of the environment that managers and leaders use to influence the team. Secondly, teams generally do not get to decide who is on the team. Management is charged with ensuring that teams are diverse, have the capabilities they need for delivery or the capacity to learn what is needed. This again is management affecting the project’s environment.
Self-organizing and self-managing teams collectively control how they will accomplish the work required in any specific sprint. Agile teams do not get to decide the organization’s strategic or business goals and the projects they will be asked to perform. Management owns the environment, which provides the boundaries of direction and composition that Agile teams operate within, thus preventing chaos and anarchy. A tangible business goal keeps teams moving forward much in the sense of time passing quarter by quarter in a football game. The goal defines the finish line that provides the team with an objective.