January 20, 2017

Self-Organizing Teams for the Rest of Us (Another Look)

  —A comparison of definitions for self-organizing teams.

In Self-Organizing Teams for the Rest of Us, I shared Bertrand Meyer’s position on self-organizing teams. Self-organizing teams choose how best to accomplish their work, rather than being directed by others outside the team–highly accomplished self-organizing teams may not require a manager. Self-Organizing teams are self-managed or self-designing.1

In TSP: Leading a Development Team, Watts S. Humphrey provides a look at self-directed teams.

Is there a difference between self-directed and self-organized teams? If there is, it’s that self-directed teams have leaders with a set of responsibilities that are broader than the team’s responsibilities. In Humphrey’s view, a leader motivates people to achieve goals and provides an environment where team members focus on results and accomplishments. A manager controls resources to produce results.

Self-directed teams exhibit the following characteristics.

  • A sense of membership and belonging.
  • Commitment to a common team goal.
  • Ownership of the process and the plan.
  • The skill to make a plan and the discipline to follow it.
  • A dedication to excellence.

A leader’s focus is to create an environment to support and sustain these characteristics. Theirs responsibility is to motivate, coach and drive team members to perform at the best of their abilities.

This notion of self-directed team is closer to the notion of team that I support in Self-Organizing Teams for the Rest of Us. What’s refreshing in Humphrey’s description of self-directed teams is that the role of a leader is made explicit.

What Meyer points out is the rhetoric around self-organizing teams describes what managers shouldn’t do. I agree this is unhelpful for people placed in the position of trying to build an Agile environment.

Agile!: The Good, the Hype and the UglyAgile!: The Good, the Hype and the Ugly by Bertrand Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

TSP-Leading a Development TeamTSP-Leading a Development Team by Watts S. Humphrey
View all my reviews

1. What Are Self-Organising Teams?.

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