Agile Team Velocity and Forecasting

A long while back I wrote an article about “Increasing Velocity vs. Stable Velocity“. In that I listed a catalog of improvements that once done, could help make your sprint velocity stable. Of course the full list would probably never be realized as it’s unlikely teams would do everything. The reason I created the list was to give visibility of the many things an agile team could try. For some people, the list really wouldn’t have helped. Always easy to tell people what they could do but finding reasons and value for doing it is sometimes hard.

I wish here to talk about velocity and the business. Businesses have a tough time keeping their many shareholders and/or stakeholders happy with continuous growth and prosperity. One thing that makes all these people happy, or at least stops them from lynching the execs, is for the business to predict when things will happen with some accuracy. If you’re a software product company or a digital product company, the people you count on for this are your agile teams. The Product Owner manages the business aspects of sprint work while the development team manages the customer solutions. Combined into one agile team, the product owner and development team forecast what they’ll deliver anywhere between 0 to 12 months. This forecast is based on several factors but a key component will be the team’s past track record for delivery, their velocity.

Velocity

Velocity is simply the average amount of work one team can successfully complete in one sprint. For most teams, this may take a few sprints to stabilize as the team finds itself through the stages of formation.

Velocity sits at the team level and does not translate to individuals on the team. If a team of 5 has a velocity of 40, adding another person doesn’t mean their velocity goes to 48. If the team’s velocity is 40 story points per sprint and a new person is added to the team, the team’s velocity is more likely to fall in the near term rather than rise. This is due to the disruption the new person causes in the team, needing mentoring, learning how to do things the “team’s” way, and the change in group dynamics (see stages of group development). So keep it simple and use velocity for the team.

The product owner

The product owner represents both the customer and the business within the agile team. It is the product owner who’s held accountable or at least responsible for getting the most valuable product features into the hands of the agile development team at the right time. They do this to meet both delivery (business) and customer demands. It’s the agile development team’s responsibility to match their forecasts with actual deliveries, scaled appropriately from near term (sprint) to longer term (release). All this needs to happen with regularity. All this can fail if the underlying forecasts are unreliable. The agile team’s velocity is the most reliable measure used during forecasting.

The single wringable neck

It often falls upon the product owner to meet promised delivery dates. This is strange because it’s not the product owner doing the work. The product owner relies on the development team to deliver. The product owner needs to manage business expectations once an agile release is in flight. This happens regardless of the reliability of the forecasts made by the team. However, the amount of effort and stress associated with managing these expectations can be mitigated if there’s a solid foundation to base initial forecasts on. The solid foundation starts with a predictable team velocity. Once a predictable velocity exists, product owners can begin challenging the agile team to achieve degrees of accuracy in their forecasts & estimates. For example, the product owner and development team might set planning goals as:

  • Get 85% or better accuracy between 0-6 weeks (sprints)
  • Get 60% – 70% accuracy up to 3 months (release)
  • Get 50% accuracy 3 – 6 months (release/future release)

Make success possible yet challenging

It may be the agile team has an unpredictable velocity, especially common with new teams. Asking a team to have an estimation accuracy of 90% for a two-three sprint window when the development team is barely at 35% is asking for failure. Instead if the team is at 35% accuracy, challenge them to achieve 45% within the next two sprints. But simply challenging the development team won’t be enough by itself, you’ll need to work with their Scrum Master to change the team’s current processes. This often means making backlog grooming sessions better.

The backlog

The product backlog is an example of a combining longer term strategic planning with near term tactical planning in one convenient place. The product backlog epitomizes the concept of Just In Time (JIT) planning. The product owner owns the product backlog and they, along with the development team, need to continuously maintain it. The product backlog is prioritized from top to bottom. It’s very common to think of the backlog as an iceberg with 3 distinct layers. The top layer is the bit of the iceberg that is above water, is the sprint ready layer. User stories here are the most refined and best understood. The product owner desires these stories to be the most accurately estimated to make sprint commitments viable. One grooming goal therefore is to get user stories to the highest state of readiness or ‘sprint ready‘.

The middle layer is populated with stories that are in planned releases including the current release but are generally less well understood. These stories are estimated but will likely be split into stories sized to fit within the sprint time box. As stories are split and new understandings are reached, they are re-estimated. Stories from the Release layer are feed into the Sprint layer as openings appear, based on priorities. This is a continuous process. A second goal of backlog grooming is to split stories down to a size that can be completed (Done) within the sprint time box.

The bottom layer but no less important are the stories for Future Releases. These stories might represent new feature or new products. These stories are the least understood and often are more speculative in nature. For example, a Future Release story might get dropped if there’s no customer support or the business ROI is too weak. Future Release stories feed into the Release layer as openings occur. The third goal of backlog grooming is to validate the customer/business value of new features, prioritize them, and allocate to releases as space becomes available

The backlog and velocity

Let’s get back velocity and see how the product backlog and velocity are inseparable. At the Sprint layer, the amount of work, usually measured in story points, is based on team velocity. For four teams working from a single backlog and the cumulative velocity per sprint is 135 story points, the Sprint layer might have 405 story point worth of stories (3 sprints X 135). (I recognize that skill levels within teams matter and I talk about cross-skilled teams at the end but for the moment, assume the work is equally divisible by team strengths.)

For the Release layer, velocity is used to project work capacity into the near future, often 1 to 6 months or one or more releases. Below is an example of a multi-release story map from Steve Regalsky of Winnipeg Agilist. Story mapping is probably the best way to engage the development team(s) and get realistic commitments using their own velocity metric.

For future release layer, velocity plays only a small part in that you can estimate these features or new products by the number of sprints they might require to complete. This is done in portfolio planning where costing is done at a gross level. It’s a good idea to use T-Shirt sizing at this level to abstract the estimate and help prevent any premature expectations. The question development answers is how many sprints would this feature or new product take given your current velocity? A guide to T-Shirt sizing could be:

  • Small (S) => 1 – 3 sprints
  • Medium (M) => 4 – 8 sprints
  • Large (L) => 6 – 12 sprints
  • X-Large (XL) => 9 – 18 sprints
  • XX-Large (XXL) => Unknown

It would not be unusual for one Future Release story to be enough work for one or more releases.

Tips for getting and using team velocity

There are several activities that can improve velocity but there are also a few things a team or business can do to help make team velocity useful.

  • Keep the team intact and constant. This means no swapping people in and out of the team on a random basis.
  • Co-locate the team. The team sitting together will build stronger bonds over a shorter period of time.
  • Be patient and give the team time to grow. They’ll go through the stages of group development over a period of time but give them that time. Use team building exercises such as Journey Lines to help them grow closer.
  • Engage the team with the business early. Get the team thinking solving business problems and customer problems is their responsibility.
  • Do not use velocity as a stick. The team’s velocity is for the team to use and improve. Enable the team to improve and trust that they will improve.
  • Have the team create and agree to what success looks like. The team needs a common understanding of what Done means for sprint work.
  • Maintain strict adherence to how velocity is calculated. In its simplest form, velocity is a count of work completed, averaged over several sprints.
  • Improve ‘T-skills’ within and across teams. The goal is to progress work, not have everyone equally skilled. Reduce reliance on specialist roles.
  • Focus coaching and training activities to areas that can improve velocity. Maximize the value of agile ceremonies and interactions within the team, not just doing.
  • Be honest. Only count stories that achieve a ‘Done’ status towards velocity. A story that needs 30-minutes in the next sprint to be complete counts for 0 in the current sprint.

Cross-skilled agile teams

If the agile teams are limited in their skills and unable to work any story in the backlog, this complicates things a little. Velocity can fluctuate wildly when work needs divided up based on skill. This can hurt if you have a team but no work for their particular strength. In practice this usually means stories are not worked in a priority order. For example, the backlog might have stories targeted for IOS developers and Windows developers. However, within these categories, stories would be in a priority (customer value) order.

The only realistic solution is to upskill the agile teams so a team can progress most any story in the backlog. This is achieved by building ‘T-Skills’. ‘T-Skills’ means although there’s depth in a particular discipline, the person has some capacity across several other skills. Teams can begin analysing their ‘T-Skills’ with a skills matrix.

    

A skills matrix can help identify areas where weaknesses exist. For example in the matrix above, we see that several skills have only one contributor. These would be prime areas to begin any cross-skill training. Having Sid pair up with Alice on occasion to build his Backend skills might be a good idea. This would make two people who can do Backend work although not with the same rapidity but does allow work to progress when the key person is unavailable.

 

An Idea in An Agile World

All new products and new product features start with an idea. This idea becomes the first user story, user story #1, for the product. User story #1 begins a journey that could end with either happy customers and happy business stakeholders or end up in the bucket of disused ideas. So what happens to user story #1 and what do you do with this new idea?

You can find lots of articles on breaking down user stories. You can also find articles on how to write good user stories but you usually don’t see too many articles on how the first user story is used to develop a business case. What follows are some thoughts and insights on how to take user story #1 and developing it for greater success.

User story #1

User story #1 is the idea. It’s an idea to achieve business goals, an idea to solve customer problems, and an idea to create or change a product. We’re all familiar with user stories written with an eye toward solving a customer problem through product updates. User story #1 is different as it’s not so much about solving a customer problem as it is a ‘thought’ experiment to discover what customer problems we can solve. So the question is, how should we go about validating the idea?

Validating

When the new product idea is first presented as a means to achieve a business goal, there will be interest but it’s unlikely the business is going to throw monies your way, at least not at first. The business needs more than just the idea, the business needs data to back-up and justify the idea. This translates to meaning the idea is put through the discipline of Ideation or Envisioning.

The idea is the highest level user story for the product but the picture is incomplete and outcomes uncertain. However, there’s usually enough to the idea to begin analysis and experimentation. The analysis often results in a series of metrics and measures collected during envisioning. These are often measured on a some scale that best serves your business. For example, aligning to company strategy might be scored 0=no alignment, to 5=full alignment. Costs might be 0=<$10,000 to 5=>$450,000. Below are some metrics you might be familiar with.

  • Alignment with the company’s strategy,
  • Moves the product team towards achieving a business goal,
  • Is technically feasible,
  • Product innovation category (new, adjacent, or sustaining),
  • Cost associated with it (implementation is usually the biggest component),
  • Predictable business outcome if implemented (revenue, customers, users, …),
  • The business risk of implementing/not implementing is calculated,
  • The competitive advantage, and
  • The market breadth (new, adjacent, or sustaining).

To do the above takes time and you might look at the list and think, “that doesn’t look too agile to me”. Today’s reality in the digital age is all these items need to be completed in the morning so the development teams can implement and deploy by late afternoon. For most of us this isn’t exactly true, yet. But time is a pressing consideration and being quick is important. What we need to find is a way to do business so we have both enough knowledge to start and we have a clear idea of what further information we’ll need. The key bit of knowledge we need to have up front is that the idea aligns with the business’s strategy and goals.

Big ideas need to align with business strategy & goals

Before the idea is broken down, or before any real effort is made, the idea should be validated against the business strategy and goals. You might be lucky and the business strategy is developed in such a way that the product manager can have their ideas incorporated into the strategy from the start. When the business defines what their goals are, they develop a strategy to achieve those goals.

The three elements of good strategy (source: Richard P. Rumelt, Good Strategy Bad Strategy)

  1. Diagnosis: “A diagnosis that defines or explains the nature of the challenge. A good diagnosis simplifies the often overwhelming complexity of reality by identifying certain aspects of the situation as critical.”
  2. Guiding Policy: “A guiding policy for dealing with the challenge. This is an overall approach chosen to cope with or overcome the obstacles identified in the diagnosis.”
  3. Coherent Actions: “A set of coherent actions that are designed to carry out the guiding policy. These are steps that are coordinated with one another to work together in accomplishing the guiding policy.”

Working backwards on this list, new product ideas describe the actions needed to deal with the challenges (goals) found during the diagnostics. In this way, new product ideas become an integral part of the company’s overall strategy.

If the product manager can align their ideas with the business, then the remaining items of envisioning can happen relatively quickly. It’s very likely that for most ideas, the effort to define feasibility and cost can occur within an agile team’s iteration. This is a tremendous way to cut the time from idea to completing envisioning. It also provides for giving the customers a chance to evaluate the idea in a practical sense: A/B tests, user testing, or customer interviews. This technique of learning is often used in the Startup world as Build-Measure-Learn cycle.

The product manager will likely obtain full approval for any opportunity that delivers overwhelming value relative to its cost. Kenneth Rubin in his book, “Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process“, suggests that if there’s any discussion over tiny differences in cost or value then it clearly doesn’t deliver ‘overwhelming’ value and the idea should be dropped.

The easiest and best way to determine value is by getting the idea in front of your customers and users and measuring their response.

Using the development team for envisioning

When speed is essential to capitalize on an event or competitive opportunity, get something out in front of the users today rather than waiting until you’re sure. The trick will be to do only enough to answer questions and reduce risks without over committing the team or business. Keep in mind that you and the business haven’t validated the idea yet so there is a risk. If you’re doing Agile then this will fairly straight forward: use build-measure-learn techniques to understand the value of your idea with customers and users.

The product manager works with the product owner, team leads, architects, or full development team to break down user story #1 (the idea) into smaller user stories. These are the fragments needed to showcase the new product or feature idea. These particular stories are not necessarily work to build a product but will often be part of a prototype or demo system to gather information and feedback. Part of the envisioning process is to validate the idea, confirming its potential, with customers and users. To do this, a demo or prototype to showcase new features to potential customers and users can be an enormous asset without spending too much money in the process.

If the product manager has the luxury of dedicated team at their disposal that’s great! However, a new product idea may not as yet have a team but only a handful of senior people to help bring a new idea to life. Assuming there is a team, one approach is to get a team to include some research work along with their normal complement of product work. This is handled as spikes, technical or business exploration, added to the sprint if doing scrum. (If the agile teams are Kanban then there’s less of a concern with disruption and immediate priorities can take precedence.) If there’s a time critical component to the idea and waiting isn’t an option, then cancelling a sprint and pivoting to take on higher value work is an option but not always a good idea. Besides, if doing scrum there’s already a mechanism in place to do research, prototypes, and mock-ups: the backlog refinement sessions.

Using the development team during envisioning helps the product manager answer some important business questions including these 2 metrics from above:

  • technically feasibility-team can better answer this after developing a prototype,
  • implementation costs-implementation is usually the main influence on costs and the team can make a more accurate estimate.

By using the feedback and learnings from the demo and prototype, the product manager can better determine the viability of the idea. Using A/B tests, user testing, or customer interviews, the product manager can:

  • better estimate the business outcome if implemented (revenue, customers, users, …),
  • better assess the business risk of implementing/not implementing the idea,
  • better assess the effect on competition, and
  • better understand the market breadth.

Getting the development team involved with the idea early on will benefit the product manager. This early involvement moves the team from being a partner with the product management into being full members of the business team, bringing along their unique skills and insights into the envisioning process.

Two key outcomes having the development team in on envisioning

One big advantage is the development team is better positioned to undertake the new work if the business decides to proceed. The development team also has more ‘skin in the game’ through early involvement.

Another big advantage is the product manager can determine sooner whether to pursue the idea further. Because the development team has created prototypes or demos for customers, the product manager is better able to collect critical information for the business case. If it turns out there is no profitable business case, the product manager has spent relatively little money to learn a lot. The agile principle of maximizing the amount of work not done is an important one and finding out early to stop is better than running out the budget on a hunch that doesn’t pay off.

In a waterfall environment?

If you’re doing a waterfall type methodology then it’s a given that all envisioning and requirements are defined upfront. This is not bad if there’s little to no uncertainty. However, the early involvement by the full development team to pursue the idea using prototypes is still valid. They’ll not only be putting more ‘skin in the game’ but they’ll improve the accuracy of the estimates and potentially uncover more unknowns.

Summary

To increase your chances of success, get the development team involved during envisioning. They can help the business best if they’re a full member of the business team and not just a partner. Use the full development team to validate user story #1. This includes validating customer problems, potential solutions, development costs, and business value.

 

When will my agile team self-organize?

Great! Your business has decided to move from a Waterfall paradigm to Agile Scrum and now you’re waiting patiently for the benefits to kick in. You’re hoping your Scrum teams start self-organizing soon and are inventively solving customer problems faster with better efficiently. You’re also waiting for the team to become major contributors to the business decision process based on their intimate knowledge of customers and their pains. And you’re waiting … Still waiting …

You ask yourself what’s holding the team back. The Scrum Master has trained the development team on the agile manifesto including the principle:

“The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.”

The Scrum Master has also trained the development team on self-organizing as described in the Scrum Guide:

  • defining the Scrum Team: “The Scrum Team consists of a Product Owner, the Development Team, and a Scrum Master. Scrum Teams are self-organizing and cross-functional. Self-organizing teams choose how best to accomplish their work, rather than being directed by others outside the team. … The team model in Scrum is designed to optimize flexibility, creativity, and productivity.”
  • defining the Development Team role: “Development Teams are structured and empowered by the organization to organize and manage their own work. The resulting synergy optimizes the Development Team’s overall efficiency and effectiveness.”
  • defining the Scrum Master role: “The Scrum Master serves the Development Team in several ways, including: Coaching the Development Team in self-organization and cross-functionality.”
  • defining the Sprint Planning Meeting: “The Development Team self-organizes to undertake the work in the Sprint Backlog, both during the Sprint Planning Meeting and as needed throughout the Sprint…By the end of the Sprint Planning meeting, the Development Team should be able to explain to the Product Owner and Scrum Master how it intends to work as a self-organizing team to accomplish the Sprint Goal and create the anticipated Increment.”
  • defining the Daily Scrum: “Every day, the Development Team should be able to explain to the Product Owner and Scrum Master how it intends to work together as a self-organizing team to accomplish the goal and create the anticipated increment in the remainder of the Sprint.”

It’s clear the Scrum Guide expects the Scrum team, and more specifically, the development team, be a self-organizing body. It’s also clear that training people that they should be self-organizing isn’t always enough. The organization must want and the businesses actively support the team becoming self-organizing.

Setting Expectations

Getting a Scrum team to self-organizing is hard primarily due to the fuzzy nature of what ‘self-organizing’ actually means. If you were to ask 5 people to define what a ‘self-organizing’ software team is you’ll probably get 5 different answers. But even in that result some truths are seen, it’s not how I define self-organization, it’s how the team defines it.

In Nitin Mittal’s Scrum Alliance article, “Self-Organizing Teams: What and How“, he describes 5 essentials of self-organizing teams:

  • Competency: Individuals need to be competent for the job at hand. This will result in confidence in their work and will eliminate the need for direction from above.
  • Collaboration: They should work as a team rather than as a group of individuals. Teamwork is encouraged.
  • Motivation: Team motivation is the key to success. Team members should be focused and interested in their work.
  • Trust and respect: Team members trust and respect each other. They believe in collective code ownership and are ready to go the extra mile to help each other resolve issues.
  • Continuity: The team should be together for a reasonable duration; changing its composition every now and then doesn’t help. Continuity is essential for the team.

I was once Scrum Master to a team during which I did training on the advantages of setting priorities, of sharing work, and of getting stuff done. The team was very good at their jobs and helped each other out whenever asked. However, I didn’t realize helping out had a limit until one day at the daily standup when the person working the most important story, the highest priority story, was out. I asked who could pick up the work to move it forward? No one raised their hand. One of the quietest people then said it was massively inefficient to have someone else pick up the work. For me personally this was a sad, sad day. After talking priorities, talking of sharing work, talking of getting stuff done, and talking how the team best works together, the team couldn’t let go of their own personal task responsibilities. The team couldn’t find it in themselves to embrace a team responsibility of getting the most important work done first. A self-organizing team would have kicked into a self-managing mode and re-allocated work so the highest valued work could continue. At the end of the standup, team members felt a stronger bond to their own work in areas they were most comfortable with than to the whole. It wasn’t competency but rather motivation that was holding the team back.

What makes it so hard to motivate a team to feel responsible for the whole? When a business pushes individual roles & responsibilities over team commitments or when survival and blame permeates an environment, it’s very unlikely that the team will move beyond the ‘forming’ stage (team members sticking to what they know best individually and doing what they feel most comfortable with).

In some business environments, the dip in productivity while transitioning from ‘Forming’ to ‘Storming’ is unacceptable. This would be especially true in a strong hierarchical or Command & Control environment where those in the hierarchy are held responsible (accountable) for team performance.  If the business is clinging too tightly to a hierarchical and Command & Control environment, the likelihood of birthing self-organizing teams is diminished. At one company I was at, one of the most senior software engineers was a team lead. The team was always seeking his approval for any decisions and if the manager thought otherwise, the team changed their ideas to conform. This wasn’t the worse thing to happen but it was heavily reliant on the team lead always being right. A consequence of this was lower scores on the company’s engagement evaluations especially around empowerment and feelings of trust.

It’s worth the attempt

Adopting Agile and Scrum will not automatically cause people or businesses to change. For Agile and Scrum to make a positive impact, people will need to see that they need to change their own behavior. It’s possible to see that in an environment where individual knowledge or individual skills are the most sought after commodity, Agile may not be the right tool. In a business where rigid hierarchies and Command & Control are dominate, it may be a long journey to establishing self-organizing teams but certainly worth the effort.

David Ticoll in his Harvard Business Review article, “Get Self-Organized”, states that, “It would be difficult and risky—even foolhardy—to try to wholly transform a hierarchical business model into a self-organizing one. But the potential of self-organizing systems to enhance competitiveness is becoming clear to managers of some conventionally structured businesses.”

David Tricoll further states, “Today, the ability to stream complex, real-time information to the front line gives hierarchical companies greater power than ever to exploit self-organization.”

One approach might be getting the team to participate in business events such as creating business plans, working with customers and users, and respecting them as contributors to business success. Teams with greater insights to business and customer problems are more likely to be engaged with solving these. To be quick and competitive, businesses must relinquish control to the teams in the front lines and the teams must be willing to accept the responsibility. When the business leaders and development teams shared these insights, I’ve seen the development teams rise beyond their own specialties to rally around both the customer and the business.

For a team to become self-organizing, it will take more than a business to want and support it, it requires the team itself to see advantages in self-organization. If you’ve ever seen how an assembly line worked in days gone by, you’ll see an environment where self-organization would have been detrimental. Your job was to put nut ‘A’ onto bolt ‘B’ period. Repeat this for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and you got paid pretty well for what to some people would be the most boring job on earth. The business wasn’t holding out hope that the workers would self-organize and the workers had no motivation to do so. In the factories, piecework was common. Workers were told what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. Software development is not piecework, if it were, robots would be doing it today. It is knowledge work where thinking both inside and outside the box are assets to the business.

In the situation above when a team member is absent, the moment the remaining team members decided that doing and completing individual tasks is more important, all advantages of self-organization were lost. Instead of adding value for the customer and business, the team had elected to follow a plan. The decision essentially comes down to: I have my own work to do and don’t have time to do yours.

To some, this kind of dedication is how you advance in the company. However, if the company were to emphasize customer and business value of work being done, it would cause a fundamental shift in team thinking, from doing tasks to getting the highest value work done quickly. When the business puts emphasis on value, the team is more likely to devote their combined efforts to achieving value. It would come to pass that even when one of their numbers is absent, progress won’t stop, although it may slow down. If the team is accepted as a fully participating business team member, not just a partner, the team will genuinely feel the success of the business is also their own success and act accordingly.

To me, one of the principle tenets of Agile is the team. The great power of Agile comes from a group of intelligent people working as one. Collectively they are more knowledgeable than any one individual although the shared experience may be less. To ignite the team requires the business to openly give the team responsibility and accountability for the outcomes of each iteration. For the business to move forward and empowering the team, they would need to establish safe boundaries from which the team can safely operate in.

When business leaders, product owners, and scrum masters attend the daily standup, what’s more important than hearing team members say,

I completed task <x> yesterday”,

is hearing them say,

we added <some> value to the product yesterday”.

The role of managers and customers on the self-organizing team

In an InfoQ interview, Rashina Hoda cites two environmental factors needed to be in place to enable self-organization to emerge. These are:

  1. Senior management at the teams’ organization must be able to provide freedom to the teams so that they can self-organize themselves.
  2. Customers must support the teams by being actively involved in the development process through providing regular requirements, clarifications, and feedback as required.

“Self-organizing Agile teams … require organization structures that are informal in practice, where the boundaries of hierarchy do not prohibit free flow of information and feedback. In an informal organizational structure, the senior management is directly accessible by all employees (maintaining an ‘opendoors’ policy), and accepts feedback—both positive and negative.”

– from “Supporting Self-Organizing Agile Teams What’s Senior Management Got To Do With It?” by Rashina Hoda, James Noble, and Stuart Marshall

Summary

For the business leaders, giving development teams insights to both business and customers plus giving development teams space to operate, will motivate teams to accomplish amazing things. When the business states these are our goals and asks the team to solve it in the best manner possible, you’re likely to see a team self-organize to meet the goals. No one goes to work hoping they fail.

When the business has a strong hierarchical and Command & Control environment, moving a team toward self-organizing is made more difficult but not impossible. Building a bridge of trust and respect is essential. By establishing a strong partnership between the business and development team, followed by full membership, the team can exercise their collective knowledge and capabilities to contribute to business successes.

In the end, it’s a mutual effort on the part of both management and the development team to become self-organized. It will probably be a bumpy ride along the way but with a clear goal as a guide, both should arrive at the destination together.