Agile teams need to be cross-functional, self-organized and competent, so they would be most effective in an Agile delivery. The focus is on teams, not on individual. Therefore, the role of organizations and leaders is not to enable a. support program for individuals, but for teams and groups as a whole. This is the fundamental difference between traditional / Taylorism and modern / rather agile organizations and mindsets. While this sounds logical, it is often quite difficult to implement. Especially, the idea of self-organization is often implemented as to let people alone and figure out everything by themselves. In the end, organizations are then surprised, why teams did not develop, what was expected from them.

Empowerment and self-organization is not a question of let things happen, but rather a question on how we manage the potential constraints. Self-organization can lead anywhere; but since it is also dependent on cross-functionality as well as competence / maturity, we need to ensure, that the right level of self-organization is provided and the tools and practices are in place to foster the self-organization. And this is where tools and practices come into place.

Team Agreements on when to call an activity as done (in SW Teams called "Definition of Done") or on what question need to be answered for an activity to be able to be started on, are just the beginning, but crucial to give teams guidelines on ensuring, what is expected from them. Often, though, this is only the start. If individual in teams are cross-functional, diverse and have different maturity levels, disagreements and misunderstandings can lead to first small conflicts, which easily can grow over time if kept unmanaged. As Patrick Lencioni describes, unmanaged team conflicts can lead to so-called "office / team politics". These are often team conflicts, which are hard to resolve. So, on top of the Team Agreements for Readiness and Done, Conflict Resolution Agreements can give teams the foundations on how to resolve conflict long before it can become a bigger issue.

Additionally, in Agile teams, where self-organization is crucial, it is important for teams to understand, that decision-making needs to happen comprehensively. But Agile decision-making is not necessarily consensus (everybody agrees wholeheartedly the same way). Therefore, a comprehensive Team Agreement on how the team should make decisions, can help a team to deliver software in an Agile way (great quality and time-sensitive). Some teams define a team decision matrix, others have more informal agreements. However, the less informal a team agreement, the more misunderstanding and in the end conflicts might happen. Transparency on what has been agreed upon is pivotal.

Besides the Team Agreements, other team practices and tools might help teams to ensure inclusion, diversity, growth and learning. From the outside and for the organization, it might be difficult to decide on those. Therefore, it should be up to the team to decide, how to collaborate and work together. However, as an organization or leader, we certainly can provide options. The Software process framework "eXtreme Programming" might give such ideas, which were designed for Software Teams, but can be adapted from all teams:

  • Pair Programming enables the individuals to learn from each other. While it is usually used for programming, a pair working approach will help individuals to collaborate on solutions for complex issues.
  • Sustainable Pace is a concept, which can help knowledge workers, as we all know from our experience: If we are exhausted, we are probably not very creative.
  • Small Releases and gathering feedback will help also Marketing teams for example to adjust their budget continuously instead of pulverizing too much on the wrong horse.

Tools & Practices are always flexible, but the principles behind the practices rarely change. Therefore, instead of relying too much on the practices from the frameworks, it might be more important to understand the underlying values and principles. Then, teams can create their flavor and find their practices and tools.


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