12 Days of Agile Principles! #AgilePrinciple 11

we can work it out

Welcome to Day 11 of 12 Days of Agile Principles, the penultimate principle in our series.


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


Whoa, that’s a bit radical isn’t it? What are we saying here? That we don’t need managers?! That we can just gather a bunch of smart people together and ask them to organise around a problem and solve it?! :boom: I think I just blew my own tiny mind. 


It’s a little subtler than that, in essence we believe that organisations get the best out of people and teams, when they get to choose what they work on and who they work with.  


In the real world, the level of self-organisation for a team exists on a spectrum, ranging from none at all, where all organisation is imposed by management, to the extreme, such as the lack of structure you see in a start up, where everyone has a hand in who does what because there may be only 3 of you.


In self organising team structures, where goals are not clear, and or constraints are not stated, activity can often deteriorate into chaos, so it’s vital to have strong connection with what outcomes we are trying to achieve. Good ‘servant leadership’ (mentioned in #Agile Principle 5) and attention to alignment with shared goals made explicit, ie drawn out of people’s minds and onto shared medium (as mentioned in #Agile Principle 6) and great communication, can help us get there. 


Conversely in very small orgs, constraints are very clear e.g. “we have no cash” and outcomes similarly e.g. “get some cash”, therefore it’s very easy for a small group of people to self organise around that obvious constraint and goal to resolve it. 


We've also come to understand that 'the best' is also accessed when we have diversity, this means diversity of thought, but diversity of thought tends to come when you bring people's different cultural backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, even political opinions.  We have the best chance of creating great products that are comprised of the best architectures, requirements and designs for customers, when we can break out of 'sameness' and challenge our own thinking. 


Well what about large scale teams in large organisations, where a lot of work needs to get done by a lot of people? There’s more than just diversity, alignment and leadership that can help. Here’s one approach for getting teams to self-select and self-organise that is becoming ‘the new black’ in a few large agile delivery shops I know  Self Selection at a large scale  (also referenced in Agile principle #5).


Dear reader, we’re almost at the end of our 12 #AgilePrinciples! Our next post will be the last where we wrap up the gift of the 12 days of Agile Principles. Stay tuned or join the conversation at @TheRebootCo