Jim Highsmith’s wrote about No More Self-Organizing Teams.
I think that a self-organizing team is great. I do find it a myth that self-organizing teams, are self formed.
They can emerge out of the blue, but most of the time they are created. Created by coaches that help such a team become self organizing.
Every team goes through these four phases before it really is self-organizing (the perfoming phase) and everytime something changes to the team, they get thrown back to the forming phase. (Like when a new member is added, or a member is removed.)
The better the coach /leader adapts his leaderships style to the phase the team is in, the faster the team will move to the next phase.
(Once a team previously was in a higher stage, it will probably also go faster back to that stage.)
The same way parents have to adapt their leadership style with their children.
It would be great if my 2 year old would get dressed all alone, but he just is not able to do it.
My 5 year old, can get dressed all alone, but I still have to help him in staying focused and help him in deciding what is next to put on. Technically I don’t help him putting on his clothes, but I have to be there physically. Yesterday I went to the bathroom, thinking he does it all right, he will manage himself. Surprise surprise, when I came back he was playing with his toys. ..
The same thing happens with a team if you let them on their own to quickly.
So for me it is not one or the other.
We need self-organizing teams, but we need leaders that act more like coaches and help a team grow and move into the correct direction. The hard part is that IT-persons are used to solve problems, coaches they don’t solve a problem, they only point out that there is a problem.
I believe that the best IT coaches are still coming from an IT background (to understand the IT’ers in their team) but they need to be able to let go their desire to fix things. (Something I am still struggling with)
I presume it is the same problem that parents have when they have to let their children go. You see a team doing something destructive, but you know they will learn best when they figure it out themselves.
In our leadership game, one part of the exercise is done by a team without a leader.
I agree that the best result was made with such a team. But it was an
already existing team. Most other times we did the exercise, the self-organizing team was kind of self-destructive in the sense that they would not stop. Not even when they have something beautiful.
Update: If you want learn how to create a self-organizing team, check out the McCarthy Reboot to Team 2.0 course. You can learn it on your own (to know how to create such a teams). Or (even better) follow it with your team and end up with a result driven team that knows how to create great products on time every time.
Update2: Don’t forget to check out my 7 tips to compensate an agile (self-organizing) team