The idea of self-organized teams is simple: autonomous teams are much faster, because they take decisions and solve problems without waiting for gestures or inspirations from the “operation mastermind” a.k.a. “the manager”!
Self-organized teams are much more prone to becoming hyper-productive, and therefore becoming self-organized should be a goal of every team, right? that is easier said than done!
“The employee won’t do what she has to do unless you tell her” is the classical wisdom in a typical command and control work environment. Changing this is a challenge!
Also, there is only little literature that goes beyond the basic definition and merits of adopting this management style to the how part of the story. This is obviously because transforming to a self-organized team is a different journey each time, no one prescription! It depends on work culture, invested time and resources, management support…etc.
My experience in a strict micromanagement environment proves that gradual transition following Deming’s Plan-Do-Check-Act has better chances to succeed.
Pushing team members out of their comfort zone and encouraging them to take the ownership of the work was faced by a lot of resistance mixed with lack of understanding, but things got better with time and persistency.
Also it gets particularly difficult when you try to cross the departmental barriers where you have no authority!
Another tip from El-Ssamadisy’s book Agile Adoption Patterns: A Roadmap to Organizational Success is to educate team members about Responsibility Process.
And apparently relentless leader is mandatory as well for such teams to transform successfully to the self-organized realm.
One more tool that I found useful is to allow the team to share the benefits of their productivity.
By implementing a simple financial incentive policy, team members start to show more self-initiatives and wait less for directions. That is especially useful when this incentive is directly proportional to the overall productivity the team makes measured by visible, transparent and understandable KPI’s
That is my observations so far, I will keep you posted!
A final thought, in Makkah in my last Umrah, I couldn’t help photographing the janitors while they were busy at their daily work in the holy places, hence the photographs accompanying this post.
In their daily work, they follow a specific rhythm, they move among hundreds of visitors and pilgrims, pick a location, zone the space and start distributing soap, and then sweep it , dry it and then move to another place and so on.
They know what they are supposed to do and they do it! and they deal with the situations they face autonomously, in fact it was very difficult for me to distinguish their leader! And I knew him only because of his old age and because he was carrying the water and showing them the next place to clean.
I am impressed with the systematic, hard, yet steady paced work these men are doing! That is, in my opinion, self-organized team in action!