Self Organising Teams

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December 13, 2018

Oh, hey there! Today I would like to talk a bit about self-organizing teams. Now I know that there are many articles with many different opinions out there online about this topic. Therefore, I will now share mine.

What is a self-organizing team?

A self-organizing team is a team that does not depend on or wait for a manager to assign work. Instead, these teams find their own work and manage the associated responsibilities and timelines. Why is it important to have a self-organising team? When a team is not self-organized, decision making and communication doesn't actively flow.

Leadership and collaboration

In agile software development, we represent a new approach to planning and managing software projects, because agile development differs from traditional planning and relies more on people and their creativity rather than on processes. Leadership and collaboration play a significant role!

Okay, that was a quick introduction to agile.

Now, let's have a look at the label "self-organizing team" as an equivalent for "autonomous teams" and for "empowered teams".


Guzzo and Dickson (who researched the psychology of teams in organizations waaaaaay back in 1996), explain this team structure as:

  • Teams of employees who typically perform highly-related or interdependent jobs
  • Teams who are identified and identifiable as a social unit in an organization
  • Teams who are given significant authority and responsibility for many aspects of their work, such as planning, scheduling, assigning tasks to members, and making decisions with economic consequences

Whoa, that's exactly what we are doing in our team. Allow me to give you a breakdown of how our scrum team is constructed:

  • 1 QA Engineer
  • 1 Front-end developer
  • 1 Backend developer
  • 1 Designer (me)
  • 1 Scrum master
  • 1 Implementation consultant
  • 1 Product Owner

There are times when a member of a team is absent due to a holiday, sickness or other circumstances. How do you plan a sprint when the Front-End Developer is on holiday? How do you plan a sprint when a key member of your team is absent?

Having efficient product backlog refinement in which you refine enough for a couple of sprints, is key.

Of course, efficient product backlog refinement is important. What’s also important, is a basic understanding of planning a sprint, a retrospective, and refinement.

Trust and confidence

I'm happy to say that our team has a great deal of tust in each other. In addition, our Scrum Master gives us tools and confidence to take responsibility for many of the above-mentioned aspects.

Sometimes, our Scrum Master is not present for a refinement or planning, or even a review. However, because we have a basic understanding of sprint planning, retrospectives, etc., we still manage to get the job done together with the product owner. So relax! :)

Annemiek working hard and marvin chilling self organising teams 2 copy

Five values of scrum

In my opinion, a self-organizing team is not only about a team that works completely independently within an organization, it’s also about a team that can get work accomplished even when team members are missing.

You want a development team to understand and live the five values of Scrum:

  • Commitment
  • Courage
  • Focus
  • Openness
  • Respect

In conclusion, when everyone focuses on the goals of the sprint and the Stakeholder is transparent about all the work at hand, you can truly have a mature, self-organizing team!

If you enjoyed this blog, you'll certainly also like this blog about How Multiculturalism can help your business.

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