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Leading a Self-Organizing Team

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  • 1. Mike CohnNorwegian Developer’s Conference6 June 2012Leading a Self-Organizing Team1
  • 2. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®AgendaSelf-organization and subtle controlContainers, Differences and ExchangesInfluencing how the team evolves2
  • 3. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®What is a self-organizing team?Self-organizing does not meanthe team gets to decide what goal they pursueor even necessarily who is on the team(some self-organizing teams are given this responsibility)Self-organizing is about the team determininghow they will respond to their environment(and mangers/leads can influence that environment)3
  • 4. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®A dynamic network of many agentsacting in parallelacting and reacting to what other agents aredoingControl is highly dispersed and decentralizedOverall system behavior is the result of ahuge number of decisions made constantly bymany agentsA CAS is characterized by:Complex adaptive systems4
  • 5. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®Some examplesAnt colony or beehiveFlock of geeseheading southA family preparing,eating, andcleaning up after amealUs right nowA crowd queuedup to get into aconcert or sportingeventCars on a highwayA software team5
  • 6. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®Control is not evilSimple rules or incentives are used to guide ordirect behavior“Drive this direction and on this side of the highway.”For bioteams, these are provided by nature“Produce honey”For our teams,Rules and incentives can be added by managers orleaders…or in some cases by team members6
  • 7. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®Self-organization does not mean that workersinstead of managers engineer an organizationdesign. It does not mean letting people dowhatever they want to do. It means thatmanagement commits to guiding theevolution of behaviors that emerge from theinteraction of independent agents instead ofspecifying in advance what effective behavioris.—Philip Anderson, The Biology of Business7
  • 8. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®—Takeuchi & Nonaka “The New New Product Development Game”Although project teams are largely on theirown, they are not uncontrolled. Managementestablishes enough checkpoints to preventinstability, ambiguity, and tension fromturning into chaos. At the same time,management avoids the kind of rigid controlthat impairs creativity and spontaneity.8
  • 9. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®—Peter DeGrace & Leslie StahlWicked Problems, Righteous SolutionsTo be sure,control is still exercised;but, it is subtleand much of it is indirect.9
  • 10. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®What this is notWe’re not talking aboutBeing deceptive or sneakyManipulating peopleNothing I’m going to advocate needs to besecretBut there may be reasons why you don’tbroadcast your reasons10
  • 11. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®AgendaSelf-organization and subtle controlContainers, Differences and ExchangesInfluencing how the team evolves11
  • 12. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®A boundary within which self-organization occursCompany, project, team, city role, nationalityContainerThere must be differences among the agents acting in oursystemTechnical knowledge, domain knowledge, education,experience, power, genderDifferencesAgents in the system interact and exchange resourcesInformation, money, energy (vision)Transforming ExchangesGlenda Eoyang: Conditions for Self-Organizing in Human Systems12
  • 13. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®Using the CDE modelYou can influence how a team self-organizes byaltering the:Containersformal teams, informal teams, clarify (or not) expectationsDifferencesDampen or amplify them within or between containersExchangesInsert new exchanges, new people, new techniques or tools13
  • 14. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®ContainersEnlarge or shrink teamsEnlarge or shrink the responsibilityboundary of teamsChange team membershipCreate new teams or groups14
  • 15. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®DifferencesDon’t require consensusCreativity comes from tensionQuiet disagreement is not as good as fiercedebate that leads to behavior changeAsk hard questionsThen expect teams to find solutions15
  • 16. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®Transforming exchangesEncourage communication between teamsand groupsWho isn’t talking who should?Add or remove people from exchangesChange reporting relationshipsRelocate peopleCompliance with external groupsEncourage learning16
  • 17. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®• The next slides describes some teams with sometrouble spots. Think about how you might help themby changing their Containers, amplifying or dampeningDifferences, or changing their Exchanges.• For each case, identify at least one thing you’d do.• Note whether you are tweaking their Container,Differences, or Exchanges. (You might be affectingmore than one.)You are the ScrumMaster or coach…17
  • 18. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®The team consists of four programmers, twotesters, a database engineer and you. Theprogrammers and testers are not working welltogether. Programmers work in isolation untiltwo days are left in the iteration. They then throwcode “over the wall” to the testers.1The team is failing to deliver potentiallyshippable software at the end of each interation.None of the items they start are 100% finished.They’re close but work is always left do be donein the next iteration.218
  • 19. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®The team seems to be consistentlyundercommitting during iteration planning. Theyfinish the work they commit but it doesn’t seemlike much. The product owner hasn’t complainedyet but you’re worried she will soon.3Your organization has 20 different agile teams.Each team has its own testers who are startingto go in different directions in terms of preferredtools and approaches.419
  • 20. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®Jeff, a senior developer, is very domineering.During iteration planning the team defers to himon every decision even though he is a horribleestimator. You notice glances that the otherteam members exchange when he suggestsvery low estimates on some tasks.5You are responsible for two teams. Teammembers on on discuss all sides of variousissues before making a decision. This has beenworking well. On the other team, discussionsdrag on endlessly because they pursue absoluteconsensus in all cases.620
  • 21. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®AgendaSelf-organization and subtle controlContainers, Differences and ExchangesInfluencing how the team evolves21
  • 22. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®The self-organizing pathSelf-organization is not something thathappens one timeA team is never done doing itThe team continually re-organizes in a sense-and-respond manner to its environmentAs you see the team self-organize you caninfluence, but not control or direct, its pathWe can view this as the evolution of a team22
  • 23. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®Self-organization proceeds from the premise that effectiveorganization is evolved, not designed. It aims to create anenvironment in which successful divisions of labor androutines not only emerge but also self-adjust in responseto environmental changes. This happens becausemanagement sets up an environment and encouragesrapid evolution toward higher fitness, not becausemanagement has mastered the art of planning andmonitoring workflows.—Philip Anderson, The Biology of Business23
  • 24. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®Team evolutionEvolution is the result of three elements:Variation, selection and retentionConsider a giraffe:Variation: A random mutation that leads toa longer neckSelection: The long neck helps it reach foodothers can’t; so it it more likely tosurvive and breedRetention: The mutation is passed to itsdescendants24
  • 25. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®7 levers for influencing evolution1. Selecting the external environment2. Defining performance3. Managing meaning4. Choosing people5. Reconfiguring the network6. Evolving vicarious selection systems7. Energizing the systemPhilip Anderson, “Seven Levers for Guiding the Evolving Enterprise.”25
  • 26. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®Select the external environmentMore than just the physical environmentWhat business are we in?(OK, maybe you can’t influence this one, butsomeone canThe company’s approach to innovationFast follower or innovator? Are mistakes OK? When?Types of projects worked on and the rate atwhich they are introduced to the organizationExpectations about multitasking and focus126
  • 27. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®Define performanceThe principle of selection tells us that the traits that help ussurvive will be the ones retainedManagers and leaders send messages about which traitsshould surviveWhat message is your organization sending about therelative importance of short vs. long-term performance?What messages are sent if the organization:Provides trainingSupports working at a sustainable paceAllows employees time to explore wild ideasDoesn’t exchange meeting a deadline for unmaintainable code227
  • 28. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®Manage meaningIndividuals in a CAS respond to the messages theyreceive; e.g.,bees responding to a “danger” messageants responding to a “food found over here” messageLeaders can push messages into the systeme.g., putting the the team in touch with customersOr keep messages outMeaning often comes from the stories, myths andrituals that are repeated“We will become profitable this quarter.”“Our GM counts the cars in the lot every day at 5 PM”328
  • 29. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®Choose peopleClearly, who is on the team influences howthey self-organizeAdjustSome people are like “glue” and pull ateam together and keep it there4Team SizeLocationBackgroundExperienceDecision-making styleGenderMotivationSkepticism29
  • 30. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®Should a development team be allowedfull control over who is on the team?Under all circumstances or only some?Which?What are the advantages anddisadvantages??30
  • 31. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®Reconfigure the networkCommunication paths (formal and informal) canbe more important than the individualsYou can introduce or remove flowsTo other teams, experts in the organization, customers531
  • 32. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®Reconfiguring the network for aglobal teamCoordinatingCollocatedTeamsOslo DenverTeam 1 Team 2Oslo DenverDeliberatelyDistributedTeams Team 2Team 132
  • 33. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®Evolve vicarious selection systemsVariation—Selection—RetentionSelection determines which variations will be retainedCan take a long timeSo we often use vicarious selection systemsThis is an animal that can smell that a food ispoisonous, rather than eating itUsing only the marketplace as our selectionmechanism takes too longOrganizations can evolve vicarious selectionsystemsRetrospectives, Google’s 20% policy, compensation633
  • 34. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®Energize the systemUnless energy is pumped into a system, entropy setsinMake sure the group has a “clear, elevating goal”† oran “igniting purpose”‡Project chartering: Vision box, press release, magazinereview, elevator statementOpportunityTo learn, a bigger role, to go onto even better projects, andso onInformationCustomer visits, training, conferences, brown-bags7†Larson and LaFasto: Teamwork; ‡Lynda Gratton: Hot Spots34
  • 35. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®To: All Microsoft EmployeesSubject: Internet Tidal WaveThe Internet is a tidal wave. It changesthe rules. It is an incredible opportunityas well as an incredible challenge. I amlooking forward to your input on how wecan improve our strategy to continue ourtrack record of incredible success.May 25, 1995Bill G.35
  • 36. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®Date Course3–4 September5–6 SeptemberCertified ScrumMasterCertified Scrum Product Owner3–4 December5–6 DecemberCertified ScrumMasterCertified Scrum Product OwnerUpcoming courses in OsloInformation andregistration atwww.programutvikling.no36
  • 37. © Copyright Mountain Goat Software®mike@mountaingoatsoftware.comwww.mountaingoatsoftware.comtwitter: mikewcohn(720) 890-6110Mike Cohn37

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