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How can team members help become an effective, self-organizing team?

5 mins read

In my last post, I took a stab at answering the question “How do we change from individuals in workgroups to effect, self-organizing teams?” Through my discovery and reflection on that topic, I turned my focus towards the environment of the team. Now we know that environment is a big part, but the individuals do have an impact and over the years I’ve found some ideas that really impact how we as individuals can ensure we help the team become an effective, self-organized team.

  • Respect. It goes without saying that team members need to exhibit respect towards one-another. The idea of respect is often woven into an organization’s core values; however, it takes self-discipline to be sure we are treating each other with respect. It is sometimes said that at the end of an argument and or discussion, it is OK to agree-to-disagree as long as we all respect each other afterwards. Well, I would say — show respect during the time of the argument and or discussion. If you do, you’ll often find a faster resolution and you’ll avoid that “uncomfortable”, “bad taste in mouth” after effect.
  • Embrace Diversity. It is often not fully appreciated to have a team made up of members from different backgrounds, but in my experience — this is when the best results appear. Diversity can be demographic related or experience related, in all cases it simply comes back to learning. By listening to each other and sharing ideas, we learn from each other and inevitably, produce better and enjoy producing. One other by-product of leveraging cross-functional product teams, is of course diversity. The diversity of skill sets swarming on delivering a story helps do so faster with higher value and higher quality.
  • Trust. Trust is earned. It is primarily earned by doing what we say were going to do when we said we are going to do it. This is a huge challenge and we need to understand as individuals working in a team that a commitment you make reflects upon the team. Therefore, when we commit to completing work during an iteration and deliver on this commitment, we are establishing trust with the business. During our daily stand ups, when we are actionable about what we finished and what we plan to finish, we establish trust in the team.
  • Focus on Strengths. Much like embracing diversity, we must focus on the strengths of the team members and put each other in a position to succeed. We all-too-often look to improve our weaknesses either by taking on tasks that will force us to learn. Well there’s a difference between improving our skills and experiences, versus improving our weaknesses. A couple years ago, I wrote about how my team used Strengths Finder to better understand where each team member play’s best. From this point, we would define and divvy up work to get the iteration delivered based on our strengths. This became a very natural approach and team members had each other’s back when someone was playing outside their wheelhouse.
  • DO. I have often used the phrase – have a “will do attitude.” One of the best way of having teams form and self-organize is simply by doing. Do have the hard discussions. Do spend time with each other beyond work — build teams. Do swarm. Do pair. Do work hard. Do have each other’s back. Do adjust when necessary. Do make a difference. Do encourage each other. Do make decisions. Do what you said your going to do. Do appreciate each other’s opinions. Do lead. Do follow. Do take time to reflect. Do step away when necessary.

Team workThese ideas and concepts are definitely not mind blowing, nor are they new. But, as I mentioned, these are the basics that I’ve seen work. What are some of the individual behaviors and or practices have you’ve seen or done that helped ensure your team self-organizes?

Matt Badgley

With a career in Information Technology that has officially reached drinking age, I have one too many hats in roles from Systems Analyst to Programmer to IT Manager to Programmer to Director. I am a seeker of new ideas and learning new things. My passion has been working with product delivery teams to develop into their own identity and simply build valuable solutions by making great software. I have been applying Lean Agile ideas for a long time and leveraging their underlying practices with both a pragmatic and experimental purpose. At the end of the day, I believe in integrity, hard work, trial-and-error, people, and faith.

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