The value of context in self-managed teams

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The value of context in self-managed Agile teams.

I was fortunate enough recently to shepherd a team idea. I say fortunate as we really do practise and value the notion of self-management. I do all I can to not be involved in decisions about how things get done.

In some of my regular one-on-ones a common theme coming through was brewing about a desire to work from home. I for one think working from home is a great way to get things done but in Agile teams practising pairing and working hard on cross-skilling on some rather diverse stacks not sitting next to each other can make things a little tough. Yes there are tools and means to get around this but we are not quite there yet.

Back to “Hey can I work from home on …….?”

My answer was simple, ask your team mates. This response was met with some initial odd looks followed by the ah ha moment. “Oh yes we are a self-managed team”.

Marcel our Agile coach was immediately onto it and suggested I set some formalised context. I loved this approach as I was not tasked with setting rules or measurements but just context. For this scenario it was simple and I would like to share it as follows.

  • Teams must reach a majority agreement on the how. (who on what days and how often)
  • Run a trial for at least 2 iterations (barring catastrophe I promise not to intervene or assess during this time)
  • Be ready to talk honestly and concisely to our stakeholders about why you feel this is a great evolution for the team.
  • There must be no significant compromise to workplace enjoyment. In other words it must be no harder to get things done now that team members are not in the office.
  • “I was working from home” must never be a reason for failure, we are just not ready for that yet.

That was it! The team still self manages but with context rather than rules or boundaries. Insanely smart people with a desire to succeed and grow get to choose exactly how that is achieved in an engaging and empowering manner.

In hindsight I guess the team could have worked out the context for themselves too….hopefully that will be the case next time.