Lessons in Self-Organizing Social Systems

Last week, I had a chance to reflect on eleven years of the Retrospective Facilitators Gathering. A bit of background on RFG: I started the Gathering in 2002 with Diana Larsen and Norm Kerth.  Each year, the different set of volunteers organize the Gathering.  Continuity comes from linking the immediate past organizer, the current year…

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A Manager’s Guide to Building a Relationship with the Team

“A talented employee may join a company because of its charismatic leaders, its generous benefits, and its world class training programs, but how long that employee stays and how productive he is while there is determined by his relationship with his immediate supervisor.”  Buckingham & Coffman Good managers know how to build strong relationships in…

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Rethinking Manager’s Relationship with Agile Teams

This article originally appeared on gantthead.com  In the early days of agile, some pundits (and developers) cried, “We don’t need no stinking managers.” By now, most people realize that organizations still need management (and people in management roles) after they adopt agile methods. However, if those organizations want all the benefits of agile, managers must…

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Misconceptions about Self-Organizing Teams

At a recent conference, I over-heard three managers talking about self-organizing teams. “You can’t just turn people loose and let a team make all the decisions. They’ll mess things up. And with all these ScrumMasters, coaches, and self-organizing teams, sounds like I’m out of a job,” said one with resignation. “This time boxing thing is…

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How Much Self-management Is Right for a Team?

The  answer is (of course):  “It depends.” But first, a puzzle: There are lots of teams in small companies and start-ups who are self-managing and self-directing.  They manage themselves, they set product direction, and set company priorities.  As organizations get bigger, they hire managers.  Managers take those responsibilities, and teams become disempowered.  When I visit…

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A Tale of a Too-Hands-Off Manager

I recently worked with a team that was struggling. One of the team members, Tad, wasn’t playing by the rules the team had established. When the team formed, members agreed that each day they’d have a fifteen-minute stand-up meeting to report on progress. The team members agreed that they’d chunk their work into tasks that…

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But /My/ Team Needs a Leader

“….leadership may be defined as: the ability to enhance the environment so that everyone is empowered to contribute creatively to solving the problem(s).” Gerald M. Weinberg I talk to many managers (and some coaches) who bemoan that their teams can’t function without a leader (in this case “leader” usually means someone who set standards, assigns…

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One-on-Ones with Self-organizing Teams

I’m a big believer in 1:1 meetings on manager-led teams. It’s a way to connect with people, stay in touch with progress, learn about problems early, coach, work on career goals, offer feedback. But if you are the manager for a self-organizing team, you need to adjust the way you do 1:1 meetings. First, unless…

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Self-facilitation Skills for Teams

© 2004-2010 Esther Derby Self-organizing teams don’t just organize the technical work. They make technical (and non-technical) decisions. Not every situation requires facilitation, but when a team faces an important decision, applying facilitation skills to the problem saves time and yields better results. Jason was frustrated. The Release 6.0 team had been chewing on a…

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When to stand back, when to step in

Part of my definition of a successful team is that the members of the team increase their knowledge and capacity as a result of their work on the team. That means that giving the team the opportunity to learn is part of the job. One of challenges I see when managers first start working with…

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