Adventures in Autonomy: Pushing the Boundaries of Self-Managed Teams

Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

You know these principles from the Agile Manifesto, but are you taking them as far as you can? In his book “Reinventing Organizations”, Frederic Laloux writes about organizations who have successfully pushed past conventional boundaries in three broad areas. One of those areas is self-management. Scattered around the world, and in a great variety of industries, the companies Laloux profiles have explored radical self-management, achieving incredible things despite removing all positional authority. Or, in English: rocking it with no bosses. This is challenging enough when you build a company with this approach from the ground up; but how do you make the shift in an established company? In this talk, I will focus on my company’s adventures to date in breaking through boundaries of self-management.

For those of you familiar with Laloux' book, here's a little more detail.  We were particularly inspired by the stories of FAVI, a French car parts foundry, and Buurtzorg, a Dutch home nursing organization.  We were impressed by the simplicity of their structure, and it appealed to us because they, too, work in small teams.  But we saw one major problem: the length of feedback loops.  In their businesses, the value chain--time from idea to delivery--is quite short.  But in education, the difficulty of finding time with users, the length of the procurement cycle, and the need to go through one-year or longer studies to verify the validity of our methods means that the value chain is extremely long.  We were wary of some of the heavier processes we had heard about in the Teal world, and wondered if we might forge some new ground: very lightweight process allowing true self-management, wholeness, and evolutionary purpose in a team-based organization with long value chains. One piece of the puzzle was offered by the presentation given by Amber King and Jesse Huth at AgileDC 2016.  They talked about a process for teams to self-select across a larger organization.  I remembered their point that people made their choices first based on what was good for the organization at large.  But that left us with the question: how would people know what was good for the organization at large, especially with extremely long feedback loops?  We had seen people inadvertently go many miles down a bad road before; why would it be any different here? So, we launched a pilot aimed at exploring a few other key elements, which we hoped might fit together to build the lightweight solution we dreamed of.  In addition to offering some background for folks new to Teal, this talk is about the design, running, and results of that pilot, and some of the things we learned about ourselves along the way.

 
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Outline/structure of the Session

  • Introduction to Reinventing Organizations and the Teal Breakthroughs
  • Self-Management Success Stories
  • Exercise: Advice Process
  • Two Major Hurdles
    • The Path
    • Value Chain Length
  • Exercise: Beliefs about people
  • Building around what you believe
  • Pilot Design
  • Results/Next Steps

Learning Outcome

  • Awareness of radical ideas some are trying
  • Understanding of the advice process
  • Ideas of how to take early steps
  • Results of experiment on teams with long value chains

Target Audience

Agile Coaches, Scrum Masters, Executives, Team Members

schedule Submitted 4 months ago

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  • Bob Payne
    By Bob Payne  ~  3 months ago
    reply Reply

    Matt,

    Could you give some concrete examples of how you have done this in your organization or a description about what you are going to talk about.  Excited about teal myself.

    -bob payne

    • Matthieu Cornillon
      By Matthieu Cornillon  ~  3 months ago
      reply Reply
      Bob,
       
      Thanks for your message. I remember your talk on Teal last year. I was particularly interested because we were in the early stages of our plans to explore this new world.
       
      Happy to add more detail on this and the other proposal. May take a couple of days, though: I'm on vacation with family. Probably can do later tonight or tomorrow night. I hope that's okay. 
       
      Take care,
      Matthieu
       
      • Bob Payne
        By Bob Payne  ~  3 months ago
        reply Reply

        No Problem,

        Enjoy the vacation and reply to this message when you are done so I will get notified.

        • Matthieu Cornillon
          By Matthieu Cornillon  ~  3 months ago
          reply Reply
          Bob,

          I've updated this proposal.  Please let me know if you have any further questions about it.

          Thanks,
          Matthieu

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