In my company we are actively trying to move towards a decentralized, self-organizing way of working. In my previous blog post I explained some of the reasons for that. I feel a need to write something about a thought I have been having lately.
Just asking people to self-organize is often not enough
I have experienced this first hand from both sides.
In our company I have been wondering at times why people at times won’t seem to self-organize to solve our problems. What are they waiting for? Is it because people are not used to work in such a way? Is it because of habits? Is it a mindset thing?
This year I volunteered as one of the organizers for the Scan Agile 2015 conference in Helsinki. Scan Agile is the largest annual Agile Software Development conference in the Nordic countries, organized by volunteers from the Agile Finland community. Many of us are seasoned consultants and professionals with lots of experience in Agile methodologies. Surely these people know how to self-organize, right?
While the conference was a success, I actually found it hard at times to self-organize within our team of self-organizing veterans. And in our closing retrospective it became clear I was not the only one.
One of our issues was that it was at times unclear who can and who should make which decisions. It is hard to self-organize without a solid understanding of all that is involved. Some of us had previous experience with organizing large conferences, but others –like me- were first-timers.
I suspect that the same issues easily pop up when moving as an organization towards self-organizing on a company level. It can become unclear who can and who should make which decisions. Also, people will likely find it hard to self-organize around things in which they have yet little experience.
I believe it is very important to establish common ground rules of self-organizing and make sure that everyone understands who can make what decisions. The experience issue however can probably only be fixed through learning by doing. I therefore believe that we need -above all- an effective mentoring/coaching network, so that someone facing trouble in an unfamiliar area can easily find a mentor to work with.
Retrospectives are probably the best starting point. We should have more of them. On all levels.