Engagement Is Everything


Self-organization in the enterprise context is self-management, and self-management is primarily the management of decision-making. There is no self-management without decision making. Self-management IS decision-making.

Decision-making is engaging. As more and more engagement is created, more and more of the “cognitive capacity” of the group becomes dedicated and focused on the work at hand. All of the KPI (key performance indicator) measures tend to improve when levels of engagement improve. Results and engagement are correlated. You cannot have one without the other.

This means the central concern of the executives (and the coaches they hire) must be the question of how to raise levels of employee engagement. This is the central concern. All other concerns are secondary.

The primary way to get more engagement is create more opportunities for employees and teams to be making decisions that affect them directly. As it turns out, making decisions is very engaging.

The Gallup polling organization issues a report every year that the workforce is about 20 to 25 percent engaged while at work. This is the same as saying that 75 percent of the payroll expense is a complete waste. That money is up in smoke. Poof. Gone. Raising the level of engagement at your company might be worth tens of millions of dollars per year in new productivity. Engagement and productivity are correlated.

The primary way to raise engagement levels is to do three very specific things:

  1. Very clearly define what decisions the teams are authorized to make. Be blunt and very clear and specific about this.
  2. Always trust them to make those “authorized decisions;” always encourage these decisions and never interfere from outside.
  3. Whenever and wherever you can, look for spots where you can invite the team to make additional decisions.

Item (1) is easily delivered when everyone in the situation (stakeholders, team, etc) agree to work under the rules of Scrum.

Failure to achieve item (2) is a primary reason why most Scrum implementations have BIG problems. Failure here is the cause of a very common Scrum-implementation problem, namely: executives and stakeholders do not play the Scrum game according to the rules. They routinely override team decisions, or even worse, they authoritatively make all decisions for them. To “help” them. This kind of “leadership” behavior KILLS self-management and engagement. It’s stupid. It works against your goals. Don’t do it. (NOTE: If you are not using Scrum but you have “authorized” teams to make certain very specific decisions, you cannot later interfere, and expect anything good to happen.)

We can push Agile practices on teams without respect for what they think or feel about. This is the standard way “Agile transformations” are “rolled out” today. This is a terrible idea. It does not work. It never did.

Can you see why?


Agile Coaching Lessons:

[<–Previous Lesson]    [Next Lesson–>]

[Table of Contents]



If you find value in these essays and find yourself curiously drawn to them, consider investigating OpenSpace Agility, and/or  following me on Twitter and/or joining the OpenSpace Agility group on Facebook