Only The Engaged Can Actively Self-Manage

The self-organization of teams is a tremendously misunderstood topic. The writing on it tends be inconsistent and yes, even incoherent at times. This brief lesson takes a swing at being both consistent and coherent.

Lessons 04, 05 and 06 gave you a basic understanding of some key concepts and the relationship between “self organizing teams,” self-management, and decision-making.

Every KPI (key performance indicator) that you are measuring is dependent on the level of self-management that the teams and the wider organization are exhibiting. No self-management, no KPI improvement. This is simple correlation and is not complicated.

You already know how to test for high levels of self-management from lessons 04, 05 and 06: just personally ask a few individuals from a team or group how they make decisions. If you get the same very consistent and coherent answer, you can be sure they are self-managing. This is because self-management is about managing decisions, not people.

Repeat: self-management is about managing decisions, not people.

This is all very nice. It all sounds so good. Doesn’t it? But wait: what are the common impediments to achieving self-management, and how do we remove these impediments?

The #1 Impediment to Self-Management

The top impediment to self-management in teams is a lack of engagement. If the team members do not care about what they are doing, self-management (and lasting KPI improvement) is NOT going to happen. There is no such thing as a “self managed team” without very high levels of engagement by and between the members. Pushing Agile practices on teams cannot help you here. Pushing practices on teams without their full and informed consent is not advised.

So how will we engage these potentially disengaged teams?  If the teams are not making decisions, or if most of the team’s decisions are made for them, you are going to have a very difficult time achieving self-management.

Teams need to be making decisions to stay engaged, and there’s no such thing as a self-managed team that is not engaged. In other words, “decision making by teams” and “self organization of teams”  are both intimately connected.

They are practically the same thing. One follows the other.

A primary way of generating a team-level decision is to invite the team to do something.

An invitation is a request for a decision.

Decisions are engaging. And only the engaged can self-manage. And self-management is where all the “continuous improvement” comes from.

Therefore, inviting is a necessary and essential tool of the trade in Agile coaching.


Can you see why?


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