Self-Management is Authority-Distribution-By-Consent


In a previous lesson, I explained that self organization is in fact “self management.”

Self-management is “authority distribution” by mutual consent.

What is “authority distribution?”



A better question might be, “what is authority?”



Authority is the “right to do work.” The term “work” in this context includes the very important work of making decisions that people are subject to, such as the people who populate a team.

You may want to read the previous paragraph again…slowly.


Let’s digress  for a moment, and add this related definition:

Power is the exercise of authority. (NOTE: This series of essays on Agile coaching refers to these concise definitions frequently.)

For now, let’s bookmark those two definitions… and sum up what we know so far…

  • Self-organization IS self-management.
  • Self-management IS authority-distribution.


  • At the root of self-organization is the “distribution of the right-to-do-work.”

There is a quite a bit more to it than that, however:

  1. First, the distribution of authority (the distribution of the right-to-do-work) is by consent of everyone who is effected. If the distribution is not consent-based, there is at least some form of tyranny present.
  2. Second, the distribution of authority (the distribution of the right-to-do-work) is dynamic, and very sensitive to inputs & feedback from the environment. In a truly self-organizing system, the operative rule is that everything is subject to review all the time, in real time. This absolutely includes at all times how decisions are being made that affect the group-as-a-whole.

If this is beginning to sound like you better get busy studying authority, then I believe you are understanding this lesson series very well indeed.


At the root of genuine and authentic self-organization in human social systems is the dynamic and ongoing distribution of authority by consent.

This fact has huge implications for how you might be able to effectively coach Agile teams.

Furthermore and more to the point, this fact implies you might encourage the use of periodic, enterprise-wide Open Space events in service to authentic and genuine org-wide transformation… (hint hint…)

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