Self-organising teams are at the very heart of software development, which is increasingly becoming the way companies create applications, says Jaco Viljoen, principal consultant at IndigoCube.
Speaking at IndigoCube’s latest presentation at IBM SA in Sandton, Viljoen took the more than 80 delegates through the process required to create teams which take responsibility for their own work and management. Self-organising teams still need a leader, says Viljoen. It is a common misconception that self-organising teams do not need direction and can be uncontrolled.
They respond well to subtle nudges in the right direction.
“Self-organisation is not something that happens only once,” he adds. “A team is never done doing it. The team continually re-organises in a sense-and-respond manner to its environment. Leaders can influence their environment and thereby control or direct this path.”
By self-organising, the team evolves, and the leader needs to take it in the right direction:
* Define performance – retain healthy and helpful traits.
* Manage meaning – leaders can push messages into the system, or keep them out.
* Evolve vicarious selection systems – just as animals can detect which food to eat and which not.
* Add energy – otherwise entropy sets in.
* Reduce or absorb complexity – reduce it through standardised routines, standards, policies and procedures, and create relationships among people and departments to provide better access to information.
* Create vacuums – point out issues, but let others solve them.
It is the job of the team’s leader to assess and know the readiness of the team, and to think of each team in terms of its willingness to change and ability. “And teams in different situations need different styles of leadership,” says Viljoen.
He points out that there are four levels of ability and willingness, and teams can be measured by them:
* R1 needs to be guided to help develop confidence.
* R2 needs to have its skills boosted, and the ScrumMaster starts to rely on the team to make its own decisions.
* R3 needs a participative leadership style, and will make some errors, but this is not critical. At this stage, the team is already agile, and needs fine tuning and the ability to see the big picture.
* R4 teams are highly skilled, self-organising and need a delegating leadership style. Throughput rather than deadline is now the emphasis.
The ability to create self-organising teams is mandated to an extent by discipline and skill, and in this regard IndigoCube has secured the local rights to Mountain Goat Software, and corporate training has begun.