24 June 2009

Self managed self motivated teams

The management literature point at self directed and self managing teams as an optimal management style.  It's also embedded into the agile and lean software development models I am familiar with.

This is where you want to go.  This is how you want to direct your organisation (or in our case teams.)  And virtually all workers have the capacity to get there.

But where is the pathway from here to there?  You are running a project with a deadline and plenty of constraints.  You need to set some goals for your team and you need to direct them in their tasks to keep them on target.  And you need to psuh them at the deadline, otherwise they'll go over time and budget, right?

Maybe, but sooner or later you'll want to switch across to the self directed mode of getting things done.

Small steps of leaps of faith?  Which one is right for you?

Picture by t3rmin4t0r, CC @ Flickr.


  1. Craig,

    Self Managed I get. Self directed?

    - Where does the team gets it's business motivation?
    - How does the team prioritize its work outside of the team?
    - To whom is the team accountable for delivering business value?
    - Who defines that business value?

  2. I have been meaning to come back to this comment for a while.

    By Business motivation I am assuming you are referring to the OMG BMM. I am also guessing you mean the team's internal motivators.

    Given that a team usually has a scope defined by the project sponsor's goals I can't see how this is a problem.

    Self motivated people can intuit what is important. Self organized teams will identify who the best face people are for meeting with the sponsor etc.

    I see that it can introduce complexity if the sponsor's goals and priorities aren't clear. In these instances you rely even more on the team, or a subset of the team, to intuit what the client really wants.

    The classic example is the sponsor who can't accept cost and schedule estimates and wants it all when they want it. In this case the team has to find the right path to a satisfied client.

    These aren't ideal scenarios, and this isn't a context where everyone including non-project team members are experienced and well trained. But it is a comment context for a project.

    Prioritizing external work - in most of my projects is done via a combination of prioritizing what features the client needs or wants first, and what things are most risky.

    Again, teams can work out who is best for the external stuff. It's not like we put together a team of a dozen chronic introverts, and often where it is a long term internal team informal networks can be leveraged.

    Accountability is best shared in my opinion. I know the line about success is the team's and failure is the PMs, and while this may be the experience you or I have as a PM, embedding this value into the team ties them very effectively into delivering to the same principles you or I would work with.

    And lastly, who defines value? The short answer is "Who's paying the bills?" but the longer answer involves questions about where you want to go with your career, which stakeholders will be important or influential in the future and other more complex issues like that.

    I really like your reductionist view of PM. It keeps business focused on what is most important in your particular context. But in my work life the answers are far less obvious and clear. Sponsors change their minds, stakeholders may not be aligned to the company mission, and many other things can be sub-optimal.

    My job is enabling a team in that murky and changing context. I do that using typical PM tasks and skills, but most of my energy is focused externally, and when I do work 'on' the team, it is with a light touch