Blog / How do I make my Agile Team more self-organising?

Elizabeth Curson
March 2, 2012

@sleepyfox asks:

“I’m having trouble with my Agile team, how do I make them more self-organising?”


Dear sleepyfox,

You will struggle to “make” a self organising Team due to the very nature of the dynamic- however you can help to guide them in the right direction by empowering them to direct themselves within the boundaries of the Sprint with the support of the business. This will help them to feel more invested personally in the success of the project and so take more responsibility for it.

Are the Team committing to a number of points or stories at the end of the Planning session? Or are they being told that X, Y and Z need to be done by a set date?

At standup, do the Team select what they will be working on for the day? Or are they told which Story to pick up?

Are technology choices mandated by the business? Or do the Team have freedom to select appropriately for themselves?

Getting the Team to buy in to the process, the technology they are working with and care about what they are working on will have the desired effect. An unmotivated Team will struggle to perform and identifying the root of the problem is the only way to address the cause and not the symptoms.

As a starting point, you could try a themed Retrospective where the topic of discussion is process (rather than the overall feelings around last sprint) with the objective of, as a Team, understanding the blockers to success and generating actions. The Team themselves are in the best position to tell you what is and isn’t working for them.

Your generated actions then need to be prioritised by the Team into the order which they feel is most important and then, through discussion, a few are selected and each “owned” by a member of the Team.

Owning an action does not mean they have to physically be the one to perform the action- only that they need to be sure that it gets done and gives each member the opportunity to affect positive change.    The important point to remember is that the Team need to be happy in order to function well and letting them know their opinions are valued is a great step in the right direction.

I hope it works out for you, but if you have any more questions, or would like to provide some more details around your process, I am sure we could come up with a more tailored answer.

All the best,

AgileAnswers@unboxedconsulting.com