Self-Selecting Teams

It is entirely proper for senior leaders to say, “This is the mountain we will climb. not that one, this one”

Although many aspects of our collective endeavor are open for discussion, choice of mountain is not among them. – Richard Hackman

With the practice of self-selecting teams, the senior management sets up missions, and reasonable constraints, such as:

  • Ten or fewer members in a team
  • Cross-functional membership
  • Each team must achieve the minimum definition of done
  • Each team must deliver end-to-end user functionality

And then gets out of the way.

Of course, it is not as easy as it sounds. Focusing organizational energies is essential for management accountability. Management is formally accountable for organizational outcomes, and agile leaders know how to strike that balance.

At one organization, the senior management was concerned that the team members reported frustrations with too many meetings since agile adoption. Upon digging just a scratch, they learned that many people are on multiple scrum teams. It became apparent that having people on various scrum teams is not productive.

So the senior management took a people-first approach, defined very long-term missions, and invited people to self-select into stable scrum teams.

What a dramatic difference it made in people’s personal & professional well-being. The ability to focus on a singular product goal with their team and see the results of their efforts is a potent morale booster.


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