Sunday, August 6, 2017

Putting Self-Management into Action!

Applying self-management is a journey that requires deliberate steps. This article, the third in this four-part series on Self-Management explores those steps. The first article explains what is self-management, the second focuses on the difference between self-organization and self-management.  The fourth article shares the challenges in moving toward self-management.  Let’s explore some steps in applying self-management. 
Gauging your Readiness
The first step in approaching self-management is to gauge whether your culture is ready to accept self-management and if there is enough of a mindset that an experiment can be tried.  After all, it is a shift in mindset. Equally important is to gain agreement from your manager that the team can operate in a self-managed way.  This step shouldn’t be taken lightly, since if the environment is too traditional and not accepting of self-management or if you don’t have manager’s buy-in, then you may have some ground work to do before you can get this to happen. 
Leading with Education   
The second step in applying self-management is to understand what is and isn’t self-management (e.g., this can occur in parallel to the first step).  Begin education regarding self-management including what it is and what it isn’t. Consider reading part 1 (What is Self-Management and is it good for Agile?) and part 2 (The Difference between Self-Management and Self-Organization) of this series as a good place to start.
Learn the concept of Bounded Authority as this is a critical element for moving toward self-management.  This concept captures the essence of understanding your baseline of ownership and then allows you to better consider which activities to incrementally move toward the team.
Building your Self-Management Activities Matrix
Create a self-management matrix of those activities the team should own in the first column labeling it “Activities”.  This should include things like backlog management, planning, prioritization, stakeholder management, budget management, staffing, growth, performance feedback, vacation management, space management, guiding principles, and more.  

Then create two more columns to indicate who currently has that bounded authority for those activity.  The minimum bounded authority configuration is 1) the manager owns the activity and 2) the team owns the activity.  This may become more nuanced to 4 bounded authority configurations such as 1) the manager owns outright 2) the manager owns with team input, the 3) the team owns with manager input, and 4) the team owns outright.  There is also a more nuanced bounded authority configuration called the Delegation board by Jurgen Appelo with 7 bounded authority configurations.  I recommend starting with the manager and team columns.   
Understanding your Baseline of Ownership
The next step is to understand where you are right now with ownership. Once the activities and your bounded authority configuration are on your self-management matrix, identify where the current ownership of those activities live today (e.g., manager or team – bounded authority configuration).  This will help you understand where you are today. 
Progressing with an Incremental Approach
Applying an Agile mindset, I recommend an incremental approach in moving toward self-management.  This helps you focus on just a few areas where you think the team can benefit most and/or where it may be easier or more challenging depending on which approach you want to take.  
Discuss your incremental strategy.  Do you want to start with those activities that may be easier to move ownership from management to the team or those that are harder?  Also, determine how long do you want to experiment with this increment.
Now review your Self-Management Activities Matrix and identify 2 to 3 activities that you’d like to move toward self-management.  Discuss what it means to move an activity from manager to team.  This involves understanding what it means to own an activity and the details of an activity.  For example, if the team moves staffing from manager to team, the team should understand what is involved in staffing, who to contact, what processes are involved in hiring, how to get new staff on-boarded, how to get them a work space, computer, id, and more. 
Getting Started
Now it is time to get started.  Once you select the activities to move to self-management, begin the experimentation and adoption process of those activities.  Treat the self-management experiment as a real project or task as it takes time to adopt.  Have checkpoints along the way.  At the end of the increment, consider a retrospective to discuss how self-management and the adoption of the new activities are going (e.g., inspect and adapt).
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that the manager plays an important role toward self-management.  They are effectively giving up control of the many activities listed on the matrix.  The manager will trust the team to methodically own the activities being moved, the team must ensure that it handles the activities with accountability.  Consider periodically communicating progress to the manager.  Remember that it isn’t always easy for a manager to give up ownership of activities so that team must appreciate and embrace ownership in a serious manner. Consider reading the rest of the Self-Management series:

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