To start with, I would like to suggest an exercise. Please, read the following three theses: 1. Employees are always lazy and don’t want to work. 2. Every employee is a thief and is waiting for the opportunity to steal the company’s property. 3. All employees don’t have the requisite knowledge and are waiting for the employer’s guidance. Do you agree with them? Are you feeling uncomfortable reading them?

I think that if you are, or at some stage of your career you have been, someone’s employee, you wouldn’t want anyone to have such an opinion about you. In the end, you are ambitious, honest, you perform your duties conscientiously and you have broad knowledge about the work you do. Why, then, is it so difficult to find adequate space to make decisions that are important to the company?

Full-time specialist

Every day at work, we meet people whose job title is “specialist [name of the field]”. So who is this specialist? The PWN Polish-language dictionary says quite clearly that it is “a person with a thorough knowledge of a given field”. For most of us, a specialist is an expert, someone who has detailed knowledge of the industry or area in which he works. So shouldn’t a company which employs a specialist believe that he is the right person for this position and, if they allow him to act in accordance with his knowledge and experience, it will bring benefits to the company?

Self-management in a team

“Where did the idea that five adults can’t make a good decision come from?” asked Paweł, a member of my team, during one of our discussions on Scrum. It is interesting that many organizations are convinced every team should work with a manager who will make decisions on behalf of his team, and consequently those decisions will be rational and sensible.

Let’s return to the three theses which I presented at the beginning of this article. If we agree that companies are wrong and that employees are hard-working, don’t steal and possess adequate knowledge and experience, what prevents the decision-making process from being passed on to individual employees and teams? Is it not better and safer to use their knowledge and experience and rely on the responsibility of not just one but, say, 5 people and allow them to self-organize, give them space to make decisions and allow them to take responsibility for the outcome?

Fear of losing power

First of all, the fear of losing power is, in my opinion, the main obstacle in the way of making the decision to introduce self-managing teams. However, the sense of security which management ostensibly has, based on the impression of control, can be very illusive – after all, employees will always find a way to get around uncomfortable company procedures.

It is also worth remembering that control is a very costly tool. It requires resources and commitment. It is more efficient and cheaper to create an organizational culture based on trust and transparency that allows self-managing teams to function.

If we allow employees to self-organize, make decisions and take responsibility, we give them a sense of self-agency and responsibility. There is a very good chance that they will be much more committed and loyal in exchange. However, self-management also requires the buy-in and effort from people in the highest positions in the company – primarily in terms of communication and transparency. After all, you can’t give up authority without giving employees full information about the factors that are crucial to their decisions.

Self-management is the future

In Scrum, the hierarchy was abandoned in favor of self-organizing teams. It was guided by the conviction that a group of specialists, in agreement with the client, is able to develop the best solution that will be satisfactory for the client, the team and the company at which they work. It should be noted that this model of cooperation isn’t theoretical or experimental, but has been practiced for many years. Its effectiveness may be attested to by members of software development teams in which self-organization improved efficiency, communication and the quality of tasks undertaken.

The experience of IT companies in which self-managing teams are already standard can also be used successfully by companies from other industries. Thanks to this, those companies can uncover surprisingly high amounts of commitment, creativity and, above all, responsibility from their employees.

Self-organization – how to start?

Switching from a hierarchical style of management to self-organizing teams undoubtedly requires a deep change in the paradigm of thinking. Most of us were raised in an environment where the hierarchy was (or still is) an important norm of the reality around us: at school, college or at work. Rejecting old habits in favor of new values is a difficult process that requires managers and employees alike to look deep inside themselves and redefine the priorities that guide them.

Read more: Product Owner – Last Action Hero

***

The author of this article is publishing regularly about Silesian Voivodeship on his blog tuudi.net.

Author:
Łukasz Tudzierz

Scrum Master at JCommerce. He believes in empiricism and iteration and teaches Scrum Teams independence and responsibility. Outside of work, he’s a mountaineer and climber, as well as the operator of the Tuudi.net portal.

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I hereby agree that JCommerce Sp. z o.o. shall process my personal data (hereinafter ‘personal data’), such as my name, surname, e-mail address, telephone number and company name, for future recruitment purposes.
I have been informed by JCommerce Sp. z o.o., 3 Ks. Piotra Sciegiennego St. 40-114 Katowice – the personal data controller – that: - The provision of the aforementioned personal data is voluntary but essential for commercial purposes if I have chosen a request for proposal, or recruitment purposes, if I have chosen the remaining options;
- I have the right to access the content of my data, including to receive copies of it and correct it, delete it and limit the processing of it, as well as the right to transfer it, the right to object to the processing of it, and the right to withdraw my consent at any time. However, the withdrawal of my consent shall not affect the lawfulness of processing carried out on the basis of the consent in question prior to its withdrawal;
- A statement of withdrawal of my consent to the processing of personal data should be submitted to the headquarters of JCommerce Sp. z o.o. or sent to the following e-mail address: zgody@jcommerce.pl. The withdrawal of consent to the processing of personal data shall result in the inability to fulfil the aforementioned processing purposes;
- The personal data provided shall be shared by JCommerce Sp. z o.o. with the company’s authorised employees and individuals collaborating with JC under civil-law contracts, who are involved in the implementation of the purpose of the processing;
- The data provided shall be processed on the basis of the relevant provisions of Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation), ‘GDPR’;
- Should you have any questions regarding the protection of your personal data, please contact us by e-mail: odo@jcommerce.pl;
- The personal data provided shall be processed for the purpose for which it was supplied, or until I express my objection in this regard. In the event of filing an objection, JCommerce Sp. z o.o. shall no longer process my personal data for the aforementioned purposes, unless it can demonstrate that there are valid and legally justified grounds overriding my interests, rights and freedoms or my data is necessary to establish, pursue or defend a claim, if any;
- I have the right to file a complaint to the supervisory authority if I consider that the processing of the aforementioned personal data violates the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation of 27 April 2016.