Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Open Space Session: Think!

Intro & thinking principles

This blog entry is about the open space session with similar title I held at Scan-Agile 2009. It took me a while to write since I have never actually organized my thoughts on this. My intention was not to host a session but after hearing fifteen sessions announced about tools and methods I felt compelled to since a very important ingredient was missing: thinking and the principles that guide thinking.

Photo courtesy my fellow conference organizer Ari Tikka.

I will start this blog like I started my open space session: let me share with you the three principles of the most productive Scrum team I have ever been in. These principles guided our everyday life from choosing technologies to improving our ways of working. Agile architecture absolutely requires them. But even though these principles have arisen from agile software development, they are valid for most aspects of life. I exercise them daily in my personal life.

The thinking principles are:
1) Do only what is needed
2) First the problem, then the solution
3) Challenge everything

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Leadership and self-organization

"The only truly self-organizing team I know of was Apollo 13 after the pop."

(Thanks for that one, Mom!)

Teams do not spontaneously materialize out of thin air, and just by accident happen to pick a goal that by coincidence is in line with the surrounding organization's objectives. Teams need to be formed, and they need to be given a purpose. Sometimes that is done by a memeber of the team and sometimes by an external party.

I call the process of forming a team and giving it purpose leadership.

Leadership is not only vital to self-organization it is usually a pre-requisite for it. Without leadership there is no team, and without a team there is no self-organization. Apollo 13 teams who are driven by a single, overwhelming imperative pushing them to self-organize are rare in the modern corporate world.

Besides team-forming and goal-setting leadership can serve other purposes in teamwork. These can be guiding the team's daily work, keeping the team on the right course, removing team dysfunctions and in general all activities that help the team. Whether this kind of leadership is needed or not, and wheter it should be internal or external to theam depends entirely on circumstance. What is important that leadership can serve a purpose and is probably needed in one form or another during the life-span of a team.

The idea that leadership is not necessary because teams self-organize is wishful thinking at best.

It will be interesting to hear what Mary Poppendieck has to say about this subject in her keynote tomorrow at Scandinavian Agile Conference 2009.