Why Structure Is Important in a Self-Organizing Agile Environment
An Example: The Rules of "Engagement"
|Rules of "Engagement" Poster Used in our Larger Planning Meetings|
The ultimate rule, dubbed "The Rule of Two Feet", was repurposed from the Open Space Law of Two Feet, which states: "If at any time during our time together you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet, go someplace else." This would be the ultimate solution to disengagement, but I thought it made sense to have the departing team member discuss why they were leaving with the rest of the team. In this system, team members are empowered with the flexibility to leave if they feel the content is off-topic, does not apply to them, or any other reason. However, it encourages potential continuous improvement (kaizen) moments, including the discontinuation of practices that no longer serve the team.
Team Response to the Rules of "Engagement"
This is certainly a success story, but it worked within a larger framework of trust that we had developed over close to three years of working together. As with most practices, your mileage may vary.
Our Standard Rules of "Engagement"
We at CA Technologies host a bevy of Agile Austin meetings, and the poster above tends to be an item of interest. In fact, many visitors have taken pictures of it and brought it back to their teams. This is great, but it's important that everyone understand the context in which it was developed. It is critical that the team buy into this for specific reasons, understanding the why. Like other standards, rules, process, etc., the team needs to be free to change them as they see fit when there are new kaizen moments.
- Cell phones down / away (unless taking pictures of story point estimation)
- Laptops closed unless
- You're taking notes for the team
- You're presenting
- You're remote
- You desire employment elsewhere :)
- Break for 10 minutes every 80 minutes
- If you're late, you missed it
- Time boxes will be maintained by the MC
- Raise your hand if you think the discussion is off-track or the Rules of "Engagement" are being violated
- Consider remote team members
- One conversation at a time
- Consider the goal of the meeting
- "Rule of 2 feet" is justified, but should be discussed
An Aside - Freedom and Organization
Allowing for self-organization and self-management is essential for software development teams where agility is critical. Indeed, it creates an environment where team members are fully engaged in creating usable and valuable software. However, self-direction may lead away from the goal of the organization. Striking that balance is something that no "best-practice" can ever dictate--indeed it requires experience and a deep understanding of many dynamics. For those in entrusted with managerial or technical leadership positions, this can be an area of extreme benefit or dismay and thus should be a focused area of learning.