I’ve been thinking a lot lately about self-organized teams versus teams that are run in a command and control manner. My experience and observation is that self organized teams blow the doors off of teams that are tightly controlled by some type of centralized leader. I’ll throw out a couple reasons why I think this is:
- People in a self-organized team are able to make decisions themselves and accordingly adapt to changing situations. Command and control grunts have to wait for the boss to tell them what to do. That introduces latency in the development process as the team waits for the leader to shake free to deal with a decision. It can also sap a developer of any energy to contribute to the design and approach if they know they don’t have any say in the matter. It’s a negative incentive to increase their intellectual participation in the project, and that can only hurt the team.
- Self organized teams do a much better job of utilizing the talents of the team because more minds are involved in any activity. By investing one person with all decision making authority, you effectively shut down the other team member’s contributions to the design and planning. They become drones.
- Self organized teams have much more communication between team members. A command and control team chokes communication by running too much through one person.
- Command and control organizations don’t provide as many chances for personal development. The best way to learn is to have actual responsibility and opportunities to do new things. If all you do is what you’re told without question, you don’t get to learn how to make decisions.
- A self organized team is collectively aware of the upcoming work and much better able to bootstrap themselves with new work when they complete their existing task. I’ve learned that there’s a lag between telling a developer to write a feature and the beginning of coding because it takes some time to understand what’s required. You can cut down that lag by doing planning and design together as a team.
- Self organized teams spread knowledge around much better and make decisions together. That makes each team member more effective because they have much more background on the “why” of the coding assignments. A command and control team member often lacks an understanding of why a decision was made because they weren’t involved with that decision. That hampers their ability to follow a design or approach.
Maybe that works for some perfect team Jeremy, but I can’t trust my guys to bootstrap themselves. I have to be in control. Are you sure? Really? You’ll never know how people will deal with responsibility until they actually have some. I’m actually an optimist in regards to people. I actually think people can and largely will behave in a responsible manner.