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Tuesday, August 7 • 14:45 - 15:15
Yes, You CAN Let Your Teams Self-Organize! (Faye Thompson, Rob Reed) POPULAR

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'Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.'
This principle from the Agile Manifesto - that teams are 'self-organizing' - may sound simple; however, supporting self-organizing teams can be one of the more significant cultural changes that a company in transformation faces. This is especially true in a large enterprise. You may see hierarchical structures and processes in place that prevent teams from aligning themselves around work to be done. You may even go so far as to think 'there's no way that would work here.' But we're here to say that it can work, and it can yield happy, productive teams who are more energized than ever before to deliver value for your customers.
We are scrum masters at American Electric Power, one of the largest electric utilities in the U.S., serving nearly 5.4 million customers in 11 states. The teams we are a part of have explored dynamic reteaming, self-selection, interviewing and hiring new team members, pairing and co-training in order to build the strongest teams possible for the work at hand. All of this was done with the support of our management, and through incremental change. While our path wasn't always easy, we did learn a lot along the way. We want to share our story so that you might start to envision a future reality in which your teams can be trusted with organizing themselves.
Read the Experience Report

Lessons Learned from Your Experience:
  • Team members enjoyed having a say in which team they would work on
  • --- The teams came up with the idea for adding the 3rd small team, which addressed a problem everyone had experienced for a long time, which was business partners having to wait a long time to get smaller projects that should have been quick-hit items. So in the end, they truly felt that they had collaborated on a solution that would satisfy their customers
  • --- There were people who wanted to be a part of that shorter/quick-hit work
  • --- Some team members really didn’t care which team they were a part of, and those were the most difficult situations to work through
  • Team members were able to voice concerns about missing skills that were needed in order to be cross-functional, and this provided an actionable guide for management to support whole-team learning
  • No one got hurt!
  • --- Often organizations state that this kind of self-selection exercise would be impossible because they envision contentious talks and playground behaviors
  • --- For our teams, it really was a collaborative, respectful exercise with one goal: let's organize ourselves in a way that makes the most sense for our company and our customers
  • --- All the discussions were positive, e.g., ‘You are really good at this – you should be on that team to help them learn that skill.’
  • --- The teams enjoyed the exercise, and now plan to re-evaluate and reteam as needed at the start of each new round of projects
  • The trust demonstrated by our manager and among the team members during this exercise has allowed and encouraged us to explore other areas of self-organization, e.g., team involvement in hiring decisions for new people, approval of new training requests, and designing our workspaces when we moved to a new office building
  • We have identified a few things we want to investigate and/or do differently next time:
  • --- Contractors were not included in the collaborative session this time, and there really was not a good reason to exclude them. Next time, they will be a part of the discussion.
  • --- No allowance was made for individual professional development goals, possibly due to the time of year when the reteaming occurred. We want to discuss what impacts any of this could have on performance goals.

avatar for Rob Reed

Rob Reed

Scrum Master / Agile Coach, American Electric Power
15 year project manager turned scrum master for the last few years. Dipping my toe into coaching other teams at AEP. Passionate about agile mindsets, having fun and helping teams improve and progress along their agile journey. Check out my amazingly horrible retrospective drawings... Read More →

Tuesday August 7, 2018 14:45 - 15:15 PDT
Torrey Pines Room 1, 2, & 3