Building the Self-Organized Team Anywhere

Mark Kilby is an agile mentor playing many roles on the software and product lifecycle stage. Currently, Mark serves as an agile coach with Sonatype, a completely distributed agile software development company, focusing on automation of software supply chains. Previously, Mark has led agile transformations from startups to Fortune 50 companies.

When I was following more traditional project management approaches over a decade ago, I was under tremendous stress to get my staff to do the right work and meet the right deadlines. In making the shift to agile approaches and to self-organized teams, I learned to establish goals instead of deadlines. Also, I went from controlling resources (including people) to influencing work environments. This led me to discover approaches to build self-managed teams, both co-located and distributed.

Unexpected Benefits
In moving to agile, a major benefit was that I no longer needed to direct people and activities. Instead, I was free to focus on a more strategic level.

Also, the agile self-organized teams came up with a wider variety of options and better solutions than I ever could alone. Moreover, I was far less stressed to come up with all the answers and have my team deliver on time. With distributed teams, they can be even more creative because they have an even more diverse experience (i.e., they don’t sit in the same office together). So, a self-organized distributed team can actually react in more unique ways and achieve solutions more quickly.

Defining the Self-Organized Team
First, a "team" is a collection of people working toward a common goal. A "self-…

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