The Future of Self-Empowered Teams

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

You don’t have to know much about Agile to know that the concept of self-empowered teams is one of the cornerstones of the approach. The idea is that the team organizes and manages themselves as one of the ways to help ensure they are more engaged with the work and committed to success. And it works.

The team structure is only one of the reasons why agile is successful in many organizations, but anyone involved in those teams will tell you it’s fundamental to success. Yet projects are changing, and that change is going to impact agile teams. In this article I want to explore what those changes are likely to look like, consider how agile teams must adapt, and look for ways to ensure the benefits of self-empowered teams survive, even as the mechanics adjust.

Shared skillsets

Let’s start by looking at one of the elements of agile teams that I believe will be the hardest to maintain: shared skillsets — in other words, multiple individuals on the team should be capable of performing any given task. That doesn’t mean there is team redundancy; rather that skills overlap across the team. This is something that I believe is extremely valuable, not just because of the added flexibility around scheduling and performing work, but also because it provides a built-in ability for peer review and allows for collaboration among experts to solve problems. However, it is also something …

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"You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother."

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