Sunday, August 6, 2017

How to Apply Self-Management

Applying self-management is a journey that requires deliberate steps. This article, the third in this four-part series on Self-Management explores those steps. The first article explains what is self-management, the second focuses on the difference between self-organization and self-management.  The fourth article shares the challenges in moving toward self-management.  Let’s explore some steps in applying self-management. 
Gauging your Readiness
The first step in approaching self-management is to gauge whether your culture is ready to accept self-management and if there is enough of a mindset that an experiment can be tried.  After all, it is a shift in mindset. Equally important is to gain agreement from your manager that the team can operate in a self-managed way.  This step shouldn’t be taken lightly, since if the environment is too traditional and not accepting of self-management or if you don’t have manager’s buy-in, then you may have some ground work to do before you can get this to happen. 
Leading with Education   
The second step in applying self-management is to understand what is and isn’t self-management (e.g., this can occur in parallel to the first step).  Begin education regarding self-management including what it is and what it isn’t. Consider reading part 1 (What is Self-Management and is it good for Agile?) and part 2 (The Difference between Self-Management and Self-Organization) of this series as a good place to start.
Learn the concept of Bounded Authority as this is a critical element for moving toward self-management.  This concept captures the essence of understanding your baseline of ownership and then allows you to better consider which activities to incrementally move toward the team.
Building your Self-Management Activities Matrix
Create a self-management matrix of those activities the team should own in the first column labeling it “Activities”.  This should include things like backlog management, planning, prioritization, stakeholder management, budget management, staffing, growth, performance feedback, vacation management, space management, guiding principles, and more.  

Then create two more columns to indicate who currently has that bounded authority for those activity.  The minimum bounded authority configuration is 1) the manager owns the activity and 2) the team owns the activity.  This may become more nuanced to 4 bounded authority configurations such as 1) the manager owns outright 2) the manager owns with team input, the 3) the team owns with manager input, and 4) the team owns outright.  There is also a more nuanced bounded authority configuration called the Delegation board by Jurgen Appelo with 7 bounded authority configurations.  I recommend starting with the manager and team columns.   
Understanding your Baseline of Ownership
The next step is to understand where you are right now with ownership. Once the activities and your bounded authority configuration are on your self-management matrix, identify where the current ownership of those activities live today (e.g., manager or team – bounded authority configuration).  This will help you understand where you are today. 
Progressing with an Incremental Approach
Applying an Agile mindset, I recommend an incremental approach in moving toward self-management.  This helps you focus on just a few areas where you think the team can benefit most and/or where it may be easier or more challenging depending on which approach you want to take.  
Discuss your incremental strategy.  Do you want to start with those activities that may be easier to move ownership from management to the team or those that are harder?  Also, determine how long do you want to experiment with this increment.
Now review your Self-Management Activities Matrix and identify 2 to 3 activities that you’d like to move toward self-management.  Discuss what it means to move an activity from manager to team.  This involves understanding what it means to own an activity and the details of an activity.  For example, if the team moves staffing from manager to team, the team should understand what is involved in staffing, who to contact, what processes are involved in hiring, how to get new staff on-boarded, how to get them a work space, computer, id, and more. 
Getting Started
Now it is time to get started.  Once you select the activities to move to self-management, begin the experimentation and adoption process of those activities.  Treat the self-management experiment as a real project or task as it takes time to adopt.  Have checkpoints along the way.  At the end of the increment, consider a retrospective to discuss how self-management and the adoption of the new activities are going (e.g., inspect and adapt).
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that the manager plays an important role toward self-management.  They are effectively giving up control of the many activities listed on the matrix.  The manager will trust the team to methodically own the activities being moved, the team must ensure that it handles the activities with accountability.  Consider periodically communicating progress to the manager.  Remember that it isn’t always easy for a manager to give up ownership of activities so that team must appreciate and embrace ownership in a serious manner. Consider reading the rest of the Self-Management series:

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Difference between Self-Management and Self-Organization

This is the second slice of the four-part series on Self-Management. The first article describes what is self-management. The third article focuses on how to apply self-management. The fourth article shares the challenges in moving toward self-management.  This second article discusses the difference between self-organization and self-management. 
Why write an article on the difference between self-organization and self-management?  The main reason is that many people conflate the two words and concepts when, in fact, they mean two very different things.
Within a self-organizing structure, teams own the 'how' to do the work, along with deciding 'who' does the work within the team.  You will often find the self-organizing concept applied to an Agile environment, where the Product owner owns the priority of the work (aka, the ‘what’) and the team owns the 'how' and 'who’. 
In a self-managed structure, employees own the ‘how’ and who, along with the 'what' to work on.  The ‘what’ means that employees prioritize the work activities.  In each cases, there is the mission level 'what' and 'why' for the organization defined by the leaders of the company that both must align with.  
In self-management, employees own much more than the work activities at hand.  They own the priority of the work, the overall planning, management of their own budget, and HR aspects like compensation and staffing.  This also includes the team deciding who is on the team or how the team is structured.  None of this occurs in self-organization teams.  It is just limited to the ‘how’ and ‘who’ owned by the team while the Product Owner (or Manager) defines the overall planning and priority of the work and the manager handles the HR aspects of the work.   
It is easier to apply self-organization to teams (compared to self-management) as the ‘who’ and ‘how’ are typically activities within the team boundary (working with just other team members).  Self-management activities extend beyond the team to areas like working with HR, finance, and more.    
For those interested in self-management, it is recommended to understand and attempt self-organization first.  If your business is ready for you to both own the ‘how’ to do the work and ‘who’ should do the work, then self-management may be considered.  If there is still resistance to these aspects of self-organization such as project management or managers continuing to decide who does what, then this hurdle must be resolved before attempting self-management.
--> To read the first article in this Self-Management series, see: What is Self-Management and is it good for Agile? 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

What is Self-Management and is it good for Agile?

This is a four-part series on Self-Management.  This first article focuses on what is self-management.  The second article conveys the difference between self-organization and self-management.  The third article focuses on how to apply toward self-management.  The fourth article shares the challenges in moving toward self-management.  First up, what is self-management?
Self-Management is an alternative approach to management.  It moves away from the traditional structure of hierarchical management and moves the core management activities and work related activities to employees therefore effectively eliminates the manager role.  Typical management activities that move to employees include planning, organizing, staffing, directing and controlling (per Morningstar Self-Management Institute). 
A major change that must occur for self-management to be achieved is a shift in mindset.  People within the organizations that move to self-management must believe they both have ownership and accountability of the work and each other.  More importantly, relationships matter in self-management as there needs to be personal responsibility to each other. 
Self-management in context to organizations and corporations doesn’t mean people can do whatever they want.  Leadership defines the mission level 'what' and 'why' for the organization. Employees own the 'what' to work on and the 'how' to do the work, along with 'who' does the work.  It means that within the boundaries of the organizational mission or strategy, employees align the priorities, budgeting, planning, staffing and more around the work.   
Models similar to self-management include Holocracy, which is defined as a different way of operating an enterprise that moves power from a hierarchy management structure and distributes it across autonomous teams. Holocracy should have clear rules and definitions on what teams and individuals can do. 
It is recommended to start self-management with first understanding all of the types of activities that management would do so that they are understood and then adapted in a manner what allows for more of a distributed ownership of the activities. 
As self-management relates to Agile, it may be said that they are both mutually supportively of each other.  Agile works better when the bounded authority of many management decisions particularly regarding the work are pushed down to the team effectively reducing hierarchy.  Inversely in order to achieve self-management, it is supported by the Agile values and principles and the mindset it brings that is center around a strong focus on individuals and collaboration.

To read the next (aka, second) article in this series, see: The Difference between Self-Management and Self-Organization. 
To learn more about self-management, consider visiting the Morningstar Self-Management Institute website at:

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Being Agile in HR with Peer Recruiting

A collaboration by Alexa Fuhren and Mario Moreira

Does a manager know better than a team who fits best to a role? How can we recruit the right people that fit best to our Agile organization? The answer is, by being Agile ourselves, particularly in the recruiting process!

In a more traditional working environment if there is a vacancy in a team, the manager approaches the recruiter, shares the requirements of the role, hands over the responsibility for the recruiting process to the HR department, and will be involved again when interviewing and selecting candidates. The recruiter is responsible for creating a job ad, posting it in appropriate recruiting channels, pre-selecting candidates, inviting the manager to interviews and making an offer to the selected candidate. The team usually plays a minor role in selecting the candidate.
Many teams in Agile operate with a self-organizing model.  This model includes much more team ownership, autonomy, as well as responsibility and accountability for all team members than traditionally operating teams. In self-organizing models, the concept of peer recruiting can be applied where the team should play a much stronger role in selecting the right candidate that fits best to the team. Due to a better person-team fit, a reduction of early employee turnover could be a desired outcome.

If teams are responsible for selecting new team members, this will change the role of the recruiter from owning the recruiting process to supporting the process and coaching the team. Depending on the knowledge and experience of the team, the recruiter will be more or rather less involved in selecting the right candidate.

Self-organizing teams can be responsible for the whole recruiting process and accountable for hiring the right candidate. It starts with creating a (new) job profile for the vacancy. The Recruitment Coach will challenge the team to figure out which profile is needed to increase their current and future team performance. When creating a job ad, the Recruitment Coach can give advice on how to make it compelling and will provide templates that are in line with corporate design.

Team members can post the job ad on job boards and in their social media channels (LinkedIn, Xing, Facebook, chatrooms, private networks). After pre-selecting the candidates based on previously defined criteria, the team invites the selected candidates for interviews, roles plays, presentations etc. They can choose to ask the manager or recruiter to interview the candidates. The recruiter’s role will be to train the team on interview techniques and how to avoid evaluation errors like stereotyping, the halo effect or the Pygmalion effect etc.

Implementing peer recruiting means moving the decision to the people who know best who fits to their teams. It helps to speed up the recruiting process by reducing long decision making processes with managers and HR.

What is in it for the company?
  • Faster decisions due to less interactions with HR and the manager
  • Higher team commitment
  • Less turnover in the first 6 months of employment due to a better company-person fit
  • Recruiter can focus on strategic work, e.g. employer branding, building networks etc., and become a valuable coach for the recruiting processes
What is in it for the candidate?
  • Candidate experiences an Agile culture right from the first contact with the company
  • Candidate gets to know the colleagues he will closely work with
  • Job interview at eye level with team members instead of the potential manager
Peer recruiting shifts the recruiter’s role to a coach who supports the business in making hiring decisions faster, selecting candidates that fit best to the company and lowering the early turnover rate. Enabling the team to select new team members increase their autonomy which can lead to higher team commitment and higher team performance.


Learn more about Alexa Fuhren at:

Mario Moreira writes more about Agile and HR in his book "The Agile Enterprise" in Chapter 21 "Reinventing HR for Agile"

Sunday, April 23, 2017

How Agile is creating a new Horizon for HR

A collaboration by Amy Jackson and Mario Moreira
Gone are the days of certainty.  In order to stay competitive companies must constantly innovate, adapt to changing market conditions, and deliver value to their customers faster than ever before.  As a result, many organizations are embracing Agile principles and practices, which are highly collaborative, iterative and focused on delivering maximum value to customers. 
As Agile adapts organizations, so must Human Resources (HR) adapt.  HR is poised to become leaders in the Agile transformation.  From an organizational change perspective, HR can facilitate and improve organizational agility by crafting programs that improve collaboration, ownership, adaptability, speed, and customer focus.  This can include:
  • Continuous Learning determine the appropriate Agile learning path for your teams.  For those just starting out, introduce the Agile Values and Principles and make parallels to the culture and behaviors your organization values. 
  • Adapting Leadership - rethink the role of the manager.  Consider moving from a command and control approach to servant leader/ coach.  Leaders should focus on coaching and removing impediments.
  • Empowering Teams – teams that are given clear direction and outcomes should be empowered to determine how they will work to achieve their outcome.  This autonomy will drive higher levels of creativity and engagement, and if done right, deliver maximum value to customers.
  • Adapting Performance Feedback – consider moving away from “traditional” annual reviews to more frequent feedback and faster feedback loops.  Individuals and teams can adapt more quickly and apply learnings to improve work.  Provide tools and techniques that empower employees to take ownership of their development.
  • Rewarding Agile Behaviorsevaluate programs to ensure they reward the behaviors and mindset you value.  In an agile environment, teams work collaboratively, consider rewards that promote teamwork and collaboration, or recognition for continuous learning, and rewards for delivering value to customers.  A one size fits all approach may not be appropriate.
  • Reshaping Talent Acquisition – hire for culture fit and mindset and make this a priority.   Working in an agile environment is not for everyone. 
In addition to focusing on programs that drive agility, HR as an organization should embrace new ways of working that reinforce the Agile Values and Principles.  First, educate yourself and don’t be afraid to experiment and try new ways of working within your HR team.  For example, if you’re considering the idea of Self-Organizing teams, consider experimenting within your team.  You will become more knowledgeable and better equipped with first-hand experience to help guide, coach and facilitate the organization in their journey to become agile. 
As you think about adapting your programs, consider using Open Space Technology.  Open Space is a great way to gather feedback, ideas and insights from your employees that can inform how you design programs for your teams.  This approach promotes collaboration.
If you plan to change or modify one of your existing programs, consider breaking this work into small increments to avoid delivering a “big bang” fully baked program which may not meet the needs of your customer.  If you plan to move away from “traditional” performance management in favor of real-time continuous feedback consider starting with one team, educate them on the value of real-time feedback and then train them on how to give and receive feedback.  Gather their feedback and iterate as needed and then begin to scale the program.
In addition, start connecting to customer value.  Consider creating a compelling purpose that is focused on customer value.  Strive to keep the (external) customer front and center by linking your programs to the value they will bring to the customer. Empower your employees to make decisions that are customer centric – this shift may mean that you change how you compensate or incentivize your employees by moving away from performance metrics that are internally focused in favor of rewarding behavior and actions that delight the customer. 
Strategic HR organizations have expertise in helping companies achieve objectives through focus on organizational culture and high-performing teams.  Given this capability there is a natural role for HR to play in an Agile culture.  HR has an opportunity to become Agile coaches and change agents.  Embrace and ready yourself for change. This may be the new horizon for HR.
Learn more about Amy Jackson at:
Mario Moreira writes more about Agile and HR in his book "The Agile Enterprise" in Chapter 21 "Reinventing HR for Agile"
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