Agile Teams need help to take Ownership

Taking ownership means you hold yourself accountable for your actions and how you do your job. You move from “that’s not my job or my responsibility” to “what can I do to improve results?”

Taking ownership is enclosed in one of the principles of the Agile Manifesto:

“Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.”

As an agile coach, I would like to see both individual team members and whole teams take ownership more often. I want to investigate how to facilitate this and share my learnings with you in this blog.

Taking Ownership is hard

What I see is that nowadays most organizations see benefits in moving towards a  more agile way of working. These organizations are gradually learning and growing. Some organizations are just starting their journey, others have already achieved significant progress. And withing organizations, we see the same differences between  teams.

But growing a team is hard work. It’s easier said than done. In my experience, a big hurdle is enabling teams to take ownership.

It seems simple: all it takes is management to trust teams and allow them to take full ownership of their project, and teams taking that freedom and become a high performing team.

But what to do when the team is not ready to take ownership? Or when management is not ready to give ownership to the team?

Agile coaches can help

Coaches can help the team with their initial transition by cultivating the agile values and principles and making small improvements.

In Getting to Done: Encouraging Team Ownership,  Stephanie Ockerman describes common problems that prevent a team from feeling a sense of team ownership:

  • We do not have trust within the team
  • Team members are not aware of the team’s overall progress

Coaches can also help management understand the importance of self organization in agile teams and help managers in their transition from command and control to servant leadership.

Common problems are:

  • Teams are not empowered
  • Individuals are rewarded instead of teams
  • Team members are split across multiple teams

In upcoming posts I’ll dive deeper in the interesting world of Taking Ownership 😉

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