Debbie Wren – Scaling Autonomous Teams

BY JAMES GADSBY PEET ON AUGUST 8, 2017

At ProductTank London, Lean & Agile Enterprise Coach Debbie Wren shares insights into successfully scaling autonomous teams. Her key takeaway? Get good at the basics first. Walk before you can run, small changes can have a big impact and it all comes down to people

Don’t Hire Talented People and Then Tell Them How to do Their Jobs

It’s so easy to take the innovation and enjoyment of the job away from people by wrapping them up in guidelines about how to deploy the skill they’ve spent their whole lives learning. The last thing you or they want is for their job to become mechanical. In order to release value quickly and often, you have to allow innovation to flow wherever possible.

Agile Isn’t Something you do, it’s Something you are

Rather than a process which you follow, agility is the beliefs, values and principles with which your team or organisation operates. Firstly you need to be absolutely clear that Agile is about the desire to release to your customers regularly, in order to gain feedback that validates (or not) the assumptions you have made. Key to this approach is the understanding that it’s fundamentally about reducing the risk of developing something that is not needed by your customers.

Bring Teams Together to Become Agile

The aim of an organisational structure should be to get the people with ideas as close as possible to the resources they need to test them and release value to customers.  In big organisations, this can mean a huge amount of work and resource. Roles, pay and power will all be affected by the changes, and that inevitable leads to some resistance.

Don’t Underestimate the Amount of Effort Changing Organisational Culture Takes

You will need a strong and compelling reason to drive forward change. This takes both leadership and commitment from all involved in the effort. By starting with simple systems and processes that organisations can understand, such as Scrum, you are able to start making progress.

The Role of Managers Changes in Agile Organisations

With a fully empowered team that makes their own decisions, managers no longer need to practice a command & control style of leadership! Their role is to be a support mechanism to help shift organisational problems that new processes will create around the organisation. A framework like Scrum will show up a lot of problems that have previously been swept under the carpet. These need to be addressed if you are going to succeed.

Organisational Agility is Constrained by Technical Agility

Full stack developers are a must to get to full agility. So are technical capabilities such as automated testing and continuous deployment. When you have these, you can build a cross functional team around your tools to deliver creative solutions.

Give Teams Autonomy if you Want People to Work Like Adults

Start by allowing the teams to self-select the projects that they work on.  Autonomy means that the team manages themselves, assesses progress and talks to customers. They effectively act like mini-startups.

James Gadsby Peet

About JAMES GADSBY PEET

I’ve been in the digital industry for over 10 years and have worked across small and large charities, as well as my own freelance projects. I am now Director of Digital at the sector leading creative agency William Joseph.

Having been at Cancer Research UK for the last four years, I have been able to work on high volume, high profile campaigns such as Race for Life, Dryathlon and the much-quoted #nomakeupselfie.

In that time I helped drive forward the charity’s digital product and marketing capabilities to be some of the most respected and successful in the sector.

I’m always excited to work with other organisations, share expertise and swap cat gifs. Give me a shout!

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