Carsten Grønbjerg Lützen

Carsten Grønbjerg Lützen

Who am I?

I'm a SCRUM Master and Engineer at LEGO System A/S with an MSc in Computer Science and a soft spot for Software Engineering and methodologies. Hence here is my take on different agile and plan oriented methodologies and how we learn to use them effectively in our everyday life. Especially with an agile agenda.

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What I write about


Recent Posts

Empowerment

As one of my professors from university put it: "It is better than an informed guy takes an informed decision than a random guy in the administration takes a random decision."

This clearly illustrates the fundamental idea: The team takes informed decisions, while people outside the team will take more or less random decisions on behalf of the team. The team is likely to give things an honest try instead of just saying something like:

"... that will never work or we have never done that before..."

Hence: Empower the team to or fail!

Say What?

One of the core ideas in the agile world is to empower the team and encourage them to take decisions on how they work. That means to enable, both practically and formally, the team to make decisions on how it works with a project and internally:

  • How do we do testing?
  • How do we do code review?
  • Do we do code review?
  • How do we interrupt each other?
  • ...

These things could be decided by a project manager up front, by a project methodology or similar. But if the team did not have any say in the matter ownership is not likely to be created. And the team wont buy in to the vision of that project.

I believe that ownership and empowerment goes hand in hand. We should create and support empowerment on all levels of our organization. From the CEO all the way down to the teams, developers, project managers, etc.

This might sound chaotic at first, and it could end in anarchy. But lets imagine we have two teams that needs to work together. If both teams show ownership of their own little piece of the bigger picture they are going to try to get the pieces to fit. The teams will then decide on a strategy that they expect to work. One example could be to do nightly builds and test integration between the two services.

Empowering the People

Empowerment fits perfectly with the initial quote: Better to have enlightened decisions that random decisions. Don't you agree?

By empowering the team it is much more likely that ownership will flourish inside the team. Because if the team agrees on doing daily stand ups they will hold each other accountable and try to make it work.

If somebody from the outside dictates daily stand ups the team is very likely to do it reluctantly, and not achieve the same value as if the team took ownership from the start.

This also helps the team shape their day-to-day routines much better and helps the team to focus on what creates value for the customer. And it will create a much more coherent team.

Many people need to see the problem before they are willing to make an effort to solve it. Sometimes this is called a burning platform argument. If the entire team agrees that a problem exists, the team will try to solve it within the given boundaries. If these boundaries are too tight the team will fail and wont be able to remove the root cause. At best it will only be treating the symptons. This could show in the retrospectives where previously closed focus points becomes a problem again. That is a sign that the root cause where not removed, but only the symptons.

If the team is empowered they are much more likely to try to find the underlying problem and fix this because the team can feel that something is hurting and must me fixed.

And if we empower our organization ownership is much more likely to follow.

Autonomy

The team should be a small autonomous unit that can take end-to-end ownership of tasks. If the team can do that they can also optimize the process to increase the business value added from each iteration by removing processes that does not add value and maybe add new processes that do add value.

This compared to processes being forced by a big organization where you need to fight fiercly for a long time to just remove a small process that does not add value. This can be quite frustrating for the team.

Empowering is Important

Empowering teams is really difficult because it is not a local decision. The decision needs to be accepted and acknowledged in all levels of the organization. This also means that some people will have less "formal power" to decide how processes, tools etc. work. This can be a big hurdle for some to overcome. They might even begin to ask themselves: Am I even needed anynmore? But I believe that if they experience the joy and pride from a team making their own decisions they will see that the decisions made by the team is good! And if it does not work, we can change it until we find the right solution.

The empowerment of all levels in the organization also takes agility to an entire new level because then all of the sudden the organization can react to events without always waiting for orders from the top. The management can also count on the teams delivering high quality within their wider boundaries.

The Missing Link

The Agile Mindset and Ownership goes hand in hand and one can't live fully without the other.

Hence, start taking informed decisions and start to convince people that it is the right way to proceed. Give it a shot, it will be worth it!


Posted in Agile Methodologies on by

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