Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Unbalanced self-organising teams

In my experience it's very easy to disrupt the balance of a self-organising team, just change someone's status within the company. If a self-organising team is made up of peers, each person takes leadership dynamically. Even if the team has a few junior members they tend to fall into a mentee - mentor dynamic. If one person is perceived to be more important the team will look to that person for leadership. I'm not saying that self-organisation can't work with an imbalance in status, it's just that different considerations are needed.

Firstly it's up to the person in question to understand this change in dynamic and address it directly with the team. One idea is for the leader and team to come to an agreement that no one person is more important than the others. Put this agreement on the wall in the team's working area. That way they can point to it and hold the person with more perceived importance to it if necessary.

Note: Violation of that agreement, can send a message to the other team members that the leader doesn't agree with the working agreement.

What are your experiences with unbalanced self-organising teams?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Downtime and employee focus

In all places of work, there will be periods where people will have downtime. Conventional wisdom states that "idle hands are the devil's playthings". This might well be true if someone cannot channel their energies in an appropriate direction. To get around this problem many organisations try to optimize on efficiency to achieve the mythical 100% utilization. That way no-one will have downtime and be unconstructive, right? 

This might be possible for machines, but not people. We don't operate the same one day to the next and you can't predict how someone will be feeling on a specific day. Perhaps they didn't get enough sleep; perhaps they're having problems at home. In addition, organisational slack helps businesses adapt better when their market shifts and more.

Coming back to downtime, clearly a company doesn't want people sitting around doing nothing. I can understand that. If an organisation lives their values and has worked hard to engage the employee in their work, then that opens up the possibility of the employee using that downtime for the benefit of the company. The problem comes when the employee isn't engaged with their work.

Let's focus more on engaging employees rather than trying to keep them busy.

Do you agree or disagree?