The KC Agilehood recently formed a panel of agile leaders and architects from a number of companies headquartered in the greater Kansas City area. The topic of discussion was the challenges that agile/lean practices pose to an architecture organization. Through the course of discussion, a common theme of concern was that of self-organized, empowered teams. More specifically that these teams would be out of control, challenging, perhaps even ignoring the principles and standards set forth by the architecture organization.
It is not easy to define empowerment, however, one key aspect is the authority to make decisions. It is giving individuals more accountability and responsibility. On a RACI chart it means shifting some of the (A)ccountable and (R)esponsible activities away from traditional management roles (Middle Managers, PMs, System Architects, Data Architects, etc) and moving them down into the team. And, yes, holding the team accountable to work within the company vision, organizational objectives, department standards, project scope and requirements.
Simply put, we are raising the bar for all roles in the organization.
We are quick to forget that the same people who form these self-organized, empowered teams lead complex lives outside of the workplace. Everyday they are faced with difficult decisions as they raise children, care for sick family members, pursue challenging hobbies, and even run their own businesses. But, when they arrive to work, we expect much less of them; we must manage them.
It’s widely accepted that individuals solve problems more quickly and more elegantly when they are part of a team. Often times these grass root solutions and decisions challenge those roles that were traditionally accountable for such tactical decisions. Can they now focus on higher value activities; be more strategic?
In the IT industry, we employ knowledge workers who are motivated by purpose, mastery, and autonomy (a.k.a empowerment). If we are seeking to attract the top talent at all levels of our organization, we must embrace self-organized, empowered teams. This is a key ingredient to a high performance culture.
I say let’s all raise our game!