Agile Series No.11 – Build Trustworthy Self-Organising Teams

Welcome to the eleventh of twelve articles where we talk about the do’s (and some of the don’ts) of Project Managing Agile Projects.  During this series, we will work our way through the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto and talk about how it relates to you, a project manager and your project.

The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams. (Beck, 2001).

Many projects fail, or become out of control, or out of scope due to micro-managing project managers. The best project managers are those that manage by enabling their staff to do their jobs.  To do this they build self-organising teams who have the ability to create their own methods or ways of working together.

This ability to create their own methodology means that the team is able to work within each other’s skillsets and often means that any real constraints that they face may surface early. It is therefore the role of the project manager to facilitate this approach.

Project managers provide the shared set of values and principles that a project is built on.  It is also their role to provide the timelines, the work that needs to be completed and the alternative points of view where required. However, the team itself creates their way of working and often it is only the members of the team that understand who can do the work or who has the relevant experiences.

On the other hand, an important part of a self-organising team is the team’s ability to communicate any choices the team has made.  This ensures that the project manager can make decisions around the project and communicate it to the other stakeholders.

For new teams, or early on in projects, this new way of thinking can be very confronting to teams.  To combat this a good project manager leads the team in helping them determine the direction.  Just because teams are self-organising does not mean they can do whatever thing they want; instead, they should have the ability to determine the direction to get to the goal. It is up to the project manager to ensure that these goals meet or exceed the customers’ expectations and to highlight any constraints if there are any.  It is also up to the project manager to “reset” the team’s expectations if they realise that they cannot meet their self-set goals.

In summary, do not be afraid of your team managing themselves. The more you can let them get on with their job, the more productive they usually become! When the teams understand that you trust them, the self-organisation becomes more and more in line with the direction of the project and “management” becomes more of a collaboration effort.

Next article we look at the final part of the Agile Manifesto, Reflection!  Looking back is as important as looking forward. We look at methods that project managers can use to become more effective at creating and maintaining great projects.

Check our Agile Serie Blogs:

Agile Series No. 1: Great Project Management Demands Great Customer Satisfaction

Agile Series No. 2: Road to Change – Embrace Project Change

Agile Series No. 3: The importance of delivering value frequently & consistently

Agile Series No. 4: A Great Project Manager Participates

Agile Series No. 5: Motivated Teams Deliver Great Projects

Agile Series No. 6: Sharing Information – What is your team really thinking?

Agile Series No. 7: You’re moving forward when the customer receives the delivery

Agile Series No.8 – It’s both a marathon and a sprint!

Agile Series No.9 – Solutions are great, band-aids are not!

Agile Series No.10 – Keep It Simple!

Agile Series No.11 – Build Trustworth Self-Organising Teams

Agile Series No.12 – Reflection


Beck, K. B. (2001). Agile Manifesto. Retrieved from Agile Manifesto

Cran, C. (2015, August 14). 4 Ways to Create Self Managed Work Teams – A Future of Work Strategy. Retrieved from NextMapping

McDonald, K. (2020). Agile Q&A: What is a Self-Organizing, Cross-Functional Team? Retrieved from Agile Alliance

O’Brien, D. (2018, April 5). The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organising teams. Retrieved from bluekiri

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