Agile & Digital

Autonomy for me, how about you?

Hi, I am in New York this week talking to a global services organization about some challenges in matrix management.

We had a great discussion about autonomy and autonomous teams; everyone loves the idea of being part of an autonomous team. Operating free from interference with the authority to develop and implement your own solutions. People love to be empowered.

However the flip side of this is not so popular. If we expect other groups to accept our autonomy and implement our ideas and solutions then it follows that we need to give the same autonomy to others. We can’t second guess their decisions or lack trust that they will deliver.

We often have the same discussion about control. People love to be in control but hate to be controlled. If we have empowerment it just means we are the ones with control, not someone else.

When we empower we don’t get less control overall, it just means that control is being exercised at a different  level – and usually that makes control faster and more effective. In the quality revolution of the 80s, for example, we learned to empower production operators to measure and control their own quality – and quality improved.

The people who are were less happy about this were the quality control specialists and managers who felt they were losing control.

So if you really want autonomy and empowerment for yourself you must be prepared to support the autonomy and empowerment of others. This requires trust and sometimes a leap of faith. How can you support the autonomy of others?

See more in an interactive graphic on the contents of our agile and digital leadership programs and content of or autonomous teams training module.

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