Agile & Digital

Removing the roadblocks to autonomy

When we introduce more autonomous teams and ways of working there are a number of key challenges that can get in the way. As leaders in this environment it’s our job to remove these roadblocks to allow autonomy to thrive.

Here are the Top 5:

The first is undue escalation – teams may escalate issues because they lack capability , confidence or the permission to deal with them themselves. Every time the team escalates to you, take the opportunity to ask “what would I need to do so that next time they can solve it for themselves”.

Some escalations will, of course, be legitimate, but always take the opportunity to push back against those that aren’t

Second is interference and control from the hierarchy. Autonomous teams can be a challenge to the legacy hierarchy and control mechanisms of the organisation. Leaders play an important role in protecting the team from this interference and pushing to get alignment between the needs of autonomous teams and the company structure and processes they operate within.

Third is ineffective interfaces with the wider organization. Nearly all teams have some interfaces they share with other teams or parts of the organisation , some of which may be operating autonomously, others may not. Pay attention to the critical interfaces and, if necessary, set up teams that span the two areas to work on improving coordination.

Fourth is a lack of clarity on purpose and goals. It’s foolish to empower team members who aren’t clear and aligned on the direction and goals of the team. Make sure this is clear before giving higher levels of autonomy.

And finally, a lack of capability to deliver. Autonomous teams usually have freedom over how they will deliver results, but in order to do this, individuals need to have the capability to deliver. This may include skills, having the right tools available and the motivation to drive themselves forwards. As leaders we need to make sure these are in place in order for autonomy to succeed.

As we distribute more leadership tasks into the team itself the role of the team leader increasingly becomes around creating an environment where the team can succeed . Paying attention to these 5 critical roadblocks and constantly looking to overcome them will help your team maintain and grow it’s autonomy and deliver results faster.

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