Agile & Digital

The two preconditions for autonomy

Autonomous teams are a central part of agile and digital working and most people love the idea of having more autonomy. However, there are risks, we would be foolish to give complete autonomy to people who aren’t clear about the goal or capable of delivering it. These are the 2 essential preconditions for giving autonomy.

First – Team members need to be clear about the direction and goals of the team and organisation otherwise they may head off in the wrong direction and waste resources. This doesn’t mean that we need to predetermine every detail, but we do need some Level of alignment.

The second precondition is capability. We it would be crazy to empower people if they don’t have the capability to deliver the task. This could be in terms of skills, tools or motivation.  Empowering people who are incapable of delivery is unfair to them and unfair to the organisation.

So, if you are considering taking the next step towards autonomy with your team you need to consider for each individual whether they have sufficient clarity and alignment on the goals of the activity, and whether they have the capability to deliver it.

If they don’t, you need to put actions in place to create alignment and capability before you increase autonomy.

if they do, you have an opportunity to increase the autonomy of the individual or team. It’s important to do this as if you are being led at a level of autonomy lower than your capability this can be very frustrating.

You should also consider, what information, skills or permission do you need to step up to a higher level of autonomy yourself?

Where are the individuals in your team on the journey? Are they aligned? Are they capable? What level of autonomy are they ready for right now and how can you take the next step?

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