Empower the Team

Empowerment is the ability of a team to make decisions about how to do their work and execute on those decisions without outside interference. If a team is empowered, then it will be more capable of responding to change, and it will be able to focus on manifesting the members’ creative potential. Empowerment comes from a combination of several factors:

1. members of the team have a deep sense of self-worth that includes nobility, and contribution to the progress of humanity

2. tacit or explicit authority and responsibility for results as a team and as individuals

3. a team environment which is honest, trusting and allows for mistakes

4. the absence of personal attacks against individuals on the team and in particular a total lack of gossip and backbiting

There are several ways that team members will demonstrate their empowerment. People will derive joy from their work. Team members will be dedicated to the work and the team. Individuals on the team will frequently take individual initiative to accomplish tasks, share insights, and develop improvements. Spontaneous leadership will become common. Individuals will step out of comfort zones or areas of specialization in order to assist the team.

Empowering a team is a process that can sometimes take a great deal of time and effort. In order to start on this process, the team members should carefully listen to each other and ask many questions. More mature individuals should lead and teach by example. And all the team members can start to question and challenge the rules and procedures of an environment that are preventing effective work. If the team is in an organizational environment where team members have management to report to, then management must be aware of this opportunity for empowerment and support it.

An empowered team can gradually understand and internalize the agile work principles (People are Creators, Change is Constant, Perception mediates Reality). By internalizing these principles, a team can move beyond specific agile work practices and become a high performing team setting their own work practices.

Jeff Sutherland has a very brief blurb about the progress of teams as they evolve in their use of Scrum.

Future entries here will discuss the methods of creating empowered teams.

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