How does self-organisation really get going? Consulting on an agile organisation in the education sector
Case of an educational company in the context of Neuwaldegg’s consulting for agile organisations.
The owner of a German institute for further education has taken a bold step: it has been relying on 100% self-organisation based on SCRUM product logic for two years now. The teams form around the respective products and work according to the SCRUM principles. The members have different roles in different teams. But somehow the whole thing isn’t really getting going: some products are not selling, subliminal conflicts are noticeable, many people are feeling a lack of direction and craving more leadership.
The aim is to find out what framework conditions the organisation and its members need so that self-organisation can develop its full potential. They want to learn from our experience with holacracy and self-organisation to set up a process that addresses the fears and concerns of individuals and makes them workable and creates a more effective organisational structure.
Who is responsible for what and who decides what?
First of all, a joint cultural analysis is started, hypotheses are formed and the initial directions are developed. The following topics emerge: it is not clear to individuals who is responsible for what and who decides what, as there is little formal definition. Informal management structures have been established but the owner is still the central focus. Hurt from the past (such as devaluing between trainers and staff) is still present.
During the first phase, work is done on what needs to be introduced on the formal side to create more security within the organisation. For this purpose, different roles are defined with tasks in the teams, rules of transparency are introduced and the meeting procedures are laid down. There is always space for individuals to voice their fears, which strengthens confidence in the process and in the future.
Purpose creates a common middle ground!
In the second phase, the focus is more on working methods and cooperation (tribe space). The purpose creates the common middle ground which everyone can gather around. The purpose practices establish the connection to practice by integrating them into the teams and roles. Building on this, work can be done on common conflict and a common culture of discussion. Topicality and courage are helpful in this respect: as a result, delicate topics are discussed in public and worked on with the owner, creating the necessary momentum. Individuals practice using tools on real topics that they can also use in everyday life. Extra roles are defined to act as supporters in the future.
The temporary “Self-organisation” group supports the organisation and the teams in their development processes by using the systemic cycle and takes over more and more of the consultants’ tasks.
The key is to take the emotional burden seriously.
The key is to take the emotional burden of the employees seriously on the one hand and to create concrete rules of the game at the same time, which regulate the work in daily activities and thus provide relief. Authenticity and credibility emerge by mindfully dealing with sensitive issues and paradoxes, such as the owner’s role, the informal rules of the game around key people and smouldering conflicts. The joint discourse on this topic restores strength and makes learning possible.