TL; DR: Self-Management

Is self-management an essential building block on an organization’s path to business agility or a nice-to-have cultural twist to, for example, keep teams happy and attract new talent?

While many people, particularly at the management level, are skeptical about the concept, I am convinced that organizations need to descale and regroup around aligned, autonomous, self-managing teams in a complex environment. Ultimately, only the people closest to the customers’ problems can solve those within the given constraints while contributing to an organization’s sustainability.

Please continue reading and delve into the reasons that support self-management.

🇩🇪 Zur deutschsprachigen Version des Artikels: Selbstmanagement: Die zehn wichtigsten Gründe Ihren Teams auf dem Weg zur Agilität zu vertrauen.

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The Top Ten Business Reasons to Embrace Self-Management

Here are my top ten reasons why self-management is essential for developing new products in complex environments and addressing customer needs:

Increased innovation: Self-management fosters a culture of creativity and experimentation. Team members are empowered to take risks, try new ideas, and learn from failures, leading to more innovative solutions for customers.
Greater adaptability: In a complex environment, change is inevitable. Self-managed teams are more agile and can adapt to new situations, pivot their approach, and respond to customer needs more effectively than traditional hierarchical teams.
Improved communication: Self-management promotes open and transparent communication within the team. Transparency ensures that information is shared effectively, leading to better collaboration and problem-solving.
Empowerment and autonomy: Self-management empowers individuals and teams to make decisions and take responsibility for their work. This autonomy leads to higher job satisfaction and increased commitment to the organization’s goals. Moreover, it attracts talent from other organizations.
Faster decision-making: Self-managed teams can make decisions quickly without waiting for approval from multiple levels of management, accelerating the development process and enabling more immediate responses to customer needs.
Better problem-solving: Self-managed teams work close to customers and have a deeper understanding of their needs. This proximity enables them to identify and address problems more effectively than a management-driven approach.
Resilience and risk mitigation: Self-managed teams are better equipped to identify and address potential risks early in development. This proactive approach to risk management helps build resilience and ensures more predictable outcomes.
Continuous improvement: Self-managed teams focus on continuous learning, improving, refining processes, and iterating on products within the given constraints of the organization. This commitment to constant improvement ensures that products evolve to meet customer needs.
Higher engagement: When team members own their work, they are more engaged and motivated. This ownership leads to increased productivity, better quality work, and a more substantial commitment to meeting customer needs.
More efficient use of resources: By allowing team members to allocate their own time and prioritize tasks, self-managed teams can use resources better, improving productivity and reducing waste.

Now that we have established the usefulness of self-management from a business perspective, the question is: how do we get there? (Spoiler alert: Your teams won’t become self-managing by contracting McBoston to roll out a new initiative.)

Why the Change to Self-Management Cannot be Outsourced

While external consultancies may support your organization’s effort to become an agile organization due to their broad experience with other clients, real change can only come from within an organization. Any change effort needs to include people, give them a voice, and convince them that change is in their best interest: “Agile” cannot be pushed; it needs to be pulled.

Consequently, avoid relying on external consultants. Instead, to foster self-management within the organization, consider the following suggestions:

Redefine leadership roles: Shift the focus of management from controlling and directing to supporting and enabling teams. Managers should help remove obstacles and provide resources for self-managed teams to thrive. Managers need to move on from problem-solvers on behalf of their teams to become servant-leaders who strive to make their teams successful.
Internal agile champions: Identify and empower individuals with experience or interest in agile practices. These internal champions can advocate for and drive the adoption of self-management practices across teams.
Agile training and education: Invest in training and education for employees at all levels, including workshops, online courses, or even certifications, to help them better understand and apply agile principles and self-management practices.
Coaching and mentoring: Encourage experienced agile practitioners to coach and mentor others, helping to create a culture of learning, sharing, and fostering the growth of self-managed teams.
Foster a culture of trust and transparency: Encourage open communication and collaboration across all levels of the organization. Transparency will build trust among team members and empower them to take more ownership of their work.
Regularly inspect and adapt: Conduct periodic Retrospectives and assessments to gauge the progress of self-management adoption. Use the insights gathered to inspect and adapt the approach, ensuring it aligns with the organization’s unique needs and culture.
Incremental adoption: Start small by implementing self-management practices in a few pilot teams. Learn from their experiences and gradually expand self-management adoption to other teams as they become comfortable with the new approach.
Encourage cross-functional teams: Form cross-functional teams that bring together individuals with diverse skills and backgrounds. This encourages collaboration and knowledge-sharing and fosters self-management.
Provide the necessary tools: Equip teams with the tools and resources to collaborate, plan, and track their work effectively. This could include agile project management tools, communication platforms, and continuous integration and deployment systems.
Celebrate successes and learn from failures: Recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of self-managed teams. At the same time, encourage a culture of learning from mistakes and iterating on processes to improve continually.

By focusing on these strategies, an organization can foster self-management among its teams and embark on its journey to become agile.


Self-management is essential for developing new products in complex environments and addressing customer needs. By embracing self-management, organizations can foster innovation, adaptability, and a stronger customer focus, ultimately leading to better products and satisfied customers.

Moreover, adopting self-management also offers tangible benefits to shareholders by increasing efficiency, promoting innovation, and enhancing adaptability, ultimately driving growth and success for the organization.

What is your experience with self-managing teams? Please share with us in the comments.

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