7 Ways Managers Can Support Self-Managed Teams

One of the cornerstones of Scrum is the self-managed team, and managers often struggle with this change in thinking.  Here are a few tips I have picked up on how to best deal with this issue.

A common question I get asked is:

“How can I support my teams in doing a better job of self-organizing and self-managing?”

Well, there are actually several things you can do to support your teams as they learn these new self managed behaviors and get better at them.

Straight up, don’t manage your Scrum team.  I will repeat that…

Don’t manage your Scrum team. Guide your Scrum team.

Self-Managed means that YOU don’t manage them.  THEY manage themselves.

I know this can be hard for traditional managers and for new SCRUM teams as it means massive shifts in their paradigms.  This is where the New Agile Leader comes in to action.  Most of the managers I work with find this shift extremely difficult.

Managers are trained to do just that.  Manage.  Allocate tasks, manage resources, track deliverables, put pressure here and there.

Scrum requires what I call entrusted leadership.  I will write more on this later.

Now, if you don’t trust a team member then they should not be on the team.

It takes time to embed change.  It takes trust and results but like children growing up, you have to let them go so they can fly.  Guidance is the key, but I will warn you right now, they will make mistakes… and they have to.  Its part of learning to shoulder responsibility.

Practice the art of asking questions rather than giving directives.

This can be tough to do for managers. When you see a team doing something that you think isn’t going to work out, for example they’re committing to more than you think they can really deliver, it’s so tempting to step in and say, “No, no, no, no, no you guys can’t deliver 50 story points worth of work.  I want you to commit to 20 instead,”.

If you do that the team will never go through that decision making process themselves, and they will never learn.

Instead, reframe your idea.

Try saying, “Wow. Last time, you committed to 50 story points, but it looks like you only delivered 20. Is there a reason you think you could deliver 50 this time?”

Just framing your concern as a question, helps the team think through their reasoning process, and it will help them do a better job of making decisions themselves in the future.  This leads takes them one step closer to becoming a high performance team that you will be proud to be part of.

Respect the teams boundaries when in-sprint

Another thing you can do as a manager to support your teams in their Agile behavior is to respect their boundaries when they are what’s known as in-sprint. so they’re in the middle of a sprint and they’ve made commitments and now they’re working hard to deliver on those commitments.

It’s very important as a manager that you don’t step in and interfere with that, and there are lots of ways that we can be tempted to do that.

We can be worried that the team isn’t doing the right activities and we can step in and micromanage them and tell them to do other things or we can step in and pull them off the project and say, “Yeah, I know you’re in the middle of a sprint, but I need you to work on this other project just for a couple of days.”

This is a huge no-no in the Agile world.  The sprint is sacred and is to be left alone for the team to complete.

All of those things really interfere with the team’s ability to self manage. Think about it. They’ve come together as a group and made a commitment, and now you are making it hard for them to deliver on that commitment, so really do your best to respect the boundaries of the team when they’re in sprint.

Reward team oriented behavior

Another thing you can do for your teams that will help the individuals on it really learn to think in a more team oriented way is to reward team oriented behavior rather than individual oriented behavior.

It’s interesting.

Most organizations have an entire reward structure that’s set up in what I like to refer to as a “me not we” culture.

Excuse my language but the most memorable way I know to get this point across is to enhance and old saying

“There’s no ‘I’ in team”… “but there is in di*khead”!

As I said, sorry, but i’m sure will remember it now!  This lesson is very important to Agile and Scrum.


This new way of thinking leads to rewarding the individual and the individual’s behaviors when they are done for the team.  Things like mentoring other people, being a team member, pairing with people and helping other people grow are now to be rewarded.

As a manager, you will want to find opportunities to reward team oriented behavior. To do so, is to going to send the message to the individual team members that you value them not just as an individual but as part of this wonderful microcosm called “the self-managed team.”

For more Agile tips, please visit us at www.SteveRandall.com.au

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