Agile adoption and roles

Few years ago one of my friends suggested that I read the book “Maverick” by Ricardo Semler. In this book, the owner of Semco corporation in Brazil details out on how he transformed an ailing company which he inherited, into a successful and profitable one. He did this by redefining the rules of management and empowering employees at all levels. One of my favourite moves was to remove the traditional hierarchical designations and introduce roles which explain the nature of the job. Roles like Associates, Partners, Coordinators & Counsellors removed the perceived hierarchy and brought titles closer to what people do, instead of who is the boss of whom. Taking few leaves out of the book I tried the following in teams which were adopting agile.

  • Introducing new roles; associates, coordinators and facilitators.
  • Separating leadership and management

Roles

  • Associates: Any one part of the team who writes code, tests, creates requirements, builds & deploys is an associate. Irrespective of the experience and skill level every one who contributes to the day to day activities are associates. 
  • Coordinators: They are the representatives of a particular discipline of work and are usually the external point of contact for the team. As the name suggest they are responsible for coordinating several activities in the project. For example a technical coordinator spends some part of their time every week to ensure that the engineering practices are up to the mark and take up the task of keeping all the associates in same page. 
  • Facilitators: These are the people who help the team set their goals and makes sure they are able to achieve by collaboration. They remove the hurdles in the team and ensure smoother journey towards the goals. They also ensure traction to the plan and help the team identify and mitigate potential risks.

Both the coordinators and facilitators can be rotated from the pool of associates in the team. Each team’s associates together comprise of all the skill sets needed for achieving the goal or in the course acquire them.

Teamwork

Leadership and Management

Like a football team each team needs to have a separation of leadership and management, leadership is always on the ground working with the team; management takes care of the team’s needs, sets expectations and vision for the future. In a hierarchical setup, leadership and management either meant the same or leadership was synonymous with senior management, leaders were always seen as someone whom people report to but not as an expert who works along with the team. It is essential that there are people who can provide technical and thought leadership in the team.

What are the benefits? When people don’t perceive hierarchy within their team, they were able to own things collectively. Irrespective of the seniority & experience, I have observed healthy debates in the team which has contributed to good work. People become comfortable with each other when the perception of hierarchy is taken out which helps in easy retrospection and one to one feedback also gets better as people consider every one in the team as peers.

Introducing these roles (associates, coordinators and facilitators) in the team does not need any structural changes in the hierarchy of an organisation, these are just titles in the team for people to identify themselves with the nature of work they do and remove the perception of hierarchy.

Image courtesy of [Sweet Crisis] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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