Changing from an hierarchical company structure to self managing teams

Over the last three years I’ve been at several customers that either were or were about to go through a change in their company structure from an hierarchical management structure to self managing teams. Most of the times this is because they start working through Agile and/or Scrum. Sometimes even because someone heard the term ‘DevOps’ and started to implement it. Yes, I also find that phrase hysterically funny, since you can’t Next-Next-Finish a thing like DevOps, but oh well.
Especially in governments and in the financial sector, this poses problems unlike any I’ve seen before.
So this post is aimed at managers struggling with such a change, and the IT guy/gal that’s interested:

An hierarchical management approach
In the past you would run your team like a Sheppard would herd his flock of sheep, sometimes with a dog to do the leg work.
You would hit, the dog would bark, and the sheep would go into the direction you would steer them.
However, good IT people these days don’t act like sheep!
Instead, their behavior resembles more that of bees…

An approach when you have self managing teams (Agile)
When you keep bees, and you would manage them the same way as you would manage your flock of sheep, I’ll bet you that you’ll get stung… a lot!
So, if you want to keep production up and don’t want to get stung, you’ll need a different approach.

Instead, look at what a bee keeper does. He decides the measurements (boundaries) of the apiary. You even decide the amount of bee hives (teams).
Maybe you’ll check in to see if everything is going alright and if you’ll need to assist, like moving the apiary to a different location, but anything more is out of your hands.
You’ll trust the bees to do what they do best, and why you got them in the first place: Build a hive and start producing honey!
Would you make a bee do A? And another do B? In other words, would you try and micro-manage a bee hive? Of course not!
You set the boundaries in which the hive can grow, verify every now and then of everything is still alright, and watch the magic happen.

But my people can’t manage themselves?
Well, over the last decade many other companies have implemented an Agile way of working.
Thousands of companies over the world have done this successfully, with many different kinds of people.
So trust me when I say that the problem is… YOU.
It all exists in your head. Agile has a proven track record, and the appropriate way of managing such teams too.

But I won’t feel like I’m in control anymore!
Seriously, you thought you were in control? If one of your people made a mistake, would you have stopped him?
In that case, why hire someone in the first place? Why don’t you do it yourself, if you know better?
If you hire someone for their expertise, trust them in that. That’s why you hired them in the first place, right? 😉
Easy as that.

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