Self-Organization

The Toyota Production System (TPS) is an integrated socio-technical system, developed by Toyota, that comprises its management philosophy and practices. – Wikipedia

If you have never studied TPS and are serious about being a student of Agile you should take the time and learn about Lean. The Toyota Production system (TPS) is a gold standard of operational effecincies. Yes, Toyota is having some trouble right now with management, but let’s look at their approach to teams.

In TPS there is a strong emphasis on hito-zukuri (making people) not just monozukuri (making things) and they have been working on this principle since the 1950s so maybe they have learned a thing or two about teams in that time.

I was reading The Toyota Way again a couple of weeks ago and was struck by the author’s description of how the first US Toyota manufacturing plant started.  It stated that it took over 2 years after opening the plant, before Toyota felt that the employees were inculcated into the Toyota culture enough to self organize.  The concept of self organization is part of that culture and it took 2 years before they would begin allowing self organization. So, why do we think our Agile teams can jump right in and self organize? Sure they love the idea, but what is it that they love?  Self-organization is actually quite hard and makes the line worker’s (or developer’s in this case) job more complex and increases their pressure to deliver, not decreases it.

Yes, Self-Organization is good and a goal to strive for, but if you try to jump to fast you will fail.  As an agile leader you need to help your teams learn how to self-organize, how to communicate between themselves, how to work as a team, how to disagree and work it out. They need your help.


By | 2016-10-25T16:20:20+00:00 March 30th, 2010|Uncategorized|1 Comment

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  1. […] Most Enterprise organizations are still exploring/piloting agile. In these organizations team members are not typically mature in their ability to self-organize. The Project Manager’s role becomes one of helping teams learn how to self organize. (http://whitewaterprojects.com/2010/03/30/self-organization/). […]

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