Being in a self-organising team feels great if there is flow. But it is frustrating in times of high tensions. Tensions sometimes arise because people assume conflicting roles. End of flow. Avoiding these conflicts is not difficult: the Scrum Team for example is designed to create friction between people and not a conflict within a single person. Smart! I like blending different frameworks to create smart solutions for specific needs. Let’s see how to spice up Kanban or Holacracy with some bits of Scrum for organizing your team.

I have been helping several teams recently to become agile by getting self-organised. One of the challenge we face in getting self-organised is properly assigning roles and responsibilities to individual members of a team. Teams usually have a good understanding of what roles are required to accomplish their work. However, teams struggle with proper assignment of roles to individuals.

Properly slicing, dicing, and assigning roles is hard.

Teams are good at evenly distributing the workload. Also, matching roles to the people with the right skills is not difficult. But meeting tight deadlines for a project conflicts with not burning out people. Getting the best person to have the job done quickly conflicts with having the team more T-shaped. These conflicts of interest are defined by the iron triangle. There is no way to get rid of them. They are here to stay. However, we can deal with these conflicts in a smart way: friction must arise between people and not within a single person.

The responsibility for conflicting goals must be assumed by different people.

Friction between people is positive. Conflicts within a person is frustrating. The extra spice we take from Scrum is the basic setup of the team. The Scrum Team is creating positive friction between people:

  • The Product Owner is responsible for the outcome and decides how to create value.
  • The Development Team is responsible for the result and manages its work for delivery.
  • The Scrum Master is responsible for the process and serves the team and individuals.

You may have more than these three roles and your roles may carry different names. As you are not doing Scrum, you will not have a Scrum Master for example. The three roles in Scrum create positive friction between people and avoid the frustrating conflict within a single person.

This friction is positive, because it forces the team to always seek for compromise. Compromises are required as there is always too little time for too much to do. These frictions must be transparent to the team. The team then solve collaboratively using its collective intelligence. Having individuals with very specific goals tearing in different direction simulates the process for better decisions. Good decisions lead to good work. Good work leads to flow.

Division of power like in the Scrum Team is the secret sauce to get flow.

The following recipe for creating own blend of roles and responsibilities for your team is simple:

  1. Map your responsibilities to the three basic roles of Scrum: create value, manage delivery of results, serve the team and individuals.
  2. Identify responsibilities or individuals assigned to more than one basic role.
  3. Slice and reassign the responsibility as soon as a tension is brought up in your retrospective (Kanban) or governance meeting (Holacracy).

I do not recommend to “fix” the identified problems right away:

  • Kanban and Holacracy both have dedicated ceremonies for fixing processes, respect these ceremonies and make use of them.
  • Be lean and only fix what needs fixing.
  • Respect special people and teams doing fine roles and responsibilities considered inappropriate by others.

Let know how your team is setup.