I'm trying to move closer to self-organization in my team. And we have no problem making decisions on our meetings -- we have good agreement on the decisions. But then we have problem with assigning implementation of the decision to specific members -- who should go and just do it?

So, my question is: how to choose responsible for implementing decision in self-organizing team?

P.S. The question appeared while I've been getting familiar with so-called Teal Organizations and particularly Advice Process. But it doesn't matter very much, because the question relates to any self-organizing team, I think.

  • Worthwhile heuristic for individuals landing on this question: Tragedy of the Commons en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons; the idea that when everyone is responsible for something, no one is responsible and ultimately the shared item degrades. Scrum took some of the responsibility of the PM and said it didn't exist any more and the Scrum Master wouldn't do it.. ;-) Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 13:13
  • I don't know that the Tragedy of the Commons is really appropriate here. That assumes zero-sum and diminishing resources, which doesn't seem to match up to self-organizing teams. It also assumes that everyone has access to participate, which is also untrue of self-organizing teams since they can remove team members.
    – Daniel
    Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 3:11

4 Answers 4


I think, there are following options:

  1. Seek for volunteer -- but there are some decisions with no volunteer, because some people are not interested very much, and others are just busy.
  2. Responsible should be person, who is most interested in implementing the decision -- there is always existing one. But problem is: the person can be very busy with his current work, or it's difficult for him to do it, because he is remote.
  3. Choose responsible by team's decision -- i.e. decision making should include also decision about who should do it. But I'm afraid, chosen person can refuse doing it saying he is just busy, or just because -- why he?! =)

I incline to use the options just in this order. Also, I think, I should talk about it with my team about it and see what they think.

  • Another option is to chose a developer that can do the job (if the task is very specific or you have developers specialized in a domain) and choose the one with the fewest charge. Here is a post about specialist in self organizing scrum team if ever : pm.stackexchange.com/questions/1935/…
    – Walfrat
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 14:41
  • If everyone is to busy, maybe implementation is not so important? I like how Scrum says you should put improvements on the next Sprint backlog. Introducing a system that makes the team responsible for implementing their decisions seems fit. That should be their first action if they want to continuously improve. Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 9:59

answering your own questions huh? :D

In my organisation we let that happen organically as part of the decision process. In order for this to happen we have worked hard on certain conditions:

  • We have a sound understanding of everyone's skills and preferences and do our best to maximise their usage accordingly (we even include this as part of our resource planning)
  • We make sure that they want to do it (although yes, sometimes they might not love it)
  • They have the skills to do it

3 is a bit tricky to do. In my opinion it's not healthy to force people to do stuff, but you can work in a culture where everyone understand that it's important to have a balanced work and that everyone should work occasionally do stuff that they don't like

  • Thank you. But who does decide who is responsible? Imagine we are at a meeting where a decision is made. Group is agree it should be implemented. How does group determine who exactly should be responsible after that? Is it one more decision for the group to make using decision making process they use (consensus or consent or anything else)? Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 9:40
  • 1
    Who decides? After the implementation meeting is done, I expect either of this two scenarios: - Best people to do the task automatically take the initiative to mention that they should do it - People directly involved (or/and affected) decides who should do it Once decided, I also expect that the decision is fairly clear after for all of the team (with minor non-disruptive exceptions). Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 20:08
  • If this doesn’t sounds right, you might need to investigate if the project is too big for the current team. Education and making sure that everyone understands goals are crucial for the decision-making process to be successful. Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 20:08

The short version is that you don't. Work that must get done is picked up by someone - or it wasn't important to get done. You mention teal organizations. If you look at the example organizations in the book Reinventing Organizations, people decide the work they want to take on. This is different than volunteering to be assigned. No assignment ever happens, the work is just taken.

This may sound like a fantasy, but those organizations succeed in doing it and are more successful for it. One important trait of those organizations though is that the team members have true ownership. They own the successes or failures. If their product doesn't succeed, then they're done. That's very different than a boss yelling at them if they don't get their work done. That's what is really is to have self-organization.

All that said, some organizations are far away enough that they can't make that kind of jump. The three ideas you mention are perfectly valid stepping stones to use when getting there.

You also mention business a lot. This has nothing to do with self-organizing teams, but you always want to focus on purpose before utilization. If you need to start a task and people are busy, they are either working on something more important and should be left to it or the organization is pressuring the team to be busy rather than maximize value. Henrik Kneiberg illustrates this really well in his video "The Utilization Trap".

  • So, do you suggest to use second option: responsible should be those who is most interested in implementing it? Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 9:42

To help the team find out consensus and who might want to act on actions I like to use fist-of-five voting.

0 fingers (a fist): No way, terrible choice, I will not go along with it. A way to block consensus.

1 finger: I have serious reservations with this idea, but I vote to move forward, but I’d prefer to resolve the concerns before supporting it.

2 fingers: I have some concerns, but I’ll go along and try it.

3 fingers: I will support the idea.

4 fingers: I like this idea, sounds good.

5 fingers: Absolutely, best idea ever! I’ll champion it


If no-one gives a 5 (or 4), maybe the idea is not so good, maybe it can be improved so someone will champion it.

It helps to give the team insights on who would like to act on it and or if concerns are still alive, because acting on it wont succeed if half the team has serious concerns.

Also you don't choose in self-organisation, but let people pull the work in. If it is not being pulled, maybe wonder and ask why not. :)

  • I like this very much! Not sure that definitions for 2-4 are necessary, as these are just different gradient of agreement, but 1 and 5 are cool. Thank you! Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 11:48
  • It helps me as a facilitator to ask questions, 1-2 ask about the concerns? 3-4 ask what would make it a 5? Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 15:51
  • But maybe certain cultures are more black and white, just experiment with it :) Commented Jul 14, 2018 at 15:52

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