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I am trying to learn Scrum, and these are some question I have:

What are the benefits of self-managing?

Increased accountability, Increased creativity... and what else?

Thank you for your answers.

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  • Increased accountabilty of the individual to the team maybe. Autnonomy generally means less accountability up any chain of command. Semi-autonomous workgroups are a common characteristic of Agile. Along with buckets of money and toys. The IBM-PC would never have been developed without a skunkworks approach. External or overbearing governance can stifle productivity. We need 20 MATLAB seats, we buy 20 MATLAB seats. – mckenzm Apr 8 at 15:55
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This is the sort of things people write books about, so this is just going to touch on a few things at an incredibly superficial level.

Autonomy leads to motivation: Research has shown that autonomy is a key intrinsic motivator.

Autonomy leads to ownership: By allowing teams to make their own decisions, they feel like the successes and failures of those decisions are theirs. There is an innate desire for mastery at a task, so successes lead high a sense of mastery, motivation, and willingness to tackle harder and more complex problems. Similarly, failures lead to reflection and improvement.

Speed of Decision Making: It may be obvious, but a lot of time is lost in decision making when people have to (or decide to) escalate decisions. Allowing the team to make decisions saves a lot of time and, as the saying goes, time is money.

Quality of Decision Making: When decisions are made by people who are not directly connected to the context of that decision, there are many opportunities to accidentally make poor decisions that seem, on the surface, to be sound. Keeping the decision making in the context helps avoid this.

Management focuses on the system: For many organizations, management spends a lot of time in the weeds managing tasks and workers. When you have self-organizing teams, management can spend more time on systemic challenges, which is higher-value work for them.

Like I said, you could write books on this (and people have), so this is just a few ideas to get you started.

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Surely they are more benefits, but two that come to mind:

Motivation:

Daniel Pink lists autonomy as a key component of the intrinsic motivation of people in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

Adaptation becomes more difficult when the people involved are not empowered or self-managing. A Scrum Team is expected to adapt the moment it learns anything new through inspection.

-- Scrum Guide

If someone or something is blocking me to adapt our teams own way of work. That demotivates me a lot.

Lower decision latency:

The faster the team can make decisions the faster they can learn from them. Hopefully resulting into better and faster decision making.

According to Jeff Sutherland (during a Scrum@Scale course I followed) companies that have a lower decision latency have better stock-market value. The difference between being able to make decisions in hours instead of months is enormous, certainly if reverting the decisions can also take months again. He said this was one of the key reason that the Product Owner is part of the Scrum Team, so that the team can make choices daily or even faster.

I believe that It’s Easier To Ask Forgiveness Than To Get Permission, so being able to self-manage gives me empowerment to act on this.

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It is probably a good idea to think in terms of management difficulties present in self-management scenarios.

Good management is by and large a function of maturity in the manager. The less mature the manager is, the less likely the manager will be good at his/her job. Motivating people is difficult, and active people management typically revolves around dealing with folks that aren't mature and need to be guided.

The converse to this is also true. Some teams are predominately made up of less mature people. When you get a team like this, self-management ends up being a very dysfunctional thing. Some folks will hog all the good work and use aggression to maintain their position, others don't have the courage to fight back and end up getting demoralized by always being handed the short end of the stick.

I've found over the years that you can typically tell the type of manager who did the hiring by those working at the company. If that person is immature, odds on many of his/her hires are also immature.

Since we live in the real world, we all have to know what we are dealing with, and when it ISN'T a good idea to allow a lot self-management.

Ideally, we all want the freedom to have responsibility and the motivation that goes with it. Realistically, sometimes it doesn't work that way. I've managed engineers a LOT.. you must balance the level of management involvement with the people you have. If you are lucky, you can provide the lightest touch and get great results. If you are unlucky, you'll be negotiating petty differences between people that just don't have the maturity to see the bigger picture.

I've found that I changed my style based on my team members. I always had a few that would essentially self manage. I just set the most general goals and they filled in ALL the blanks. Others needed more leadership. I always tried to figure the least amount of involvement to allow folks to grow in maturity. But if growth isn't happening, you shouldn't force that. Just accept that some folks need to be shown the way. You aren't their psychoanalyst.. you are simply their manager. And the end goal of getting working stuff out the door is the real goal. You need to keep them happy and respect their goals.. but if things are broke, sometimes you just can't fix it.

Sometimes folks who think about scrum think it is a be all and end all to be self-managed. It isn't. Like everything, real world considerations predominate if you are going to be truly effective. We are not all ideal humans with giant maturity levels.. if only we were..

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    I'm not sure this actually answers the Question. Where in your Answer do you address what the benefits are? Or are you presenting a frame challenge that there are no benefits? It's unclear. – Sarov Apr 7 at 14:02
  • I am answering the question. He asked what are the benefits. There are indeed benefits, but these benefits don't always exist when considering normal human behavior. The other answers provided list the positives, I go through one big negative. ALL things must be considered here, not just some. His question is asking 'why should I do this'. I'm pointing out when self-managing is not an optimal choice. Are you saying reality isn't important here? – Richard K. Apr 8 at 15:54
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    What I disagree with is "His question is asking 'why should I do this'". The Question asks for the benefits, it never once asks 'why'. If your Answer assumes that it was the wrong question to ask (i.e. is a frame challenge), then I'd suggest making that explicit. – Sarov Apr 8 at 16:16
  • 1) I don't care if you disagree; 2) his first statement is 'I'm trying to learn scrum' I provided information related to when Scrum is ideal and when it is NOT; 3) if you are a moderator and don't like my post, remove it. My comments are valid. But if you think they aren't on point.. zap em. I think the OP loses something for this.. but I"m not in control here, just a commenter with a lot of experience (I"m in my 60s and have done a lot of management over the years). – Richard K. Apr 9 at 22:06
  • Is english your first language? It is for me. "what are the benefits?" is another way of saying "why should I do this?" I realize the exact words are not used, but the meaning to me is basically the same. Agile has good benefits. But like all methodologies, there are weakness that if not addressed cause huge problems. This isn't theory to me.. I've seen it. – Richard K. Apr 10 at 0:07

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