5 ways autonomy improves team performance

In the world of today. Technology adoption time has been reduce by a factor 1000.

Take a second to review this image.

It took 68yr for the airplane to reach 50 million user. ALMOST 7 DECADES. Pokemon GO reached 50mil in 19 days .

The high speed of adoption of new technologies and new products, empathizes the need to be fast to market. In this game, the tortoise doesn’t win.

But wait, there are good news. There is a way you can increase performance. It won’t cost you a single <<insert currency of your choice here>>, hell it even will make your team happier.

Autonomy is the key. Like Neo you are now faced with two choice :

Take the blue pill. Disregard this article. Close the browser window and you believe what you want to believe. Take the red pill. Continue to read further, and will show you how deep team autonomy impacts performance.

Team autonomy prevents excuses

If you can do everything that needs to be done, to preform a task. If there are no external factor to influence what needs to be done. If you have everything available to do what you have to do. Who can you blame for something not moving forward?

“I am waiting for the OK from <insert boss name, department head name, organizational institution here>.”

Are you sick and tired of hearing your team excuses? “We are waiting for the approval of <insert boss name, department head name, organizational institution here>.” Or. ” <insert boss name, department head name, organizational institution here> needs to sign off on this before we can move forward.”
It is easy … One word …

Maybe these are not just excuses. Maybe they are really blocked by someone else. Set them free. Help them on whatever they need, but don´t make them depend on your or someone else to do they work. Coach them the mindset to remove their impediments whenever they appear.

Team autonomy removes unnecessary gates

If you want to move fast, trow all gates out of the window. Design documents. Formal sign off from the waterfall days. All of this provide 0 value. This artifacts exist in an utopian idea that “risk can be mitigated”.

Do you know how good waterfall is? In the first sentence, right after the image were Winston W. Royce presents waterfall to the world. “MANAGING THE DEVELOPMENT OF LARGE SOFTWARE SYSTEMS”- created in 1970. the very first sentence. “I believe in this concept, but the implementation described above is risky and invites failure.”

You cannot know what you don’t know.

Gates on your development just share one message to your teams. “We don’t trust what you to be competent in what you do, even tho we don’t understand what you do.”

If you ever develop something, and use that methodology, think back. Find one. One instance when risk was reduce by creating extensive design documentation or having official sign offs. If you are like me, 0 is the number that came to your head.

Gates block the creative and innovative process. They are there to lock all that needs to be done without knowing what lays ahead. You cannot know what you don’t know. It is impossible to account for the changes in reality, technology or even needs of your customer.

Team autonomy improves quality

Do you have a tight grip on your team, because otherwise they will not deliver with the quality that you want ?

Have you ever had a talk with the team were you explain the reasoning behind that expected quality ? Most times the problem is communication. There was never an explanation about why and what we expect as quality.

Having this talk. Explaining the rational behind the quality standard, will give the team a bigger picture. It will free them from needing you to validate their quality. Making them owners of their domain.

If the team is not performing to yours or company standards. Coach them. Give them the training and tools to improve on that. Spend some time on growing your team capabilities. Don’t spend time blocking and controlling their output. This will not only help you create a more mature, but also a faster team.

Team autonomy fosters growing

One of the sentences I love the move is “Fail fast, recover fast”.

There is so much more we can learn from a failure, than from doing something right. “You cannot do an omelet without breaking a few eggs.”

If your team has the freedom to make mistakes. If you create a culture were a mistake is an opportunity for learning. Your team will grow faster, risk more and innovate faster.

Mistakes are inevitable. The way we recover. What we learn from them. That is the important part.

How much did Amazon learned after their AWS incident? The one that caused S3 to be unavailable for 3 hours ?

How much Netflix learns about their system whenever Chaos Monkey kills a service?

Let your team fail, they will grow much faster. Create an environment were failure is celebrated, not looked down on.

Team autonomy promotes automation

Most tasks can be automated, lets be honest here, this article is behind written in 2019. If it doesn’t require critical or creative thinking, it can be automated.

We live in the world of automated workflow tools. Microsoft flow, IFTTT, etc, today we can setup something with minimum effort. This tools not only give you more time, by automating boring and recurrent tasks, they will also prevent human error.

Give you team the responsibility to deal with this boring and recurrent tasks. If they become the owner of their domain they are responsible for those also. I promise you, they will hate it. And that is exactly what we want.

One of this two things will occur :

  1. Your team will figure out that the task provide 0 value and will try to get ride of it, or
  2. They will understand the value behind that task, and start thinking on automating it. No one wants to do boring tasks.

I am an computer engineer at heart, if I need to do something more than once, I write a program to do it.

How do you feel now about giving your team the freedom to do their work ?

Are you ready to embark on a journey of servant leadership and coaching. A journey of growing with your team and achieving amazing things ?

Do you have other ideas about how autonomy improves team performance? Please share them with me, I would love to hear more about it.



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