A key success factor in agile data management is self-managing teams. As a leader of self-managing teams, you need to develop a unique set of skills, moving from command and control to communication and enablement.
A self-managing team of “A” players is a challenging group to lead. They will continuously look for opportunities to learn and improve, will want to step up and make their own decisions, and will want to feel empowered to manage themselves.
As their leader, you will need to ensure your team feels simultaneously empowered and supported. Here are some ways to encourage an environment that keeps these “A” players challenged, motivated and empowered.
Create a shared common vision — one that describes what the team is aspiring to. A vision provides direction and a sense of purpose that is shared across the team. It can enable a self-managing team to focus on the things that really matter and simplify decision-making.
Develop agreed-upon objectives, targets and work standards. By having a set of guidelines that are broad enough to enable creativity and innovation, the team can work with a supporting structure in place.
Hire team members with diverse skill sets. This enables a self-managing team to share tasks as needed. It also creates some task interdependence so that team members are dependent on one another. This dependence eventually builds trust, which is a key factor to success.
Define roles within the team, although these can change as the team evolves. This provides a self-managing team with a supporting structure, but also the freedom to change as circumstances change.
Ensure that the team is given goals that are challenging but doable. “A” players will want to step up to the challenge. Successes will need to be earned, and the team will grow stronger.
Provide an environment that encourages self-improvement. “A” players will continuously look for opportunities to learn and improve. Without these, they will not stick with the team for very long. With these, they will continue to challenge themselves, which will also improve the team’s overall skill sets and abilities.
Keep the agile mindset, but modify it to fit the organizational and team culture. Ensure that the team keeps in mind that agile principles are guidelines that should not necessarily be followed strictly. As part of each release retrospective, and even in daily standup discussions, encourage the team to identify continuous improvement ideas and leverage them. It’s OK to try a new idea. Sprints are short cycles, so if an idea doesn’t work well, there’s opportunity to quickly shift back. Having this flexibility gives the self-managing team a sense of empowerment and accountability, and team members can continue to identify opportunities to improve.
With the appropriate enabling team structure, you can provide the team with freedom within guidelines, and the self-managing team will flourish.
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Nancy Couture has more than 30 years of experience leading enterprise data management at Fortune 500 companies and midsize organizations. Her focus has been on enterprisewide data management architecture, data governance, data quality, data warehousing and business intelligence capabilities.
Nancy recently moved into consulting as delivery enablement lead at Datasource Consulting, a Denver-based firm focused on delivering on all aspects of enterprise information management.
Previously, Nancy was vice president of business intelligence at SquareTwo Financial in Denver. She and her team successfully developed and utilized agile methodologies in building out enterprisewide solutions, including an enterprise data warehouse, a robust analytics and reporting environment, and integrated analytics solutions.
Before her time at SquareTwo, Nancy was vice president of data management solutions at UnitedHealth Group in Connecticut, where she developed and managed three enterprise-level data warehouses for healthcare analytics over the course of 30-plus years. In that role, Nancy was recognized for her leadership and ability to execute innovative approaches to data management.
Nancy has presented at many conferences on data management topics over the years, owns a patent in data mapping technologies, and has published several articles for the TDWI Business Intelligence Journal. In 2007 and again in 2015, her respective teams won the TDWI Best Practices Award in Enterprise Data Warehousing.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Nancy Couture and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications Inc. or its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.