Self-managers in Self-Organising teams

The Scrum Guide notes the following about the Scrum Team:

Scrum Teams are self-organising and cross-functional. Self-organising teams choose how best to accomplish their work, rather than being directed by others outside the team.

The Scrum Guide, p6

In order for a team to be self-organising, members of the Scrum Team may need to become self-managers. Some of the criteria of being a self-manager (as defined by Focus Education UK Ltd.) are listed below:

  • I am happy to have a go at something new even if it is hard
  • I am able to set myself a target or goal
  • I can think about more than one way to solve a problem
  • I keep going even when the going is tough and others find it easy
  • I enjoy taking responsibility
  • I can work within a time frame
  • I enjoy challenges, especially open-ended or deeper-thinking ones
  • I recognize risks that may be involved when tackling my work
  • I can use success criteria to check how successful a task has been
  • I am able to assess risk and make sensible decisions
  • I can call on a range of strategies to help me overcome a problem

The first thing that you may notice is that the language is quite ‘soft’ and that it is not specific to Scrum or software development. There is a reason for this. These criteria were used by teachers at my daughter’s school as assessment criteria for the self-managing skills of 5-to-11 year-olds. The purpose of teaching these skills is to empower the pupils’ learning.

If children of that age are able to achieve these skills, then every member of a Scrum Team should also be able to develop and exhibit them, making themselves self-managers as part-of a self-organising team.

These were not the only behaviours that were assessed at my daughter’s school, with pupils looking to become (and be assessed against criteria for) effective participators, resourceful thinkers, reflective learners, independent enquirers, and team workers. I think that these are all behaviours that Scrum/software development team members should exhibit.

A version of this post was originally published as an article on the Scrum Alliance website on 22nd March 2016. Read the original article at