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Agile General

The three team phases – from Notes to a Software Team Leader: Growing Self Organizing Teams by Roy Osherove

In order to see team leadership from new perspective I decided to read “Notes to a Software Team Leader: Growing Self Organizing Teams” by Roy Osherove. It is very interesting book and I would like to share with you some of great citations.

As one of most important things Roy mentions three team phases. I totally agree that we always have to think about where we are as a team. Those phases are:

  1. Survival phase (no time to learn)

    “Survival” sounds dramatic and is as alarming as it sounds. It doesn’t necessarily mean coffee-stained carpets and a sleepless staff. I define survival as your team not having enough time to learn. In order to accomplish your goal as a leader (getting people to grow), you need to make time to learn, so your main strategy, or instinct during this phase is to get the team out of the survival phase by creating slack time. In order to slack time, you will most likely need to use a command and control style of leadership.

  2. Learning phase (learning to solve your own problems)

    You can tell you’re in the learning phase when your team has enough slack time to learn and experiment and you’re actually using that slack time. Slack time can be used for learning new skills, or removing some technical debt, or at best doing both at the same time, such as:

    • Learning and slowly implementing test-driven development, with people who have no
      experience with it
    • Enhancing or building a continuous integration cycle, with people who have no experience
      with it
    • Enhancing test coverage, with people who have no experience with it
    • Learning about and refactoring code, with people who have no experience with it

    In short, use slack time to do anything, and tack on the phrase “with people who have no experience
    with it” at the end of the sentence. Your main goal as a leader (in order to achieve your overall role of growing people) is to grow the team to be self-organizing by teaching and challenging them to solve their own problems. In order to achieve that, you need to become more of a coaching style leader, with the occasional intervention of the controlling leader, for those cases when you don’t have enough slack time to learn from a specific mistake.

  3. Self-organizing phase (facilitate, experiment)

    You can tell you’re in the self-organizing phase if you can leave work for a few days without being afraid to turn off your cell phone and laptop. If you can do that, come back, and things are going well, your team is in the quite unique position of solving their own problems without needing you to help them

    Your goal in the self-organizing phase is to keep things as they are by being a facilitator and keeping a close eye on the team’s ability to handle the current reality; When the team’s dynamics change, you can determine what leadership style you need to use next. The self-organizing phase is also a lot of fun because this is the phase where you have the most time to experiment and try different approaches, constraints, and team goals that will grow you and your team even more.

That was one of many great thoughts from Roy Osherove book. I will post some more soon. If you would like to read this book, please follow this link: