Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Aligning People or Letting them Align Part II

Bill Miller made an interesting suggestion about self organizing teams. As kids playing baseball, the first decision was often who would be the two team captains. Those captains then picked the teams. Sometimes they were the two best players or more often the two players most able to help their team win. As kids, we knew what was important to win.

An interesting circle of dependencies. The kids picked the captains and the captains picked the teams. Almost an implicit contract. The group gave the captain the right to organize the team, but if the team didn't win, but they had to win to be captain in the future.

Captains changed. Sometimes one person was a captain for one sport, but not for another. Sometimes frustration over past performances lead to minor mutinies. [Editor: That will be fine, thank you.] Sometimes new leaders emerged as time went on. What's important is that the process was self regulating. If the captain helped the team win, they continued as captain.

Can Business be Self Regulating?
There are obviously differences between ten year olds playing baseball and business, though I suspect there are not as many as one might hope. How different would it be if the workers picked the manager? If the people working on a project were responsible for identifying the person most likely to make the project succeed, who would they pick? And why?

Often times in business executives picks a manager or team lead and then charge that person with assembling a team. What if the team were selected first and that teams first responsibility was to pick the team lead?

Have you heard of people taking this approach? How did it work out?


Bill Miller said...


I've never understood the essence of self organizing as opposed to the alternative. Maybe you can help me.

Is it that there is no leader -- everyone leads -- rather than having a hierarchy? Is it that everyone on the team gets to choose what they work on, rather than told?

Andrew Meyer said...


thanks for an excellent question. I hope I answered in it a reasonable post.