Scrum teams: self-organizing or self-directed?

by , under Scrum

Recently I am facing discussions too frequently with different people about the meaning of a self-organizing team in SCRUM. I think there are some misunderstandings between self-organizing and self-directed teams. Let’s see… a self-organized team follows a goal ( that might or might not be shared ) defined by the P.O. and her stakeholders. The team decides HOW they want to face the challenge of building the product that has been already defined: They arrange their processes, they decide who does what, technologies, tools, etc… They decide all that matters to them. The team focus is only on “BUILD THE THING RIGHT”.

In a self-directed team, the members are also stakeholders, meaning, they also discuss WHAT we are going to do with the Product Owner and the rest of the stakeholders. The team focus is at the same time “BUILD THE THING RIGHT” and “BUILD THE RIGHT THING”.
Being at the same time a development team member and a stakeholder is extremely powerful since the team alignment is actually organic: We are building the product we have shaped. The risks of demotivated, disengaged team members are quite mitigated. However, this situation cannot always be achieved.

To practice SCRUM, you don’t actually need to setup self-directed teams, although it would be great to have. Don’t hesitate if you have the chance to have a self-directed team, there are only benefits from it.

Let’s consider different scenarios:

A team in a consulting company developing a product for a client
The development team members are hardly going to become stakeholders. Nonetheless, they can come up with ideas, and it’s up to the P.O. to handle this according to the current situation. But the chances that development team members have a considerable impact on the backlog are prettly low. It’s definitely unusual to find self-directed teams in this environment.

A different scenario could be a team building a video game
One of the best games you can play in Facebook and mobile, papa pear saga, is actually composed by a self-directed team. In this team, it’s normal to have business organize team discussions about the new characters, new boosters, new blockers, special campaigns, etc… Roughly everything the Product Owner wants to kick into a sprint is in one way or another co-created by the team.

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