5 Steps to Becoming a Self-managed Team
The goal of adopting Agile marketing practices in Teamhood was simple – as a small marketing team, we had to achieve maximum efficiency. While using limited resources to create more value and keep up the energy.
When starting out with Agile we decided not to copy the processes of our software development colleagues, but explore slowly by ourselves. To facilitate the change our Agile guru Vidas joined the team. We implemented practices step by step, introducing new practices only when fully aware of their practical benefits. Each week, we introduced slight changes, either improving the meeting agenda, adjusting the process on the Kanban board, or introducing some new metrics. In the end, we came up with what I didn’t expect at all. We have become a self-managed team, where the manager is the role, that can be taken by any member of the team.
Let‘s get to the 5 major steps, that we took during our journey.
Step 1. Weekly sprints.
Weekly meetings and weekly task lists are done by most Agile marketing teams. The weekly sprint differently from any ordinary weekly task list is strictly limited in scope. What is planned has to be accomplished, and new tasks can’t get into the sprint during the week. In order not to put the performance of the planned tasks at risk. New tasks are placed in the backlog and wait for the next sprint meeting.
This is an essential element for a self-driven Agile marketing team – by being able to lock the sprint, it can remain an owner of marketing decisions instead of being a service provider for other departments.
If the team delivers results on time and with great quality, it gains confidence and satisfaction with the work done. If the planned actions deliver value, they make a positive impact on the business.
How to choose which tasks should get into the sprint? This is where we come to the next step.
Step 2. Prioritization.
Where “today” and “strategy” meet.
Usually, there are quite a bunch of tasks in the backlog and more are coming every day. These are tasks of various kinds – strategic tasks, campaign follow-ups, low-hanging fruits, cool ideas to experiment, etc.
Prioritization is visualized by splitting the backlog into P3, P2, and P1. Tasks can be moved freely among those moving closer to the sprint or back to a lower priority. The manager’s task is to balance them so that both strategic initiatives are implemented, new opportunities are exploited and low-hanging fruits are harvested. While visualizing a classified backlog in one place makes decision-making easier.
The tasks in the sprint usually are chosen from P1. Each team member takes on as many tasks as they plan to complete during the week sprint. The Agile marketing team is then aware of the full picture, but discussions during the sprint meeting are held just around the prioritized items. This way, the number of issues for the meeting is significantly reduced and it lasts shorter.
How many and what tasks should a team member take in the sprint?
Step 3. Workload management
We set a time estimation for each task – how long it will take to complete it. By assigning time estimates and schedules to all tasks, we can evaluate each team member’s workload. At first, setting estimates was quite difficult, especially for creative tasks. Sometimes we estimated 2 hours for tasks, which actually took 8 or 10 hours. Each week gaining experience, the accuracy of estimates have been steadily improving. We have become more predictable, and estimations took less time to make. Last, but not least – Teamhood’s AI is now suggesting task estimations based on historic data, saving loads of administration time.
After distributing the tasks, we check the workload view. It takes just a few minutes to adjust it – maybe we can take another important task into the sprint, or maybe we should take some tasks from an overloaded colleague and delegate them to someone less busy.
Step 4. Retrospectives.
This next step is quite a simple practice, but also an important one. It makes us always reflect on things done and think about improvements. Retrospectives in an Agile marketing team take 10 minutes each week, and we take a larger round of one hour once in 3 months with the whole company. In a retrospective meeting, each team member shares what he did well in the previous sprint, what he is proud of, and what didn’t go as well as expected, and what should be improved next time.
Often, good ideas for improvement are born during these meetings, but the ultimate benefit of retrospectives is the personal impact on each team member. By formulating and communicating to the team, a person consciously evaluates the work done and understands the value he builds. The feeling of the rat race is then gone – every week there is a new beginning and the end, evaluation of the journey done, a sense of completion.
Step 5. Self-managed team
These 4 practices not just helped to improve work efficiency, but also enabled each of our Agile marketing team members to participate in decision-making. Teamhood delivers visual transparency of the plans. Team members can see the full picture – all planned and performed tasks. They are deeply involved in management by participating in weekly decision-making and self-evaluation.
In the end, the team can continue progressing without an appointed manager. Any member of the team can take on the role of a manager and facilitate the processes. And the newly reformed Agile marketing team will continue to plan, prioritize tasks, deliver results, load new ideas into the backlog, and improve by sharing experiences.
2019 - Present Co-founder and CEO @ Teamhood.
2015-2019 Head of software engineering department at Danske Bank.
2017-2018 Partner Associate Professor at Vilnius University. Lecturer of Software Architecture course
2011 - 2015 Managed numerous smaller IT teams at Prewise.
Co-founder of RaveIT, Eylean, No Brakes Games
Certified Agile product owner and practitioner. Managed large scale enterprise projects as well as launch of small startup products.
MSc of Software Engineering at Vilnius University.
Hobbies: Racing, MTB cycling, Windsurfing