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In today's fast-paced business environment, where organizations need to be flexible and adaptable to stay competitive, the Agile approach seems to be a natural fit for many businesses. Agile teams embrace a self-organizing model that empowers team members with greater autonomy and accountability. By collaborating to distribute tasks and develop an execution plan, teams foster a culture of internal cooperation and shared ownership of their work. This approach can lead to higher motivation, better collaboration, and improved results.
In this article, we will explore how building ownership can be significant for your Agile team, and discuss strategies for fostering a sense of ownership that empowers teams to excel in an ever-changing environment.
Team responsibility vs. individual responsibility
Autonomous teams tend to exhibit a sense of collective ownership. Don't mistake it for blurred responsibility though - collective ownership is a sort of synthesis of the individually felt responsibilities of each team member. In this case, you will often hear that the entire team is responsible for a particular area. Their successes will be perceived as a result of the mutual effort. But, if everything is functioning properly, you will also see this in case of failures. The team will not be looking for someone to blame but rather will focus on identifying the problem and finding a solution.
On the other hand, individual responsibility is not without importance for Agile teams. Each team member must take ownership of their assigned tasks and be accountable for delivering quality results. This helps to maintain a high level of productivity and ensures that each team member is contributing to the team's success. At the same time, the team as a whole is responsible for achieving the project goals, and it's up to them to collaborate and work together to achieve those goals. In essence, Agile teams strike a balance between individual and collective responsibility, and the mixture of these two helps to foster a sense of ownership and accountability across the team.
Exploring the advantages of fostering ownership within your team
Building ownership in Agile teams has several benefits, both from a business and employee perspective. By fostering collective ownership, teams can work more effectively together, which can lead to better solutions and a more positive work environment.
From the business perspective, Agile teams that embrace collective ownership are better equipped to deliver quality solutions. By sharing responsibility for the product, teams avoid relying too much on one person, and encourage everyone to contribute their ideas and perspectives. This promotes teamwork and creativity, leading to better problem-solving and innovative solutions. Additionally, teams that take collective ownership of the product are more likely to critically evaluate their work, identify issues, and proactively seek ways to improve the product for users.
From the employee perspective, when team members have ownership over their work, they have a greater sense of responsibility and accountability. This sense of ownership fosters job satisfaction and engagement, as they feel empowered to make decisions and take initiative. They become motivated to contribute their ideas and skills, and, as a result, everyone on the team is committed to the success of the product. By empowering team members to take ownership of their work, Agile teams can foster a culture of continuous improvement.
How to foster ownership within your Agile team
Building ownership within an Agile team is not always easy. It requires intentional effort from team leaders to create an environment where team members can feel empowered to take ownership of their work. Fortunately, there are several effective strategies that can help you achieve this goal.
Use tools that increase transparency
Transparency encourages individual employees and teams to have a greater sense of responsibility and prevents the formation of information silos. Knowing that everyone has access to your tasks or projects automatically increases the sense of ownership. When it is also clear how individual tasks contribute to team and company goals, engagement naturally grows. In tools like Jira, each task can be assigned to one person, making it easy to see who is responsible for its completion. Clearly defining the person directly responsible for a task eliminates the risk of misunderstandings or delays. When the scope of responsibilities is clearly defined, every team member can easily contribute to the successful completion of the project.
Trust is key here - you cannot build ownership without it. You need to trust that your colleagues have good intentions, skills (and if they lack any, they will let you know), and that they will support you when needed, just as you will support them. Without trust among team members, you are more likely to see the creation of knowledge silos. Each person will focus on their own little corner of the project and be more concerned with protecting their own part, instead of caring about the whole and the success of the entire endeavor. If mutual trust is established, there is a chance that collective responsibility will also emerge from the individual responsibility felt by each team member. In such a situation, everyone is still accountable for their work, the quality of their code, the thoroughness of their tests, and the creativity of their designs, but it becomes part of a larger whole.
When team leaders delegate tasks to team members, it empowers them to take ownership of their assigned responsibilities. It gives team members a sense of autonomy and trust, as they are given the opportunity to contribute their skills and expertise to the project. Delegating tasks also allows team members to develop new skills and grow professionally, as they take on more responsibilities and challenges. It encourages them to take ownership of their work and strive for excellence in their assigned tasks. Delegating tasks also promotes collaboration and teamwork, as team members work together to accomplish the overall project objectives. It encourages communication and coordination among team members, leading to a more cohesive and effective team. You can read more about how delegating can benefit your team here.
Use tools that engage your team
To foster ownership within Agile teams, it's essential to use tools that promote collaboration and engagement. At SolDevelo, we've developed Team Planner - Resource Planning for Jira, a tool that allows us to plan our projects together in real time. This tool enables team members to actively participate in the planning process, contribute their insights, and take ownership of the project plan. By working together, team members can refine the plan to ensure it aligns with project goals and reflects the collective expertise of the team. We’re aware that inclusivity and equal participation are also crucial for fostering ownership within Agile teams. With Team Planner, every team member can have their voice heard and contribute to the project plan, regardless of their role or level of expertise. The ability to simultaneously edit the project plan allows Agile teams to work in an adaptive manner. As project requirements evolve, team members can quickly update and adjust the plan in real time, making it a living document that reflects the team's dynamic nature. This promotes ongoing improvement and fosters a culture of ownership, where every team member contributes to the team's success.
Recognizing and appreciating proactivity is an essential element for fostering a sense of ownership within an Agile team. When team members are actively encouraged and appreciated for their initiative, it reinforces a culture where ownership is valued and rewarded. There are several ways to manifest this culture, such as publicly recognizing team members who proactively identify and address potential issues, take on additional responsibilities, or contribute innovative ideas. Such recognition motivates team members to continue being proactive, leading to a positive feedback loop where ownership becomes an intrinsic part of the team's culture. Furthermore, appreciating proactivity promotes a growth mindset, where team members are encouraged to take calculated risks, learn from failures, and continuously improve. This creates an environment that nurtures ownership, as team members feel empowered to take ownership of their work and contribute to the team's success. Additionally, encouraging proactivity fosters collaboration and teamwork, as team members are more likely to actively engage with their peers, share ideas, and contribute to the collective success of the project. To truly foster a sense of ownership, it is important to recognize that everyone has the potential to be proactive, regardless of their role or level of experience. Therefore, it is essential to cultivate a culture that values and rewards proactivity, creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels appreciated and empowered to contribute to the team's success. By doing so, the team can achieve higher levels of accountability, commitment, and innovation, resulting in a successful project outcome.
Building ownership within an Agile team can bring numerous benefits to both the business and employee perspectives. Strategies such as delegating tasks, using tools that increase transparency and engagement, recognizing and appreciating proactivity, and building trust can all help foster a culture of ownership. By implementing these strategies, businesses can encourage teamwork, creativity, critical evaluation, and continuous improvement, while employees can experience higher job satisfaction and engagement. With a sense of ownership, teams are more likely to be invested in the project's success, leading to higher levels of accountability and commitment to achieving project goals.