#TheGouge: Autonomous Teams with Dan Walsh

Turns out autonomy has long been a "thing," even outside the world of software development. Who knew? So no need to reinvent the wheel, folks. Dan talks about autonomy in the context of complexity and software teams.

Hey, welcome to #TheGouge with Ponch and Cujo. I’m Ponch. We’re talking about autonomy today. Dan Walsh, what is autonomy?

Actually, I think the larger context in the Agile environment/movement, whichever you want to call it, self-organization, it’s a “thing.” What is self-organization vs. self-directedness vs. self-management? Are they different? Are they the same thing? Which is better? What do we need to strive for?

So, my take is, self-organization, it’s great. But, I think what teams really need to be studying and thinking about is autonomy. And people have been doing this autonomy “thing” for quite a while. There’s PhD biologists, there’s books on this, it’s a thing outside the world of software. So, let’s not try and reinvent the wheel about self-organization, or autonomy, let’s go and learn from other folks.

So, the spiel I have on autonomy, self-organization is important, but it’s not sufficient. We have to add additional layers of complexity to help us to build more resilient organizations. To affect our environment. So, one quick example from the Agile world of it – initially there were developers and there were testers. And we added testers onto the development teams. And that incremental addition of complexity onto the team enabled the team to be a little bit more autonomous – i.e., they’re a little bit more independent, they’re able to shape their environment, they’re able to function more effectively as a unit, as a cohesive unit.

So, thinking about adding additional layers of autonomy onto your Agile teams, whether it’s UX, the lean startup, or affecting your HR department – is a, usually, in general, a good thing for your organization.

That’s awesome. So, let me get this right. If you step outside of the world you’re in right now, and look to other places, you can understand autonomy better. Is that correct?

People have been studying autonomy for quite a while. It’s a thing. It’s a thing. It’s been out there.

So, it is a thing. And that’s the gouge.


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