Five Challenges for a Self-Sufficient Team

Himanshu Tyagi Himanshu Tyagi, June 24, 2019 | 3 mins read

Great teams can self-organize, self-start, and work self-sufficiently. And the right project management approach can enable this proactivity—but first, we have to understand some of the fundamental challenges that keep teams from working independently.

The science behind great teams is becoming a huge focus in the marketplace. Amid this search for optimal team management paradigms, the “self-sufficient team” has become one of the hottest buzzwords.

A self-sufficient team is an empowered work unit and can function optimally with minimal or no supervision.

To build self-sufficiency in a team requires identification of key indicators that exercise broad operational goals, because building self-sufficiency in a team is not a one person job. However, there are some key challenges in attaining self-sufficiency of a team.

What challenges inhibit the self-sufficiency of a team?

The key challenges that inhibit the self-sufficiency of a team are briefly examined below

  • Lack of product vision.
  • Lack of explicit prioritization.
  • Absence of a clear “definition of done.”
  • Failing to take responsibility
  • Failure due to Lack of Communication

Challenge #1: Lack of product vision

Teams can’t be truly self-sufficient if they’re only familiar with their own personal tasks. Team members should have a clear understanding of the “why” of their project, and that includes a perspective on its key strategic underpinnings. Product vision not only drives greater personal investment and wise decision making, but also a more self-sufficient capacity for confronting any challenges starting from priorities to requisite tech knowledge; that flow down the strategic imperative.

Challenge #2: Lack of explicit prioritization

In a truly self-sufficient team, team members pick up a task from the backlog and start working on it; without having to go to their manager from time to time. Looking back to the previous challenge, strategic awareness is a great first step for enabling more fluid, self-directed task management. More specifically managers require an explicit prioritization scheme to keep their team members working in unison towards their ultimate goal. Smart, explicit prioritization allows the full-team to apply their skills to solve key issues explicitly without a manager’s intervention.

Challenge #3: Absence of a clear “definition of done”

Teams need a clear description of “definition of done” about their work. As Poorly defined endpoints lead to sprawling efforts and missing out of key tasks, a definite checklist needs to be formulated to ensure that every work has its proper definition of done.
For example,
In the case of the software development team, along with extreme programming including the following, definition of done, can improve self-sufficiency :

  • Automation & manual testing
  • Peer review
  • Customer Documentation
  • Product manager/Business review

Challenge #4: Failing to take responsibility

A self-sufficient team needs to make each member of the team responsible for their work. But this practice can’t come at the expense of ignoring divergent responsibilities based on an individual’s skill set and ongoing professional development. Hence, everyone in the team, should take responsibility of their deliverables, regardless of one’s level of expertise.

Challenge #5: Lack of Communication

Lack of Communication is anathema to self-sufficiency and proactivity. Feedback should be focused on addressing the issue and keeping communication open among the team. Mistakes happen, and they’re far costlier when they’re ignored until the last minute or persisted.

Summing Up

As prominent studies make the business value of team performance more tangible than ever before, the integration of best practices for building effective, self-sufficient teams is simply essential to deliver efficiency and productivity for businesses. Hence, Firm’s can’t just wave their hands and create self-sufficient working groups. Developing such a capability in a team requires solving key management challenges to institutionalize a proactive business culture.

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