Five Challenges for a Self-Sufficient Team

Windmill Editorial Team Windmill Editorial Team | 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 might 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, a “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 the identification of key indicators that exercise broad operational goals, because building self-sufficiency in a team is not a one person job. And there are some key challenges in attaining self-sufficiency of a team. Let’s take a look:

What challenges inhibit a team’s self-sufficiency?

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

Challenge #1: Lack of product vision

Teams can’t be truly self-sufficient if they’re only familiar with their own individual tasks. Team members should have a clear understanding of the overall “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 that flow down the strategic imperative, from priorities to requisite tech knowledge.

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 the 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 “definition of done” – a specific description that marks the completion of their work. 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 a software development team, the following definition of done can improve self-sufficiency:

  • Automation & manual testing
  • Peer review
  • Customer documentation
  • Product manager and business reviews

Challenge #4: Failing to take responsibility

A self-sufficient team needs to hold each member of the team accountable for their work. This practice, however, shouldn’t come at the expense of ignoring divergent responsibilities based on an individual’s skill set. 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 more costly when they’re persisted or ignored until the last minute.

In conclusion

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 essential to delivering efficiency and productivity for businesses. Hence, firms can’t just wave their hands and create self-sufficient working groups. Developing self-sufficient teams requires solving key management challenges to institutionalize a proactive business culture.

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