Is Delegation Obsolete with Autonomous Teams?

December 14, 2010

Agile development makes use of autonomous teams. We use Scrum, and this means that work should be negotiated between the team and the Product Owner. This also means that managers shouldn't be assigning tasks to individuals. As far as autonomous teams are concerned, is delegation obsolete?

No.

An autonomous team has been formed to fulfill a purpose. As a manager, you’ve already delegated the need to achieve a primary objective to the members of that team. Autonomous teams simplify delegation, because autonomous teams have the latitude to approach their work as they see fit. It’s up to the team to figure out how to meet its objectives. They task out the work, not you.

As a manager, you shouldn't delegate additional work into the team because doing so would serve as a distraction to the team, hindering from achieving the team’s objective. This makes you an impediment.

If anything, autonomous teams may need to delegate to you. You can help the team overcome obstacles by removing impediments that they face. Can you work the system and acquire the necessary hardware and software that they need to perform their work? Is someone not carrying their weight? Is another manager distracting the team by assigning additional (hidden) work? The team may need to delegate these issues to you so that they can remain focused and optimized on the work at hand.