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What Emerges From Self-Organizing Teams

By Miranda Dulin
Published in Agile Mindset
February 24, 2024
3 min read
What Emerges From Self-Organizing Teams

Much like a chick emerging from its shell, self-organizing teams utilize autonomy to shatter the ceiling imposed by depending solely on a single manager.

What Emerges From Self-Organizing Teams

The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams according to the 11th principle of the Agile Manifesto.

“The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.”

- Agile Manifesto

In essence, the best solutions arise from self-organizing teams. While this claim may seem intuitive, substantiating it requires a deeper understanding. Just because you feel it in your waters doesn’t mean you comprehend the underlying reasons.

What Dysfunction Is Prevented by Self-Organizing Teams

First, let’s establish the backdrop for the principle’s intent. As signatories convened at The Lodge at Snowbird, they distilled their collective experiences across various approaches into a unified set of core values and principles.

By reading between the lines, one can discern the dysfunctions the selected principles aim to circumvent. By emphasizing self-organizing teams, they implicitly denote the shortcomings of alternative approaches.

So, what’s the alternative? It’s teams relying on the manager to dictate their every move.

lame manager carrying a bunch of files and wearing a cape and being too happy
Even superheroes need sidekicks. Share the load, lighten the cape.

It’s a common misconception that management’s sole role is to protect their team from interruptions and critical thinking, merely assigning tasks devoid of creativity or problem-solving. Managers who adhere to this belief deprive their teams of opportunities to grow while overburdening themselves. Filtering all responsibilities through one person proves impractical and hampers team effectiveness.

Leadership doesn’t shoulder the team’s challenges alone; instead, they facilitate growth within the team to overcome obstacles together.

How Do Self-Organizing Teams Build Better Solutions


Teams are scalable, but individual managers are not.

The development team can harness the collective wisdom of its members, whereas a single leader is confined to their own individual knowledge.

“Two heads are better than one.”

Agile teams are inclined to generate a plethora of ideas for potential solutions compared to a single leader. While not all ideas may be winners, having a multitude of options increases the likelihood of finding the best solution.

One could contend that this benefit truly materializes only when the team maintains an open-minded stance toward the opinions and suggestions of others. Even though we can acknowledge this truth, it’s crucial not to allow it to become a justification for restricting a team’s capacity to address its own challenges.

A superior approach involves coaching them to cultivate openness rather than restricting a close-minded team’s ability to discern the best solution. Scrum teams, in particular, acknowledge the significance of openness as one of their five core Scrum values.

Self-organizing teams also distribute the mental load when tackling a problem. Conventional wisdom suggests allowing your mind to mull over a problem while taking a walk rather than relentlessly banging your head against the wall in search of an answer.

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How often have you stumbled upon a brilliant idea in the shower simply because you allowed your mind to ponder it in the background? Now, picture having an entire team of individuals engaging in this reflective process—each in their own separate showers, of course.

Unhappy guy frowning from behind the shower curtain

The essence is that with more minds contemplating a problem, collectively, they accumulate more time for the potential spark of genius to strike one of them, leading to the emergence of great ideas.


Another way self-organizing teams excel in crafting superior solutions is their proximity to the work. They possess a deeper familiarity with the code base, anticipating potential pitfalls from the requested change.

Buried skull emerging from dirt
Teams that know where the skeletons lie can steer clear.

As management becomes increasingly distant from the day-to-day workings of the code base, their familiarity with the architecture gradually diminishes over time. When they are solely responsible for making architectural decisions without an intimate understanding of the existing architecture, they are prone to making assumptions that may not align with reality. Consequently, the quality of their choices tends to fall short of those made by the team, who are more intimately acquainted with the intricacies of the code base.

One might argue that team members closer to the code may be farther from the overall vision, but this isn’t necessarily true. Specifically, Scrum Teams have Sprint Goals that align with Product Goals, ensuring alignment with the overarching product vision.

If a team’s distance from the product vision begins to hinder their ability to design software and make appropriate architecture decisions, addressing this dysfunction is preferable to withholding trust in their capacity to determine the optimal solution.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Emerges From Self-Organizing Teams Scrum

In Scrum, the best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams. While the Scrum Guide has shifted from “self-organizing” to “self-managing,” the fundamental concept remains unchanged.

Works Consulted

  • Agile Manifesto
  • Scrum Guide 2020 Update - Self Mgt replaces Self Organization
  • Scrum Shortcuts Without Cutting Corners: Agile Tactics, Tools & Tips


In short, two key factors contribute to the success of self-organizing teams: scalability and familiarity. By avoiding the confines of restrictive management and embracing self-organization, teams can unlock their full potential and deliver superior solutions. Don’t confine your team’s potential within the boundaries of your own limitations.


Previous Article
Top 7 Responsibilities of a Scrum Master
Miranda Dulin

Miranda Dulin

Scrum Master

Table Of Contents

What Emerges From Self-Organizing Teams
What Dysfunction Is Prevented by Self-Organizing Teams
How Do Self-Organizing Teams Build Better Solutions
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Works Consulted

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