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What are Self-Directed Teams?

Teammates standing together and smiling

When people talk about working for Source Allies, rarely do they go a sentence or two in without mentioning one of the defining characteristics of the company – the flat organization structure. Here at Source Allies, there is no one looking over your shoulder or telling you what to do. Instead, each team is self-directed and empowered to make decisions, share their knowledge, take ownership of projects, and become an expert in their chosen area.

We are organized into self-directed teams composed of teammates with proven skills that compliment the team, partner, and project. This gives our teams the freedom to collectively manage themselves based upon the needs of the project and partner. This gives every teammate a voice and a stake in the team. What follows is a look at how Team Bardo embraces the self-directed culture of Source Allies.

What does Self-Directed mean?

The team works together to define the best approach, practice to deliver a given task, proactively work to solve problems, and make informed decisions. In order to ensure everyone is on the same page, having a collective agreement or team charter is vital to laying a strong foundation for developing core team values. It acts as a compass when the team inevitably comes up against problems or hard decisions.

In our team, we created a working agreement within the first few weeks of meeting each other. Because we love grouping things, the agreement was divided up into three categories:

  • Absolute Rights: these are the things that we will not compromise and is the foundation of who we are. These include “Safe and Open Communication” and putting “People first” before “People over Process.”
  • Ideals We Strive to Meet: these are the things our team is committed to continuously improve and strive towards. Key points include “Being Fearless” and “Being intrapreneurs (teammates within a company with the innovative mindset of entrepreneurship)”.
  • Daily Habits: these are the rules of thumb to help us be good citizens within our team. These include recognizing that “anyone can step up and lead”, “being aware of others”, and “being present during conversations.”

A working agreement is a living document; we intend for it to be revisited and amended so it remains relevant and beneficial to everyone on the team.

How is working on a Self-Directed team different?

A self-directed team may be made up of developers, delivery leads, user experience advocates, data analysis experts etc. Our goal is to create an efficient work environment that empowers us to work together to define and implement exactly what our partner needs to provide value from day one. Our teams are comprised of experts that work together for a common goal and embody an ownership mentality. We are all working together to deliver a quality product that solves the partner’s needs. Being self directed gives us the opportunity to learn about each other’s skills and how to leverage our strengths to create our best work.

At first, being on a team where you get to decide your goals and features you want to accomplish can be scary, especially if someone else had been making those decisions up until now. Like a bird set free from its cage for the first time, the newfound freedom can feel overwhelming. Questions like “Is this the right thing to do?” or “Should I say something about an ongoing issue?” come up frequently. With the support of other teammates, we quickly learn to navigate the new environment by developing confidence in our decision-making skills, asking the right questions, and most importantly, recognizing that we learn by making mistakes.

Self-Directed teams may not be for everyone!

Self-directed teams have many benefits, but we also recognize their limits. They are not for individuals looking to simply fill a seat or need someone to tell them what to do. When you work on a self-directed team, the projects will be challenging and there will be “aha” moments when solving complex problems. Luckily, you won’t be on the journey alone & will have a community of teammates to guide you along the way.

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