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Autonomous Teams and Hackman Authority Matrix

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Hong Sun
Management Consultant, Canada

Autonomous Teams and Hackman Authority Matrix

🔥 Autonomous teams are often found in organizations that value innovation, adaptability, and employee empowerment.
By granting teams greater autonomy, such organizations aim to foster creativity, motivation, and a sense of ownership among team members, which can ultimately lead to increased productivity and enhanced business outcomes.
However, autonomy can often be misinterpreted, resulting in confusion and missed opportunities for teams. For instance, some managers believe that autonomy is solely about implementing sprints with their teams, but true autonomy goes beyond these surface-level practices and offers much greater potential for success.

To ensure a clear understanding of autonomy and its alignment with specific goals, it is crucial to initiate open and honest discussions within the organization. One effective tool for facilitating these conversations is Hackman's Authority Matrix based on the research of social and organizational psychologist John Richard Hackman. It illuminates the collaboration dynamics between management and autonomous organizational units (teams). The matrix highlights four types of teams:

  • MANAGER-LED TEAMS: the team has the authority only for performing the work.
    Manager-led teams are structured in a traditional hierarchical manner, where a designated manager holds the primary decision-making authority. The manager sets the goals, assigns tasks, and makes most of the decisions for the team. Team members follow instructions and carry out their assigned responsibilities under the manager's guidance and supervision.
    Examples: traditional project teams.
  • SELF-MANAGING TEAMS: the team also enjoys authority over how work is done.
    Self-managing teams operate with a higher level of autonomy compared to manager-led teams. The members of these teams manage their work processes and make day-to-day decisions. They collaborate to define objectives, plan and allocate tasks, and monitor their own performance. While the manager still provides guidance and support, the team has more ownership and control over their work.
    Examples: most agile teams using Scrum or Kanban, etc.
  • SELF-DESIGNING TEAMS: the team is also granted authority over who is on the team and sometimes over reporting relationships.
    Self-designing teams go a step further in autonomy and decision-making. These teams have the authority not only to manage their work but also to design and shape their team structure, roles, and processes. They actively participate in defining their objectives, selecting team members, determining work assignments, and establishing team norms and protocols.
    Examples: Certain agile or lean management teams.
  • SELF-GOVERNING TEAMS: the team also possesses the authority to alter their main purpose.
    Self-governing teams represent the highest level of autonomy and decision-making authority. These teams have the power to govern themselves entirely, including making strategic decisions, establishing team policies, and managing resources. They operate with minimal external control or hierarchical supervision.
    Examples: Boards of directors, spin-offs, and start-ups.
After (collaboratively!) gaining a big picture of the desired team autonomy as per Hackman Authority Matrix, the next step is to delve deeper to assess the specific level of autonomy required for different situations. That's where the Delegation Poker game in Management 3.0 can come into play. The game involves 7 levels of delegation, from "Tell" of level 1 to "Delegate" of level 7. Choosing the right level of delegation depends on a team's maturity level and the impact of its decisions. Sometimes, circumstances may require that you start by telling or selling, and then gradually increase the delegation level of team members as they grow more mature.
By harnessing the combined power of Hackman's Authority Matrix and Delegation Poker, your team has a better chance to reap the benefits of autonomy. It may still be challenging at the beginning, but with support and persistence, the level of autonomy will grow together with the benefits.

Sources:
Collet, B. (2023, May 12). What Is Team Autonomy, Anyway? Agile Leader Academy.
Cohn, M. (2017, Aug. 15). Two Types of Authority Leaders Must Give to Self-Organizing Teams. Mountain Goat Software.
 

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More on Self-Directed Teams:
Summary
Discussion Topics
topic Issues with Self Directed Teams
👀Autonomous Teams and Hackman Authority Matrix
topic Conditions for Self-Directed Teams
topic Self-Management and Management Plasticity
topic Self Directed Teams outside of Working Enviroment?
Special Interest Group

SIG Leader

Do you know a lot about Self-Directed Teams? Become our SIG Leader

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Self-Directed Teams
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