News and Updates

Want autonomous teams ? BACK OFF

The TL;DR: Back off! See teamwork creating real dreamwork.

You wish to have autonomous teams, delivering with pride and speed?

If you are the boss, I'll share you the secret. BACK OFF !

Back off !

I guess I lost 90% of the readers at this point. Noone likes being called out for being part of the problem, but this is not about insulting anyone or bashing heads, it's a chance to reflect and you make up your own mind.

That's hardly a masterminds memorairs, just back off, do less ? Oh wait, that does sound like a mastermind at work, lol.

I'm no mastermind, just still learning leadership really, thought I'd let you in on this secret I learned. As all such secrets people claim to find, there has already been written many books about it. This is also the case here obviously, I'll reference one below.

The organization, policies, need to BACK OFF more than any. I'll umbrella all that under "the boss".

Seen this?

time - cost - scope

A classic, so honest. It's a simple, balanced equally-sided triangle.

If you pull on any corner, you need to move one of the others too.

Lean Startup is a great example of process focused on the scope side. Move fast in hypothesis - experiment - validate cycles. If you let the team own more of that, the scope, you'll have a better and happier team.

Let the team own the scope and timeline. You own the resources side.

Start with why, why you, "the boss", are looking to invest in the project, let the team work on how. They'll spend more time than you, dig deeper than you, it only makes sense that they feel safe making decisions too.

Here's a


Assemble a team for an important and feasible project, set a deadline for "some result", work together on the why, let them get going and then you go hiking in the mountains for a week. When you return, an autonomous team has formed, leaders in many forms (some vocal, some through assistance, other through decisions) have stepped up and decisions are being made.

Experiment. Do it. It doesn't need to be a hike, you could always carve out a Thuja hedge fortress too.

Validate. What happened? If next to nothing, then I don't know, never experienced it. 5Whys situation I'm sure.

To help you back off, this is an amazing resource: Extreme Ownership, by Jocko Willink.

I wanted this to be short, but it must be said. Key to backing off is not providing answers. Give answers and you own both problem and solution. Refuse and they own problem and solution. That's extreme ownership. That's Jocko and Leif, not me, I've been a slow learner to be honest. Getting there, doing more backing off and doing less!

Key to backing off is not providing answers

Here's what happen when I backed off recently:

high fives message to the team

Thanks Jocko, you changed my life, helping me back off the nitty grittys that I shouldn't being owning.