Disciplined Agile

Govern Team

This ongoing process goal describes how we will govern an agile or lean delivery team well. Effective governance is based on motivation and enablement, not command and control. Governance establishes chains of responsibility, authority, and communication in support of the overall enterprise’s goals and strategy. It also establishes measurements, policies, standards, and control mechanisms to enable people to carry out their roles and responsibilities effectively. You do this by balancing risk versus return on investment (ROI), setting in place effective processes and practices, defining the direction and goals for a team, and defining the roles that people play within a team. To be effective, we need to consider several important questions:

  • How can leadership motivate staff to be enterprise aware?
  • How can leadership enable teams to follow their vision?
  • How will we provide visibility to our stakeholders?
  • How will we regularly determine how we will move forward as a team, if at all?
  • How will we run reviews, if at all?
  • How will we run demonstrations? 
2021 Project Management Institute Govern Team v5.2 Motivate Enterprise Awareness Collaboratively developed vision Collaborative enterprise groups Collaborate with other teams Educate staff Communicate vision Roadmaps and guidance (lightweight) Roadmaps and guidance (detailed) Enable Teams Empowered teams Host leadership Clear roles and responsibilities Infrastructure as code Whole governance Servant leadership Exceptions to the rules Specialized/siloed governance Autocratic leadership Provide Transparency Automated dashboards Consistent metric categories Visualize control process/workflow Information radiators Self-serve demo environment Demos Definition of ready (DoR)/definition of done (DoD) Milestone reviews Update release plan Status reports Consistent metrics Go-Forward Strategy Cancel Continue as before Deploy internally Deploy into production Increase funding Reduce funding Run an experiment Pivot Milestone Review Strategy Automated review Lightweight milestone reviews Regular go-forward decision None Formal milestone reviews (quality gates) Demo Strategy All-hands demo Impromptu demo Scheduled (iteration/sprint) demo Self-serve demo

Figure 1. The Govern Delivery Team process goal diagram (click to enlarge)

You can use the DA Browser to learn more about the options in the goal diagram of Figure 1. 

Why This is Important

There are several reasons why this goal is important:

  1. We are going to be governed. Many in the agile community believe that governance is a swear word, likely because they’ve had negative experiences when traditional governance strategies were applied to agile teams. Although we understand this attitude, we find it to be counterproductive because someone is going to govern our teams, like it or not. Someone will govern the finances, they will govern the quality, and they will govern what we produce—just to name a few issues.
  2. We deserve to be governed well. Our team is made up of intellectual workers, people who are smart and skilled at their jobs. They respond well to leadership, to deciding for themselves what to do, and not very well to management or being told what to do. As a result, effective governance is based on motivation and enablement, not command and control.
  3. Governance is context sensitive. The way a team is governed is situational. A traditional waterfall team is governed in a very different way than an agile project team, which in turn is governed in a different way than a team following the Continuous Delivery: Lean life cycle. Teams that are less experienced or facing significant risk will require more governance than those that are not.
  4. Our team is part of a larger organization, and we need to leverage that. Our organization is a complex adaptive system (CAS), a collection of teams working together in an adaptable and constantly changing manner. And we’ve been doing this for a very long time, in some cases decades and even centuries. We have a wealth of experience, skills, intellectual property, and physical assets available to us that we can use in new ways to delight our customers. The point is that we don’t need to work on our own, and in fact we likely can’t given the complexity that we face, and we certainly don’t need to build everything from scratch.
  5. Effective governance enables collaboration. Given that our organization is a CAS, the leaders who are governing us must focus on helping our teams to be successful. This includes ensuring that we have the resources we require to accomplish our mission and to ensuring that we’re collaborating effectively with the other teams whom we need help from.
  6. We have responsibilities to external stakeholders. Our team has stakeholders to whom we are beholden, and one aspect of governance is to ensure that our team meets their needs. These stakeholders include auditors who need to ensure that we’re compliant to any appropriate regulations or internal processes, legal professionals who help us to address appropriate legal issues, and company shareholders (citizens when we work for a government agency or non-profit) whom we effectively work for.

Key Points

  • Agile/lean teams will be governed by your organizational leadership, and they deserve to be governed well.
  • Effective governance is about motivating people to “do the right thing” and then enabling them to do so.
  • Ineffective governance is about enforcing consistency, processes, or deliverables across teams.

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