Why This is Important
There are several reasons why this goal is important:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.