As someone who has many years of experience as both a project manager and a scrum master I can say with authority that letting go of control of a team is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my career. Another equally difficult thing to to allow a team to fail.
Failure is not supposed to be an option, right?
We as parents take off the training wheels and push the kids on their bikes knowing full well that they are going to crash into that bush at the end of the driveway (mine was a holly tree – ouch!). We let them into the pool knowing that they’re going to get water in their mouth. We even send them to school knowing that they almost certainly will get bad grades. They cry and we tell them it’s OK and that they’ll do better next time. Why do this if failure is not an option?
Because failure is the only option.
The second time out on the bike, the child will be less likely to hit that bush. They may make the decision to fall before hitting it or they may figure out how to brake or maintain balance. The second or third time in the pool they learn to stand up or hold their breath. In school they learn to study or follow instructions (we hope). Failure is the only option.
If you are on an agile team this should sound kind of familiar.
If we want high performing teams we have to let the Teams learn by taking off the training wheels, testing the water, and studying how to do things differently. That’s what self-organization is about. Self organization is messy and it uncomfortable, but just like riding a bike or swimming a mile or getting on the honor roll the rewards are worth the effort.