Creating Self-organizing Teams

Although the primary objective of every shura is to determine the best course of action to solve a problem or address an issue, a shura is incomplete if the selected course of action is not implemented. To accomplish this, use the Deliver phase of the ShuraForAll tool.

This phase of the work begins by forming teams. We use teams because we can solve problems best when we interchange ideas, challenge each other's facts and conclusions, and cross-check judgments. In this setting we develop a questioning approach. Rather than assuming that we are on a path that leads to the desired outcome, we constantly test our findings and make revisions where needed.

Roles and Responsibilities of Team Members

Each team is made up of at least three participants with one person designated as the team lead. This person is responsible for the overall performance of the work of the team, coaches other team members, and makes the final decision on all matters requiring team input.

The formation of a team does not have to go through a formal process. The ShuraForAll tool allows teams to form “on demand” according to the situation. Any shura participant can start a team. Other participants join a team by selecting the team from the list of existing teams, and then entering an action step description that they want to carry out. Each team member is responsible for completing the action steps that are self-assigned in this way.

We refer to teams that are formed in this way as self-organizing teams. They hold each other mutually accountable for performing the work. In a classroom context, teachers may determine what students are on teams and who are the team leaders. Students then follow these instructions as they start working in the Deliver phase. Regardless of how teams form, the work remains the same.

But what is different in the case of self-organizing teams is how the work gets done and how learning takes place. This especially applies to situations where knowledge about how to produce a desired result is either largely unknown, or is still developing, or is in a state of significant change.

Knowledge of how to solve complex problems facing many communities throughout the world can be described like this. To grow our knowledge base for these problems we are likely to need to engage many self-organizing teams in working toward addressing the various associated external and internal disruptions.

These disruptions stem from many years of deliberately harmful institutional behaviors that persist today. Examples include government enforced slavery and racism, economic systems based on interest, and government enforced policies in health care, housing, and education that favor selected segments of the world population.

To optimize the potential of self-organizing teams, consider using an approach described by Amy Edmondson’s book Teaming, John Wiley & Sons, 2012. In it she describes a method for engaging what she refers to as a Leadership Coordination Team that communicates with other teams as they perform their work. This approach is enhanced by using ShuraForAll. See the attached description below.

Leadership Coordination Team

This team is responsible for engaging with other teams as they perform their work so that their efforts reinforce each other. It promotes and facilitates the adoption of four key behaviors*.

Made up of a balanced mix of community and non-resident team members, the team brings in people with expertise as needed.

An effective way to engage with other teams is to place a member of the leadership coordination team on each of the other teams. This person is an active participant in performing the work of the team while also helping to coordinate their efforts with other teams.

* Adapted from Amy Edmondson’s book Teaming, John Wiley & Sons, 2012.

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