Autonomy: Not Just the Good Parts

It's a common lament from management that development teams don't take ownership of the product they're developing.

This may mean:
  • Caring about the quality of the product
  • Proactively implementing improvements to the product
  • Not waiting to be told what to do
The Agile Manifesto talks about self-organizing teams:
The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
It's a beautiful concept: teams that rally around a product, nurturing it like it was their own child. Why is it so hard to find people like that?

Actually, those people are everywhere. They've probably just had their hand slapped or their heart broken too many times.

Let's think: What is it that makes a development team want to take ownership of a product? It's probably because they like creating something in their own image, in their own way.

Who wants to own an ugly product that has been foisted on them by the decisions of people whose command always takes precedence over their own?

This isn't the team's baby anymore, it's yours. No one is going to raise your child.

Perhaps this goes without saying, but micromanagement and autonomy are incompatible. If you want the team to own the product, then they own the details, too.

If you want the team to take ownership, then the product has to look like them, warts and all. You don't just get the good parts.