Delegation Boards and Delegation Poker. Managing self-organisation.

Andrii Pavliukov
Sep 1, 2016 · 4 min read

Self-organization is team default behaviour, it’s not a goal to achieve nor a good practice. It happens constantly, and sometimes it goes in a very wrong directions

Lets assume we have few “Scrum” teams. They were launched in a good way by Agile Coach. They seem to adapt Scrum, Agile Values and Principles and some of XP practices. Than, the Coach disappeared, and management left those guys to self-organise further and almost fully delegated all authority (except salary off cause). Guess in what state new hired Agile Coach found those teams in 3 months? Well… Dysfunctional a bit. And even more, they were so self-organised that they simply ignore the new coach and other managers.

To have self-organisation happen in right direction we need to manage it. Manage within context and toward some value and, control authority delegation.

According to Management 3.0 model, there are 7 levels of delegation:

  1. Tell: You make a decision for others and you may explain your motivation. A discussion about it is neither desired nor assumed.
  2. Sell: You make a decision for others but try to convince them that you made the right choice, and you help them feel involved.
  3. Consult: You ask for input first, which you take it into consideration before making a decision that respects people’s opinions.
  4. Agree: You enter into a discussion with everyone involved, and as a group you reach consensus about the decision.
  5. Advise: You will offer others your opinion and hope they listen to your wise words, but it will be their decision, not yours.
  6. Inquire: You first leave it to the others to decide, and afterwards, you ask them to convince you of the wisdom of their decision.
  7. Delegate: You leave the decision to them and you don’t even want to know about details that would just clutter your brain.

This model is symmetrical and works in both directions. Tell is opposite to Delegate, and Consult is reverse of Advise.

The seven levels of delegation can be used to define how decision-making is delegated from a manager to an individual or a team, from a team or individual to a manager, and between individuals or teams in a peer-to-peer manner.

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You can see those levels layered out horizontally on the example below. Vertically are the key decision areas. (I normally use physical board for this exercise and than transfer it to spreadsheet)

To practically do this you’ll need physical board, few sets of Delegation Poker ( or just index cards with 7 levels ), pens, markers and stickies. Explain 7 delegation levels to the team and give examples of key decision areas. I typically prepare few in advance.

Prepare physical board: lay out one set of Poker cards horizontally. Give Team 10–15 minutes to brainstorm key decision areas. I prefer to do this silently on stickies and than merge. Lay decision areas vertically.

Now it’s time for Delegation Poker. Rules are the same as for Planning Poker. You go through one decision area at a time and participants show the relevant delegation level. The highest and lowers numbers are explained. Iterate over to get consensus. Optionally you can draw the range on the board, for example, if you do this exercise without manager or party that delegates authority. Off cause you will need another round with manager in this case, cause delegation boards are controlled by managers

In some cases manager delegates authority to single person and that person might want to delegate it further. I use thing I call Delegation Map to visualise this.

On this example we can see that Engineering and XP practices are delegated to ScrumMaster. ScrumMaster further delegates it to Team at level 5 (advise) and at level 1(tell) to Product Owner. Thats how we achieve visibility and traceability of authority.

  • Delegation is not a binary thing. There are plenty of “shades of grey” between being a dictator and being an anarchist.
  • Delegation is a step-by-step process. You hand over accountability to other people, in a controlled and gradual way.
  • Delegation is context-dependent. You want to delegate as much as possible; but if you go too far, chaos might unfold.

How are you managing authority distribution?

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Originally published at on September 1, 2016.

В нашем блоге и подкасте вы узнаете о том, как строить эффективные команды и организации будущего.

Andrii Pavliukov

Written by

Agile Reactor

В нашем блоге и подкасте вы узнаете о том, как строить эффективные команды и организации будущего.

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