Delegation Game between Product Owner and Teams

In his Agile Management course Jurgen Appelo introduces the Delegation Game for managers to rehearse delegation of authority. The game is all about managers developing intuition in determining what delegation level to use in which situations. The game itself is simple, useful and fun to play. When taken into practice there’s lots of dimensions that you don’t consider while playing: You can delegate the authority when a team is organizing an evening event at your company’s premises. From legal aspect you still might want to review their decisions.

When I was playing the game for the first time I started to think how we could benefit from the idea. Is it enough if we try to master the delegation only in the line management. Quite often we have strong projects running the operations, so the delegation that happens on that arena is at least equally important. How we could apply this between Product Owner (PO) and Team?

The foundation of our thinking of the PO’s and Teams’ roles in the context of decision making is that PO is authorized to decide WHAT gets done and Teams decide HOW it is done. This black-and-white division is to large extent enough. When business aspects are in conflict with the Teams’ view on how the vision is executed there is a conflict. There I see a good opportunity for the Delegation Game.

What if we add more colors to the black-and-white authority division. Let’s say seven colors. Seven levels of delegation. The Delegation Game might boost the PO-Team-cooperation with the HOW decisions.

You are having a tight budget and schedule (as always). Team is going to make a decision on a major refactoring in the critical part of your product. POs out there, what authority level you would use? Level 5?

Janne Irmola

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