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Creating Great Teams: How Self-Selection Lets People Excel


Cover image for Creating Great Teams

Creating Great Teams

How Self-Selection Lets People Excel


People are happiest and most productive if they can choose what they work on and who they work with. Self-selecting teams give people that choice. Build well-designed and efficient teams to get the most out of your organization, with step-by-step instructions on how to set up teams quickly and efficiently. You’ll create a process that works for you, whether you need to form teams from scratch, improve the design of existing teams, or are on the verge of a big team re-shuffle.

Customer Reviews

Teams are the fuel that powers the agile engine. In this book Sandy and David
explore self-selection, a process that helps professionals organize themselves into
effective teams. The detailed descriptions of the why and how of self-selection and
the many examples make this a very useful book. I highly recommend it!

- Ben Linders

Independent consultant in agile, lean, quality, and continuous improvement

This is dynamite! I now realize how much I wish I had had a book like this earlier.
It provides a hands-on path on how to harness people’s motivation through selfselection!
I read it in just one go. Nice structure. Great language. Concrete. Inspiring.
Love it!

- Jimmy Janlén

Agile coach, Crisp and Nomad8

I’ve believed for a long time in the power of self-selection, so I am excited that
there is finally a handbook on how to go about it. Sandy and David give concrete
advice on facilitating self-selection within an organization and what to look out
for. Anyone reading this book will feel prepared to embark on what otherwise
might seem like a very scary journey. I will definitely recommend it to coaches
and organizations I work with.

- Karen Greaves

Agile coach and trainer, Growing Agile

I love this book! I’ve wondered about self-selection and how I might do it. I usually
ask teams to self-select, but very simply and only with two teams. This book has
provided me with step-by-step guidelines on how to scale my approach. I particularly
love the section on what you should do before a self-selection event—an often
overlooked part.

- Samantha Laing

Agile coach, Growing Agile

In Creating Great Teams, you’ll find guidance for building your strongest teams
through self-selection. For most managers, it’s a leap of faith, and the authors
ensure a softer landing. They describe their experiences with self-selection in detail.
You follow along with helpful checklists. In the end, you learn to trust that you
will have the right people focused on the right work. I’m a fan of great liftoff activities
for teams, and this one is outstanding. The self-selection process prepares
people to do their best work and stay engaged. I look forward to sharing this book
with managers and team leaders.

- Diana Larson

Consultant, speaker, and co-author of "Liftoff: Launching Agile Teams and Projects" and "Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great"

See All Reviews

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About this Title

Pages: 102
Published: 2015-11-18
Release: P1.0 (2015-11-16)
ISBN: 978-1-68050-128-5

Discover how New Zealand’s biggest e-commerce company completely restructured their business through Self-Selection. In the process, find out how to create high-performing groups by letting people self-organize into small, cross-functional teams. Step-by-step guides, easy-to-follow diagrams, practical examples, checklists, and tools will enable you to run a Self-Selection process within your organization.

If you’re a manager who wants to structure your organization into small teams, you’ll discover why Self-Selection is the fastest and safest way to do so. You’ll prepare for and organize a Self-Selection event and make sure your Self-Selection participants and fellow managers are on board and ready. If you’re a team member, you’ll discover what it feels like to be part of a Self-Selection process and what the consequences are for your daily work. You’ll learn how to influence your colleagues and bosses to be open to the idea of Self-Selection. You’ll provide your manager with a plan for how to facilitate a Self-Selection event, and with evidence that the system works.

If you’re feeling the pain and chaos of adding new people to your organization, or just want to ensure that your teams have the right people with the right skills, Self-Selection will help you create the effective teams you need.

Q&A with Creating Great Teams authors Sandy Mamoli and David Mole

What is self-selection?
Self-selection a way of letting people choose which team to work in. It is a facilitated process of letting people self-organize into small, cross-functional teams. It is the fastest and most efficient way to form stable teams and is based on a belief that people are at their happiest and most productive if they can choose what they work on and who they work with.

How is self-selection different from self-organization?
Self-organizing teams are groups of motivated individuals who work together toward a shared goal and have the ability and authority to take decisions and readily adapt to changing demands. We like self-organizing teams, but that’s not what this book is about.

This book is about self-selection, which is a process you can use to set up self-organizing teams in the first place. Self-selection happens at an organizational level rather than at a team level and is a way to get everyone into teams. Another term for a self-selected team is a self-designed team.

What are the advantages of self-selection?
From the data we collected we know that self-selected teams are:

  • more stable
  • happier
  • more productive
  • more motivated

Self-selection honors the principles of trusting people to be responsible adults who can solve complex problems and organize in a way that’s best for the organization and themselves. We believe that organizations get the best results when people can choose what they work on and who they work with.

How does self-selection work?
Organize a session where everyone gets together and chooses which team they want to work in.

The process is iterative and facilitated and looks like the figure.

What will people take away from reading your book?
They will learn how to prepare for and organize a self-selection event. If they’re managers, they’ll learn how to convince their fellow managers that it’s a good idea in the first place, and how to communicate with their self- selection participants to make sure everyone is on board and ready.

Developers, testers, BAs, UXers, and anyone else who does hands-on work will learn how to influence their colleagues and bosses to be open to the idea of self-selection. They will be able to provide their bosses with a plan for how to facilitate a self-selection event and evidence that the system works.


Contents & Extracts

  • Acknowledgments* Foreword
  • Introduction: Self-Selection and Why You Should Care
    • What Is Self-Selection?
    • Why Should You Care?
    • We’ve Done It, and So Can You
    • Who Are We?
    • What Problem Did We Need to Solve?
  • The Art of Stable Team Design
    • Today’s Work Demands Stable Teams
    • The Need for Speed
    • The Science Behind Team Design
    • What Next?
  • Preparing for a Self-Selection Event
    • Self-Selection at Scale excerpt
    • Step 1: Conduct a Readiness Check
    • Step 2: Run a Trial
    • Step 3: Get Permission
    • Step 4: Define the Teams to Select
    • Step 5: Coordinate Logistics
    • Step 6: Communicate Early and Often
    • What Next?
  • Getting Ready for the Day
    • Step 1: Define the Rules and Constraints
    • Step 2: Create a Facilitation Plan
    • Step 3: Prepare Frequently Asked Questions
    • Step 4: Prepare Materials and Stationery
    • What Next?
  • Running a Self-Selection Event
    • Step 1: Set Up the Room
    • Step 2: Welcome People as They Arrive
    • Step 3: Introduce the Day
    • Step 4: Let Product Owners Pitch
    • Step 5: Explain the Rules
    • Step 6: Get people started: One, Two, Three, Go!
    • Step 7: Conduct a Checkpoint Review
    • Step 8: Rinse and Repeat
    • Step 9: Tackle the Outstanding Problems
    • Step 10: Wrap Up
    • What Next?
  • After Self-Selection: Now What? excerpt
    • Making It Real
    • Defining Squad Start Dates
    • Kicking Off a New Squad
    • Supporting Squads
    • What Not To Do
    • What Next?
  • Insights
    • People Appreciate Self-Selection
    • Relationships Are the Deciding Factor
    • People Respond Well to This Level of Trust
    • What Next?
  • Long-Term Effects of Self-Selection
    • The Effect on Happiness
    • The Effect on Squads
    • The Effect on Managers
    • The Effect on Productivity
    • The Effect on the Company
    • Now It’s Your Turn
    • What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?


Sandy Mamoli is an Agile enterprise coach and consultant at Nomad8 with a focus on culture and leadership. From working in Amsterdam and Copenhagen to being one of New Zealand’s leading coaches, she brings her practical European flair and passionate advocacy for all things Agile to businesses around the world. Sandy is a former Olympian, a geek, a gadget junkie, and an international public speaker.

David Mole coaches, consults, and presents about Agile processes, teams, and motivation. He recently led an Agile transformation at Trade Me where, building upon the work of Spotify’s culture, he created dozens of high-performing Agile squads. He is a highly regarded public speaker and author for InfoQ. A former professional poker player, David works for Nomad8 helping teams and organizations perform better.