Agile Transformation: Beyond the Myth of Autonomy


Agile transformation has become synonymous with the promise of autonomous, self-organizing teams. While this concept is enticing, it’s essential to dissect its practicality and impact on an organization. In this article, I will unravel the complexities of Agile transformation and propose a more balanced, effective approach, drawing on insights from our book Leading Beyond Change.

The Autonomy Illusion

Autonomous teams are often seen as the pinnacle of Agile transformation. However, complete autonomy is a myth. Teams may feel empowered initially, but when they hit unforeseen boundaries—what we can term as the “invisible electric fence”—the trust and psychological safety within the team can quickly deteriorate. This misconception sets teams up for failure, breeding resistance and diminishing empowerment. 

Local Optimization: A Hidden Trap

When teams operate autonomously, they tend to focus solely on their tasks, leading to local optimization. This myopic view can hinder the overall performance of the organization, as the global optimum is compromised. Organizational success depends on optimization for the entire organization, not just individual teams.

Self-Organizing: A Double-Edged Sword

Self-organizing teams can yield incredible results when comprised of highly responsible and mature individuals. However, this scenario is rare. For the majority, a sudden shift to self-organization can be overwhelming and counterproductive. It’s crucial to approach self-organization as a long-term goal, gradually increasing autonomy and responsibility as people are developed.

Rethinking Agile Transformation

So, how did autonomous, self-organizing teams become the hallmark of Agile? The popularity of Scrum, a widely adopted Agile framework, plays a significant role. However, it’s important to highlight that Scrum encourages teams to be self-managing within their confines, not fully autonomous.

To foster genuine Agile transformation, we should aim for interrelated, responsible teams, aligning with the SELF Framework‘s maps and tools to create high-performance organizations. These teams optimize for the organization as a whole, understanding their role within the larger ecosystem. This shift from autonomy to interrelatedness, and from self-organization to responsibility, is key to achieving sustainable Agile transformation.


Agile transformation is a journey, not a destination. It requires a shift from the pursuit of autonomy to cultivating interrelated, responsible teams. By aligning our teams with the broader organizational goals and fostering a culture of mutual support and collaboration, we can unlock the true potential of Agile transformation, leading us beyond the myth of autonomy.

About Michael K Michael K Sahota 1 Article
Michael K Sahota, M.Sc., C.E.C. Michael K Sahota has transformed personal challenges into a beacon of transformative leadership, embodying the journey every leader can undertake towards mastery and growth. As the architect of the Shift3.14 Evolutionary Leadership Framework™ (SELF), he offers a pioneering approach that integrates strategy, culture, and leadership, guiding those intent on achieving holistic success. His insightful literary contributions, such as “An Agile Adoption and Transformation Survival Guide”, “Emotional Science: The Key to High Performance”, and “Leading Beyond Change”, are renowned for their blend of leadership wisdom and emotional intelligence. These works provide leaders with both clarity and actionable solutions to pressing challenges. In training and consulting, Michael's impact extends far beyond mere knowledge transfer. Delving deep into the intricacies of the human ego, he equips leaders with transformative tools, fulfilling his mission to ignite the flame of evolutionary leadership, with ripple effects promising global change. Many amplify their leadership impact with Michael's groundbreaking Certified Agile Leadership Training.

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