Aligned Autonomy in Practice
IT Management

Aligned Autonomy in Practice

In my previous post I discussed Engineering Culture and how essential it is to welcome the reality that you require to act like a software application business. In this post I wish to dive a bit deeper in to an element of the pillar “Empowering Operating Design”.

When it concerns the operating design of a software application business I genuinely think in autonomy, putting duty and choices near to the location the real work is done. That implies that the software application engineers and other individuals that do the genuine work require to be empowered to make choices. And with the power to make choices, they likewise require to be accountable and liable.

To execute this idea, I truly like the theories of worth stream lined up groups, platform groups and end-to-end accountable groups. Organizing groups around a worth stream and put the functions and individuals in the group that are required to do the task is essential.

Nevertheless, when you have a variety of various groups and a variety of various items and are rather larger, complete autonomy is not perfect. You may wind up with 5 various software application stacks or suddenly have a multi-cloud technique. In the photo listed below, that is from Henrik Kniberg at his time at Spotify, explains this issue superbly. The term. “Lined up Autonomy”.

As you can see in this photo it is everything about discovering the ideal balance in between positioning and autonomy. Excessive positioning and everybody does precisely what you state. Every choice requires to have an approval and you get what you desire however not what you require (mmm. great lyrics from Coldplay here

On the other side of the spectrum there is just autonomy. Everyone is doing as she or he likes. The group does what appears right at the minute. Company objectives, basic etc. are not required since … autonomy. The perfect mix of the 2 is “Lined up autonomy”. Clear guardrails, company objectives, vision and function so that groups and individuals can make their own choice that remain in line with the larger photo. However, this is much easier s from Supervisor side, from group side

I typically get concerns or remarks about this. What is an excellent way to accomplish this. Groups typically feel that they are restraint. They play the “excessive positioning” card. Supervisors and C-Level typically ask me hoe they can get some level of insight and (sorry for the word) control about choices that are made. A while ago a coworker and PO camera e up with some great concept and when I integrated that with some concepts I had previously, this may be a method to accomplish some lined up autonomy.

Choice type 1 and 2

As stated, this concept is from a coworker that had problem with the positioning in his group. To make it clear for anyone when was great time to request some “approval” or a minimum of seek for some positioning, he presented the Choice type 1 and Choice type 2. Do not hesitate to discover a sexier term.

Choice type 1 is all choice that can be gone back within 1 or 2 weeks or are extremely low-cost (less that you cost in 2 days). An easy tool, a plan that you utilize, a license that you purchase, a conference you check out. Do not ask, simply do. Make the call. Do not get postponed.

On the other hand there is choice type 2. Choices that are difficult to roll back, or that require some believing upfront. Which cloud are we going to select, which tech stack will be the requirement, what tool will we purchase? Those choices require to be gone over, or a minimum of ben made noticeable to management and vice versa. When management chooses something, they require to interact that.

However what is an excellent design here? A while back I discovered this design from Martin Fowler. He speaks about the guidance procedure and how you can improve this without making particular individuals the traffic jam.

Summarized this will be as follows:

  • Somebody has an idea/decision of type 2
  • You go over with another SME
  • You tape your (pre-) choice in an Architectural Choice Record (ADR)
  • You go over in an online forum with like minded individuals
  • You change where required and choose


By making it clear that there are various kind of choices and surround that with some guardrails, it is much easier for individuals to comprehend and welcome the idea of lined up autonomy. When you even more execute the guidance procedure as explained by Martin Fowler, you offer groups a fantastic start to be more self-governing without losing touch as management and vice versa.

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