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'Owning' Collective Ownership

Group projects. We’ve all been there. Having to work with other people, randomly allocated by the teacher in order to supposedly prepare everyone for the workplace, and finding yourself in a situation where you are working with classmates that might as well be strangers. You have just about managed to carve out the work, equally allocated and organised. You’ll write a script to recite for the teacher about the topic. Everyone has written their parts down and practiced together. It sounds good, and not robotic and forced like group projects often can.

You want this assignment over and done with. Why should your mark for this class depend on two other people? You’d rather be judged on your own merits. But, you suck it up, keep your head down and wait it out.

Suddenly, it’s the big day. Your presentation is first period. Your mark for the term is heavily determined by the group’s performance, and you and your team have worked hard to make sure every single base is covered. All that needs to happen is you go up there, read your passage of the script, and sit back down. All will be well.

Except, you’ve been sat in class for fifteen minutes and Alex still isn’t here. Alex still isn’t here! The middle section of this presentation is in their class book. You’re screwed. Doomed.

You’re not allowed to sift through your classmates’ books, it’s a breach of privacy, and even if you were allowed, you couldn’t read Alex’s handwriting. All of your efforts for the last week of lessons has been in vain. You’ll have to improvise.

Panic sets in.

The flow of your supposedly perfect presentation is tripped up by not remembering all the points from Alex’s part of the presentation. Your face is hot, and you don’t want to look unprepared, but, you couldn’t have seen this coming. This is so unfair. You wish the floor would just swallow you whole.

As much as we hate to admit it, group projects are part of the real-world, in different ways; you find yourself collaborating directly with others in your department, at varying proximities to the point where if one has taken a day holiday, or is off-sick, it’s like Alex, all over again, and you feel like you’re floundering.

One of the principles of creating agile teams within a workplace is to implement the idea of collective ownership over ideas, and work. This is explained in SAFe Distilled 5.0: Achieving Business Agility With Scaled Agile Framework by Richard Knaster and Dean Leffingwell. In the sixth chapter of the book, they say that “collective ownership means that anyone can change an artefact to enhance the system or improve its quality. This reduces dependencies between and within teams and ensures that a team member’s absence doesn’t block progress”, meaning that unlike in class, where you weren’t allowed to snoop in Alex’s book for a chunk of the presentation, you’re in a scenario where the work is in a centralised database, with access to all. Collective ownership means in bigger teams, you are not limited by who is in the office and who is not. Central databases, and shared folders have proven their worth in gold over the last year and a half, and their impact on remote working cannot be understated. They have made work on the go increasingly as accessible and meant that staff no longer need to be tethered to their desks to have an impact at work.

It has also meant that absence is no longer a hindrance to teams being productivity; this therefore lessens the intensity to which employees who may be feeling under the weather, etc. feeling as if they have been emotionally manipulated to go into work and put in a poor performance because their contribution on the daily was a necessity.

Creating collective ownership in your teams ought to allow you to strengthen departmental rapport, and boost communication within both your agile teams and your other employees. We encourage taking the steps to implement this practice at work.

Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (, is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.

He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.

The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.

To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address:

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