Autonomy or alignment: which comes first?

If you've been in the Agile arena long enough, you're probably thinking "both".
Wagner Nunes

Unfortunately, more often than not, neither are at the level they need to be in organizations that are going through an Agile transformation journey, let alone the ones that haven’t started yet – or have started and failed.

Autonomy or alignment Blog

Image source: Henrik Kniberg

At times, when working with clients as the Lead Agile consultant on short-term engagements and when arguing for a laser-focused start on strategic alignment over team autonomy, I often come back to this great analogy and self-explanatory illustration above by Henrik Kniberg.

Not surprisingly, Leaders ask: “but isn’t team autonomy important, too?” Well, the answer is obvious, but here’s the main point I’m trying to get across: imagine two high-performing, highly motivated and very autonomous teams working towards building a solution for a known problem, but there’s no strategic alignment. What do you think can happen? Cue slide with the illustration above and enjoy the audience’s reaction when realizing that all that motivation, team effort and resources can end up being a massive waste of time and money.

Hopefully this conversation, aided by the example above, can provide an “A-ha!” moment to your Sponsor and other Leaders in letting you help them focus on building purposeful, relentless and continuous alignment as something that needs to be front and center in Leaders’ and Managers’ activities at all levels of the organization.

Have you come across similar challenges in your organization? Do you need any help creating and nurturing alignment and autonomy across your teams? Reach out to us at for a chat, we’d be happy to help.