Freedom Matrix

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Freedom Matrix Advanced

What is a Freedom Matrix?

A Freedom Matrix indicates the Freedom (or mandate) that a team has on a specific topic. For some topics they need to get an approval, for other topics they only need to inform others and for again other topics, they can just freely choose themselves.

Why a Freedom Matrix

The Freedom Matrix helps teams to get clarity on their mandate, decision power and freedom. It clearly indicates the boundaries that they have. Freedom isn’t that they can do whatever they want, it’s also not that they always have to get an approval for everything.

This Freedom Matrix supports Ownership. And Ownership is crucial for self-managing teams to thrive. The Freedom Matrix is closely related to the Ownership-Model. And part of the Agile Leadership Toolkit.

Freedom Matrix Example - One Dimension

How does it work?

A Freedom Matrix consists of two dimensions. It gives clarity on the decision power (freedom) that a team has on a specific topic. The Freedom is divided into 6 steps:

  1. The manager/leader decides and informs the team.
  2. The manager/leader first has to ask feedback and listen to the team, before making a decision.
  3. The manager/leader and the team decide jointly. They collaboratively make a decions.
  4. Before making a decision, the team has to ask the opinion and feedback from the manager/leader
  5. The team decides and informs the manager/leader about this.
  6. The team decides and they follow the process / tool and don’t inform the leader/manager separately.

Topic

The second part of the Freedom Matrix is the topic. This could be anything that builds ownership. For example:

  • Planning
  • Forecasting
  • Prioritization
  • Minimal Quality
  • Marketing choices
  • Expenses while staying within budget
  • Interviews for new team members
  • Hiring members upon a vacancy
  • Firing employees
  • Divide the bonus

Benefits

  • Freedom isn’t black and white: it isn’t that teams can decide in total isolation or can’t decide at all. It’s far more nuanced and a collaboration. This tool makes this clear.
  • Letting go and giving more freedom is a path, not a single step. This tool supports the journey.
  • More mature teams get more freedom than less mature team. It doesn’t need to be the same for all teams.

Pitfalls

  • Complete – don’t try to create a complete list of all the topics at once. Start with a few (roughly 3 or 5) and make iterations.
  • Push freedom – the leader can’t give freedom if the team doesn’t feel safe or confident. Only give that amount of freedom that the team is open to.
  • Claim freedom – the team can’t claim freedom from the manager or leader. The leader has to choose to give. If the leader doesn’t want to give the freedom, talk about small steps that are doable.
  • Put in stone – don’t make it final immediately. Experiment, learn, improve the matrix.

Extended Freedom Matrix

The matrix can be extended by adding the maturity of the team. See also the Ownership model. Low mature (or starting) teams need less freedom than high mature (or experienced) teams.

Freedom Matrix Advanced

Get started

How to get started with this tool? A good approach is to sit with the team do the following:

  1. Talk about their perception of Ownership? What does it mean for them?
  2. Create a common understanding of what Ownership truly means.
  3. Talk about the main bottlenecks and setback that hold them down.
  4. For the parts where mandate, autonomy and/or freedom is unclear, do the following.
  5. Create clarity on 3-8 topics by filling in the Freedom Matrix. Preferably use Freedom Poker. Where everybody can use cards/fingers to indicate what amount of freedom they want/need.
  6. Evaluate after 1-2 months if this helped to build Ownership.
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