What are Self Managed Teams?
Most organizations, if not all, worry about employee turnover rate, productivity, employee engagement, organizational conflicts, etc. There are N number of solutions to handle each issue.
But have you ever thought of giving total ownership to your teams? Imagine a group of employees being accountable for all aspects of producing a product or a service.
We can hear you thinking “isn’t that the responsibility of an employee? To be accountable for what he/she does?”
No. Almost all companies with traditional organizational structures have hierarchies where the employee is given a task depending on their functional skills by their respective bosses.
When a company has self managed teams, the employees work toward the core vision of the organization with minimal or no supervision at all. Only then, the employee becomes accountable for all their actions.
For some of you, it might sound utopic or like a communist idea which is not feasible. Surprisingly, it is feasible and has been in practice for a very long time.
Various fast-food chains are using Self Managed Teams since the 1990s when they had a shortage of managers for supervision. How did they do it?
First, we need to understand what a Self Managed Team is.
If a group is cross trained to possess different job skills, they can be put together to carry out different tasks at hand. Though this sounds like a recipe of chaos, it is in fact the recipe of optimal productivity.
Most employees work 40-45 hours per week performing various tasks. But are they giving their best? When we say best, we are not discussing mere productivity. Is each employee being accounted for their contribution to the vision of the organization?
The answer is No. They just do their job and go home. For them, it is just a job. For the employer, he/she is just a resource. A self-managed team won’t work that way. They work as a single entity.
For example, if your company manufactures automobile engines. An employee of your company might describe his/her job as ‘I am responsible for producing xyz component of the engine’ instead of saying ‘I am responsible for producing the engine’.
Employees of companies having traditional structures lack awareness of the company’s vision. To establish a self managed team, employees should be made aware of the company’s vision and make their work aspirational. When the work is made aspirational, employees become self-motivated, put in their best energy and abilities to reach organizational goals.
How to Create Self-Managed Teams?
Creating a self-managed team is not a step by step process rather if the basic requirements are met, you have a self-managed team. Consultancies such as our’s expertise in developing self managed teams in the organization as a part of our organizational development plan.
It is important to note that these requirements are called basic not because they are easy to implement. They are called basic because they are the core requirements that need utmost importance.
Communication is the most important aspect of a self-managed team.
In traditional organizational structure, the manager is responsible for defining goals, strategy, functioning and methods of the entire team where he tells each employee what is expected out of him/her.
But in a self-managed team, these goals, functions, methods, and tasks are decided by the employees themselves. They all discuss together what can be done, their shortcomings, who does what, etc and come up with a plan.
This calls for excellent communication and transparency between individuals. Here, both leaders and employees need to work in tandem to achieve organizational goals. The catch is if one doesn’t understand what needs to be done, it affects the whole team.
When companies implement self managed teams, they make sure that communication between employees and teams is robust. This develops a sense of camaraderie among the employees, improves the happiness quotient at work and increases the overall productivity of the team.
Self managed teams focus on the outcome than the work to be done on daily basis. If your organization’s goals are getting reached, why do you have to decide who is eligible for X number of days of vacation?
A well-developed Self managed team would discuss and come up with their own paid time offs (PTO). Everyone’s needs are different. The reason why they take vacation could be anything ranging from something as simple as recharging themselves to something as serious as recovering from an accident.
The employer must ensure that the company’s vision is being realized. The team manages the vacation taken by the employees on their own.
Here, the management needs to make sure that vacations are not taken for the wrong reasons.
Data-driven management through reporting and tracking is an effective way to oversee and resolve these issues. Every employee should submit a weekly report on the number of man-hours worked, tasks completed successfully versus what is expected out of them, number of PTO they have taken, etc. This not only enhances transparency but also helps in managing vacation time.
Usually, managers of respective teams get involved in hiring new employees. All the other employees will have to put up with the new hire.
Whereas when you have a self managed team, the team members get involved in the hiring process to see if the prospective candidate is a cultural fit for their team. This gives the team members better understanding of the new employee and how to best utilize him/her.
Just like all the other aspects of self-managed teams, the budget also plays a crucial role. Unlike the traditional structure where only the top management and the finance team know about the financial statuses, self-managed teams have all its members aware of the budget of the company.
On one hand, they know the organization’s vision and goals. On the other hand, they are aware of the budget and financial constraints.
This makes them stay alert and cautiously plan for any kind of expenses ranging from marketing, procurement or operational expenses to employee engagements, team vacation, etc.
Whereas when you have a self managed team, the team members get involved in the hiring process to see if the prospective candidate is a cultural fit for their team. This gives the team members a better understanding of the new employee and how to best utilize him/her.
Self-Managed Team Myths
Now that you know how self-managed teams are developed, let’s break down the myths surrounding self managed teams.
1. There’s no direction
Since self-managed teams work without supervision, it is often misunderstood that there is no boss at all and that there is no direction.
When a team is self-managed, leadership comes naturally through experience and expertise. Employees with superior experience and expertise guide others towards the goal. Different issues call for different people in the team for leadership and guidance. Hence, there is direction but not one leader.
2. All are equal. This is communism in a new cover.
First of all, Self managed team is not about all employees are equal and have equal power.
Employees in self-managed team have different roles and responsibilities. It is just that all of them focus on the same goal rather than their task.
For example, you have a street light on your street and a desk lamp in your room. Both the lamps provide light to help you to see. The goal for you is to see but the roles these lamps play are different.
Members in a team are at different levels yet they work towards the same goal.
3. Decision making takes longer time
Since most decisions regarding target, tasks, duration, etc are taken by the team members, it is assumed that they need consensus of all the team members.
Companies having self managed teams have set up a decision making process to speed up this process. Only the stakeholders think through and make decisions while the management oversees whether the decisions taken are aligning with the organizational goals.