The alternative to the traditional hierarchy-based management is the introduction of autonomous work units without formal supervisors, called self-managed teams. According to Brown (2011), the trends in organization development (OD) are characterized by decentralization and the shift in the decision-making authority from top-level executives to lower-level employees. Self-managed teams are temporary or permanent independent groups where members are free to choose how to perform a specific task. One of the major benefits of self-managed teams is the inclusion of members with different skills and from different organizational units, which improves diversity and effective workplace collaboration. Another advantage of the approach is that self-managed teams present the opportunity to develop a comfortable workflow and optimize the functional boundaries and roles of each team member (INSEAD, 2008). Moreover, the organizational structure becomes flat with fewer management levels, so self-managed teams promote equal partnership and require less support and supervision. The main drawback is that self-managed teams may not be appropriate for some tasks, people, or situations (Brown, 2011). Another weakness of autonomous teams is that the lack of training or vague role descriptions might cause unsatisfactory performance results, so external managers need to teach the team how to lead and perform individually.
I would like to work within a self-managed team because the freedom to make decisions, organize workflow, and control the resources required to reach certain goals can considerably improve employees’ motivation and performance. The study by Gill et al. (2020) reveals that conscientious team members demonstrate better performance because they have instrumental work ties and can provide advice on a task. I believe that high-skilled members can inspire colleagues and help improve professional competencies to achieve success, so I would be able to contribute my knowledge and experience for the benefit of the team. Based on the goal-setting theory, participation is the key to commitment, while complex goals improve performance (Brown, 2011). Thus, I support the idea that increased responsibility of individual team members and challenging tasks can efficiently develop team capabilities without formal supervisors, status symbols, and titles (INSEAD, 2008). The team does not have to depend on senior management to allocate materials or funding for the tasks, so flexibility and autonomy may result in improvement and positive outcomes.
External managers of self-managed work teams should be respectful of the expertise and proficiency of the members while considering their abilities as the flexible means for reaching the goals. However, the external manager needs to provide specific guidance on the desired end result and the organization’s vision. Additionally, external leaders of mature teams should be able to communicate the goals in a convincing manner to inspire and motivate team members instead of utilizing coercive or directive leadership styles (INSEAD, 2008). The external manager should serve as a teacher and a role model for team members promoting mutual respect, establishing trust, and creating meaningful feedback channels (Brown, 2011). Furthermore, leaders should be competent in work ethics because positive working relationships with team members are vital for the successful operations of self-managed work teams and organizations. Patience and attention are important competencies for the external manager because workflow disruptions or budget issues may require immediate action to develop an appropriate course of action in a critical situation (INSEAD, 2008). Finally, the external manager should learn to avoid micro-management for short-term results as it undermines the ability of a team to self-organize and negatively affects its morale and productivity.
Brown, D. R. (2011). An experiential approach to organization development (8th ed.). Pearson Education.
Gill, C., Metz, I., Tekleab, A. G., & Williamson, I. O. (2020). The combined role of conscientiousness, social networks, and gender diversity in explaining individual performance in self-managed teams. Journal of Business Research, 206, 250–260. Web.
INSEAD. (2008). Self-managing teams: Debunking the leadership paradox. YouTube. Web.