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Self-Managed Teams

In recent years self-managed teams have become a useful and important approach to improving team performance.  Alternative names for this style of team structure/organisation are ‘self-directed teams’ and ‘semi-autonomous work groups’.

A self-managed team is a team in which the team members take collective responsibility for ensuring that the team operates effectively and meets its targets.

Typically, members of self-managed teams are employees within an organisation who work together, within a broad framework of aims and objectives, to reach a common goal.

When setting up the team, two of the parameters that have to be defined are the levels of responsibility and autonomy that are given to the self-managed team. Hence teams can have varying degrees of autonomy, from teams who have considerable control over their work, and the boundaries within which they operate, to self-managed teams that are set boundaries by team leader/manager.

In general, self-managed teams have considerable discretion over:

  • the work done and setting team goals

  • how work is achieved – which processes are used and how work is scheduled

  • internal performance issues – distributing the work and the contribution made by each member of the team

  • decision making and problem solving.

Benefits of self-managed teams

Individual team members will have the opportunity to use their skills and experience outside their specified remit (or job title) within the organisation. Since team roles within self-managed teams are much more fluid than in hierarchical teams, team members will have increased discretion over their work, which can lead to greater motivation and improved performance.

The team can take quicker and more effective decisions without consulting a team leader or manager. They have the freedom to review and improve working practices whilst working towards common goals.

Increased productivity should result as the indications are that self-managed teams can be 15–20 per cent more productive than other types of team.

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