Discuss self-managing teams. Have you experienced such teams? Discuss your experiences from both a positive and a


Discuss self-managing teams. Have you experienced such teams? Discuss your experiences from both a positive and a negative perspective.


Self-managing teams are increasingly part of modern organizational life. These teams also are called self-directed teams, self-leading teams, self-regulating teams, or empowered teams. If properly designed, such groups adopt the good features of face-to-face workgroups and use knowledge about groups and their dynamics. Modern technology lets people work at remote locations connected to each other over the Internet or over an organization’s intranet.

A self-managing team is a group of people doing interdependent tasks to produce a product or deliver a service. Team members manage most aspects of their work, including making member work assignments, choosing a leader, and assessing their work quality. Managers should not use self-managing teams when people should work independently or when they want to work independently. Sports teams have many examples of task independence and task interdependence in team success. Swimming, track, and gymnastics rely on  individual athletic performance, not a group of them in an interdependent relationship. Hockey, soccer, and basketball depend on closely coordinated interdependent athletes for success. Successful self-managing work teams in organizations depend on these same factors.

An organization that relies on self-managing teams moves decisions to the teams. Managers authorize the teams to decide about product design, process design, and customer service. Decentralization and self-managing teams flatten organizations by removing one or more layers of management. The result is often a nimble organization poised to meet changing opportunities and constraints in the external environment.

Managers assume team members have more knowledge about the technical aspects of their work and specific tasks than do other people. Team members share their technical knowledge among themselves and help train new members. Teams usually have specific quantity and quality goals to reach. Managers hold the team accountable for reaching these goals, but let the team decide how to reach them.

Team size and composition can affect team performance. Large groups typically perform worse than smaller groups. Some experts recommend teams of five to seven members. Managers need to balance the heterogeneity and homogeneity of the team and select team members based on skills and abilities required by technical tasks. Teams with members who have experience in many functional areas of an organization can perform higher than teams with members from few functional areas. Managers also need to consider the social skills of team members. They should choose those who are comfortable interacting with other people and who believe they can perform effectively in a team environment. 

Team processes include cooperative behavior, interdependence, and conflict management. The interaction, activities, and sentiments view described earlier applies to self-managing teams. Organizations use self-managing teams to maximize the benefit of the technical and social abilities of team members. Wellmanaged teams guide themselves through the inevitable conflict and emerge as cohesive teams with widely shared goals of quality work performance. Team leader selection varies widely among self-managing teams. Some teams choose their leader without management approval. In other cases, management appoints the leader or approves a team’s recommendation. In still other situations, a team will not have an appointed leader. Leadership responsibilities and duties rotate among team members.

Organizations that use self-managing teams often use group-based performance rewards. They base the rewards on team performance, not individual performance. The reward goes to the team and is distributed to team members as either a percentage of base pay or a fixed amount. Research evidence shows positive performance effects of such rewards.

Self-managing teams can directly interact with suppliers and customers inside and outside the organization. Direct interaction with customers gives teams quick, accurate feedback. Such feedback can play an important role in sustaining member motivation, as noted in Chapter 9, “Intrinsic Rewards and Job Design.” Interactions with suppliers let information flow quickly in both directions. Suppliers can inform a team of any changes in what they supply; the team can inform suppliers about quality or scheduling problems so the supplier can quickly correct the problem.

Managers in organizations using self-managing teams have many roles that can help team performance. Typically, several teams report to a manager. The manager plays a supportive role for the teams by getting needed resources and managing conflict between teams and other parts of the organization. She also plays an informative role, getting critical information to the team. Such information can focus on team performance, the team’s contribution to the larger organization, or the organization’s direction.

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