Last Updated 16 Apr 2021

Self-Managed Work Teams

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Self-managed work teams are work teams that are given permission to organize and control the work that they do. Self-managed work teams are independent and interdependent as the self-managed work teams itself is independent while the members are interdependent. The team is self-regulating, operating with few external controls. Team members determine schedules, procedures and the need to make adjustments.

Self-managed work teams delegates specific responsibility and decision-making authority to the team itself, it is expected that the individual will set their own goals, monitor progress, adjust behavior to increase the chances of attaining goals and in some instances even self-reward or punishment comparing to the traditional work team, in where it is control completely by the management. By Self-managed work teams, each independent is given freedom and responsibility to accomplish tasks in an efficient way as the main idea of self-managed work teams is positional authority.

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By adopting self-managed work teams, the individuals can create synergy through the contribution of several team members all engaged on the same task, while psychological well-being arises through increased opportunities for interaction between team members and involvement in job-related decision making. 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.

Self-managed Work Teams Diciplines:

In order for an organization that wanted to establish and achieve the self-managed work teams from the traditional teams, there are disciplines of the self-managed work teams that need to be follow. These disciplines are a set of skills, approaches, insights, and practices that are not typically mastered by more conventional teams. As the disciplines itself, is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, the teams need to move toward self-management along a continuum from "other-directed" to becoming self-directed.

By mastering the self-managed work team’s disciplines, it is the main key to achieve and understand the concept of self-managed work teams itself. These disciplines also ensure the long-term success of the teams. A self-managed work teams discipline consists of:

  • Establish & Communicate the Boundaries of Team Authority: Aside from defining the boundaries of the team authority, a self-managed work teams must clearly communicate to its members, to the steering committee, to other teams, and to the entire organization the specific boundaries of its ole and authority. When a self-managed work teams can’t uphold its communication it can cause a self-destruction, as it fail to negotiate a clear and agreed-upon charter up-front. Aside, to maintain the communication between members, a consistent measurement or checking is required to ensure its relevancy.
  • Develop Cross-Functional Skills or Knowledge: Another difference of self-managed work teams and conventional team is that all members of the team are intimately familiar with all of the tasks done within the team. All members on a self-managed work teams must not only understand the variety of jobs and tasks performed within the team, they must also have the capability to perform each of these jobs or tasks. Training all team members in each other's tasks is an important component of the self-managed work teams skill or practice set.
  • Develop Critical Thinking Skills: A self-managed work teams must critically evaluate its role in the organization, its charter, and its goals, its evolving norms of behavior, its performance, its successes and others. A self-managed work teams must always examining its processes, its environment and its results. The skills of critical thinking include identifying our mental models or assumptions, challenging the "context" within which the team operates imagining and exploring alternative realities, and becoming "reflectively skeptical. "
  • Become Self-Directed Learners: Conventional work teams often depend upon the learning priorities set by management or the training office; self-managed work teams break this dependency and define for themselves what they need to know. Aside from learning their job, the team also learn to handle responsibility for identifying needed skills and knowledge essential for their and the company's long-term success. The team assumes full responsibility for exploring what they must know and master next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. The self-managed work teams’ works with the training office to discover new methods and approaches for learning what the team needs to become self-directed, long-term learners.

Manage Team Performance:

Conventional teams may be involved in goal setting and performance evaluation, but management still plays a major role in molding these goals and in evaluating the team's performance. A self-managed work teams assumes full responsibilities for these tasks, the self-managed work teams, therefore, must be trained in the skills and knowledge of team performance management. This includes the skills of goal setting, establishing benchmark standards, evaluating performance against standards, developing plans for performance improvement.

Manage Human Resources:

In traditional work teams, management usually assumes the primary responsibility for defining needed positions, recruiting the right candidates, establishing criteria for evaluating the candidates, selecting the new worker, and orienting him or her to the job. Further, once the employee is on the job, management then monitors and evaluates the employee's performance and takes corrective action if required to improve performance. However, the self-managed work teams assume full responsibility for managing its human resources.

Following guidelines established by the HR department, the self-managed work teams usually performs all of the functions that result in a new hire. It also assumes responsibility for resolving individual performance problems that occur when individual members don't meet team expectations. As a result, team members must learn to master such HR skills as recruiting and selecting new hires, monitoring individual performance, and then taking action to correct performance problems. While it might be true that SMWTs will approach performance problem solving quite differently than traditional management approaches (e. . , looking for cause not blame), the team must be capable of dealing with the team member who fails to work effectively with the team. This may even include the difficult task of disciplining or even terminating a team member. Although managing its human resources may be the hardest skill for the team to master, it is probably the most critical to the team's long-term success. Self-directed work teams, also known as self-managing teams, represent a revolutionary approach to the way work is organized and performed.

Instead of organizing work based on the traditional Taylor model -- reducing a process to individual steps -- work becomes restructured around whole processes. There must be interdependence and joint responsibility for outputs if there is to be a self-directed work team. Whereas the traditional system reduces the required skill at every level of work, producing boredom in the bottom-level jobs, the new system integrates the needs of the people with the work to be done, and those closest to the jobs help design the job.

Leading A Self-managed Work Teams:

The leadership role in a self-managed team is very different from that of a team leader in a traditional hierarchical team such as a functional team. In a hierarchical team the team leader allocates work. In contrast, in a self-managed team, the leadership role involves taking on more of a supporting role, which includes identifying the long-term career and personal development needs of the team within the context of the overall organization. The team leadership role in a:

  • Hierarchical team
  • Self-managed team
  • The role is vested in one individual.
  • The role may be shared.
  • To manage the team. To support the team by providing (or arranging others to provide) coaching and advice.
  • To plan and allocate the work done by the team.
  • To agree, in discussion with the team, the standard of work and the aims, objectives and targets of the team.
  • To monitor and appraise the performance of team members in carrying out the tasks allocated to them.
  • To monitor the achievement of the team as a unit. To appraise individual performance.
  • To motivate the team members.
  • To provide the conditions for high motivation.
  • To act as the main contact point for communication between the team and the rest of the organisation. To facilitate the creation of channels of communication with the rest of the organisation.

The Differences Between Conventional Teams And Self-managed Work Teams:

In an organization, there are many types of work teams that is apply in the organization itself, each of the work teams have different structure and way of communication with their members. The differences of work teams’ structure

  • Managed Team: A group of people working together toward a common goal. The ‘what’ will happen, ‘where’ it will happen and ‘how’ it will happen is set by the organisation and/or the manager.
  • Self-Managed Team: Is a group of people working together in their own way toward a common goal which is defined outside the team. The team decides their work schedule, in what order, when to deliver, how, to what standards, and by whom.
  • Self-Directed Team: A group of people working together in their own way toward a common goal which the team defines. They will perform all of the above but in addition also have input on recruitment to the team, training, compensation, performance management, discipline, and acts as a profit center by defining its own future.

The difference of self-managed work teams with conventional teams is self-managed work teams complete an entire piece of work, whether it's a product, a service, or part of a large product of service. The team assigns tasks that individual team members perform. In other words, the team plans, organizes, and controls work activates with little or no direct involvement of a higher status supervisor. Self-managed work teams control most work inputs, flow, and output. Aside, they are responsible for correction work flow problems as they occur.

On other words, the teams maintain their own quality and logistical control. Self-managed work teams receive team-level feedback and rewards. This recognizes and reinforces the fact that the team - not individuals - is responsible for the work, although team members may also receive individual feedback and rewards. Characteristics of a mature self-managed work teams

Success Factors Towards Self-managed Work Teams:

There are some factors that need to be considered by the organization as those factors are the success factors towards self-managed work teams. When an organization neglects those factors, there is a high possibility that the organization will not achieve an effective self-managed work teams.

Learn: A key success factor for self-managed teams is to be open to, and continuously gather, information about how other self-managed teams are operating, through meetings and other forms of communication. These may be teams within the organization or within other organizations. Even if the self-managed teams learn about work in other organizations whose business is very different to the original organization, there may still be valuable lessons to learn. Aside, the organization should consider involving representatives of successful self-managed teams as mentors to the team, if possible.


Just because a team is self-managed doesn't mean it can work with a nebulous structure where nobody is clear about who does what. There is a need to structure the team in the most efficient way. This will depend on the organization's business, the team's function and the individuals within it. Some self-managed teams work best where one member serves as a leader. Others are successful where all members are of equal status. However, the common success factor is that everyone is very clear about roles and accountability's within the team. Achieve Most likely, a self-managed team will be endeavoring to achieve outcomes agreed with the organization's management team. However, within the team, each employee have different goals, like they wanted to try and achieve more than the agreed outcomes, as an indication that the self-managed team is functioning to a commendable level of efficiency and success. A self-managed team's achievements are particularly important where elements within the organization are dubious about the wisdom of implementing the teams. Evaluate Evaluation is an important part of a successful self-managed work teams. Just as in any organizational structure, evaluation is the way of discovering to what extent aims and objectives have been achieved. A critical success factor of all self-managed teams is the ability to respond positively to evaluation, identify where improvements can be made and develop a plan to implement the changes needed to deliver them.

Advantages Versus Disadvantages:

There is nothing perfect in a work teams, there are always limitations of it but aside of limitation, there are benefits of the work teams. The organization can decrease the impact of its limitation by improving in that certain weak area. The advantages of self-managed work teams are:

  • Job Satisfaction: With self-managed teams, employees have more job satisfaction because they are directly involved in the day to day running of a company and are more independent. This direct involvement helps them to identify more closely with a company's objectives. Employees also derive a sense of satisfaction from developing new decision-making and problem-solving skills and working as part of a close-knit team.
  • Improved Productivity: According to "Business Week," companies that use self-managed work teams are 30 to 50 percent more productive than those with a traditional hierarchy. This is because workers have a greater commitment to company goals when they are more closely involved in helping to achieve these goals. Having a greater share in the results ensures that teams quickly address a product's problems and defects and are sensitive to customers' needs and requests. Self-directed work teams have a wide range of skills because of the diverse backgrounds of individual members.

This helps teams to develop innovative products and services and to take a creative approach to problem-solving.

  • Increased compatibility between employers and employees: Self-managed teams can relieve stress for the leader, who is then able to concentrate on other tasks. The team is mutually supportive and members learn from each other instead of approaching the team leader for advice.
  • Commitment: Team members can become more involved in projects as a direct result of having increased autonomy and responsibility.
  • Motivation: Team members have shared or equal responsibility so members are accountable for their actions.

The disadvantages of self-managed work teams are:

  • Extensive Training: Companies making the transition from a traditional management structure to self-managed work teams must invest considerable time and resources in training people in management skills. Training goes through several stages and this process can last between two and five years. Employees get additional training in providing customers service and satisfaction and must learn how to work effectively as part of a team.
  • Managing Managers: Managers may actively resist the concept of self-managed work teams because it makes their role effectively redundant.

Organizations may have to offer additional professional training to managers before they can reassign them to jobs that offer the same level of pay and status. Managers being reassigned need to receive highly specialized technical training.


The introduction of employee empowerment through self-managed teams program can provide the necessary edge required to remain competitive in today's global market. However, no empowerment program can be successful in the long term if management does not take adequate steps before the program is introduced and utilize an adequate management strategy once the program has been initiated. The pre-program steps and the management strategy must be more than words on paper. Management must be sold on the idea of employee empowerment and develop a management strategy that fully supports the empowerment program or it will eventually fail. If management supports its self-managed teams, they will foster its success. In Asia itself, companies are not familiar with the terms of Self-Managed Work Teams as in Asia having a particular leader are viewed as the best option in a management. There is still a high importance of hierarchy in the Asian society.


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