LORI L. SILVERMAN Partners for Progress 19202 N. 31st Drive Phoenix, AZ 85027 USA firstname.lastname@example.org www.partnersforprogress.com www.wakeupmycompany.com +1 623 516 4932 office ANNABETH L. PROPST Fuller & Propst Associates 41W202 Whitney Road St. Charles, IL 60175, USA email@example.com
INTRODUCTION Over the past few years, there has been much talk about the benefits of self-managed teams (also known as self-directed teams, natural teams, or semiautonomous work groups). Everyone seems to want some form of them in their organization. A number of books and articles have been written on the subject since they were first introduced in the 1940s as a method of employee involvement. They typically list the activities and steps the organization should follow to develop self-managed teams, outline the skills required of team leaders and team members, and describe the phases an organization goes through to achieve its objective of employing self-managed teams. These books and articles contain good ideas and useful information, yet many organizations do not have fully functioning self-managed teams. Why is this? We believe it is due, in part, to the lack of a model that describes the roles of self-managed teams within organizations. This paper introduces such a model that includes the following roles: ■ Uphold organizational and personal values and principles; ■ Accomplish the team’s work; ■ Organize the team’s work environment; ■ Manage the team’s work processes; ■ Participate in organization-wide systems; ■ Participate in organization-wide strategies; and ■ Manage team processes. The types of responsibilities that are a part of each role and how each role fits within the overall work of the organization are detailed here. In addition, we provide steps for introducing your organization and your work group to this model. WHAT IS A SELF-MANAGED TEAM? Even though the terms “self-managed” and “self-directed” are used frequently, they are rarely defined. As several authors have noted, there is no such thing as a typical self-managed team © COPYRIGHT 1996 PARTNERS FOR PROGRESS AND FULLER & PROPST ASSOCIATES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
(Holpp, 1993, Shonk, 1992). Yet, it has been our experience that having a common definition can serve as a framework for discussion and dialogue on this topic. In 1990, Development Dimensions International, the Association for Quality and Participation, and Industry Week conducted a study on the current practice surrounding selfdirected teams. The study defined a self-directed team as “a group of employees who have day-to-day responsibility for managing themselves and the work they do. Members of self-directed teams typically handle job assignments, plan and schedule work, make production-related decisions, and take action on problems. Members of self-directed teams work with a minimum of direct supervision. As such, the teams are not quality circles or cross-functional task groups. ... [T]hese teams are characterized by: ■ Face-to-face interaction in natural work groups; ■ Responsibility for producing a definable product; ■ Responsibility for a set of interdependent tasks; and ■ Control over managing and executing tasks.” (page 4) This definition outlines the “end state” to which work groups evolve when they finally become self-managed teams. However, organizations also need to understand the process surrounding how teams become self-managed over time. Zawacki and Norman (1994) suggest that successful self-managed teams evolve through five stages. These are: ■ Stage 1: The typical hierarchical structure where the leader provides one-on-one supervision; ■ Stage 2: The leader evolves into a group manager whose role is making the transition into team coordinator/coach; ■ Stage 3: The group manager becomes the team coordinator and provides a structure for self-managed team members to receive the necessary training to take on more leadership tasks; ■ Stage...