Self Managed Teams

According to Swati Jena and Nidhi Chandna,” the origin of the word ‘team’ can be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon word for ‘family’ which referred to harnessed animals to pull a load thereby implying common goals and cooperation. With time, the concept of team-work gained importance with organizations taking measures to ensure that a team is equipped and empowered enough to function on its own. This situation today is perhaps best described by the term ’self-managed teams’.”

“Self managed teams are closely associated with the concept of employee empowerment which entails the employee to have the requisite authority and resources required by him to carry out his responsibilities. A self managed team differs from a normal work team or group in one essential way that the processes or the means to achieve the team goal are designed and decided by the team itself. Given the stiff competition at the global level, all organizations have been forced to focus on developing their human capital.”

They describe self managed teams as “groups of employees who have the responsibility and authority to manage the work they do. The typical responsibilities of a self managed team are planning, scheduling, assigning responsibilities among members, ensuring product quality, ordering material, taking decisions and problem solving. The teams are also responsible for handling their interpersonal issues within themselves and work without any direct supervision. Self managed teams are responsible for an end product or a specific deliverable. Knowledge sharing and extensive communication between members is central to the working of any self managed team. Also, multi-skilling is a typical characteristic of self managed teams.”

But how are self managed teams really different from that of quality circles? “Self managed teams differ from other employee participation methods like quality circles in the respect that unlike quality circles where the employees voluntary come together to suggest or develop quality improvements, in self managed teams, the entire work process is structured around team work, with the team taking critical decisions. Also a quality circle may or may not be empowered by the upper management but the empowerment is built into the very concept of self managed teams. Self managed teams unlike quality circles are not managed by an external supervisor, personnel manager, administrator or a quality manager but rather facilitated by a team leader from within the team. He is either chosen by the team members or appointed based on experience or skills.”

They also covered the topic of ‘Why self-managed teams?’ Apparently, “when employees are completely in-charge of their job it is likely to create a greater interest and attachment to job. This also means that the managers can devote their time in innovation and process improvement rather than monitoring the employees. Also, since the employees are the front-liners, their tacit knowledge of even the most miniscule aspect of the job is utilized when they are given the responsibility of the quality and end result. As self managed teams require constant exchange of information, it leads to breaking of communication barriers between groups of employees. Other reported benefits of self-managed teams include: reduced absenteeism, increased productivity and increased employee satisfaction.”

Swati Jena and Nidhi Chandna’s article appeared in an issue of Human Capital’s newsletter.


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