Tap to Read ➤

Self-Managed and Self-Directed Teams

Jay C Jul 15, 2020
In a business, a self-management team is a group of employees who together are responsible for a specific process, whose output is delivered to internal or external clients.
The service industry is getting more attention in the B-World. It has never been as easy to establish a company, a listed company. Production and operations companies have seen so many business management concepts for quality control and best team management practices including quality circles.
Emery suggested, "In designing a social system to efficiently operate a modern capital-intensive plant, the key problem is that of creating self-managing groups to man the interface with the technical system."
The basis of the autonomous work group approach to job design is the socio-technical system theory that suggests the best results are obtained if grouping is such that workers are primarily related to each other by way of task performance and interdependence.
Charles Peguy described, "A man is not determined by what he does and still less by what he says. But in the deepest part of himself, a being is determined solely by what he is." A self-management team is made of such persons who are motivated by self.


A self-managing team or autonomous work group is allocated an overall task and given discretion over how the work is done. It provides for intrinsic motivation by providing people autonomy and the means to control their own work, which will include feedback.
Self-directed teams are those that have been structured to manage and coordinate their own activities, and make many of the day-to-day decisions that would have traditionally been made by a supervisor or manager. They usually have responsibility for a complete piece of work (such as engine assembly) and they work quite closely and interdependently.
According to a research study, the TQM and mass-production organized groups did not improve customer service quality or sales volume. While self-managed teams improved sales by 9.4% and the quality of customer service by 6.3%.
In fact, comprehensive surveys report that 79% of companies in the Fortune 1000 currently deploy such "empowered," "self-directed," or "autonomous" teams. Because of their widespread use, much research has been devoted to understanding how best to set up such teams to maximize their effectiveness.

Understanding Multi-Skilled Teams Better

Self-managing teams incorporate the concepts of Hackman and Oldham's job characteristics model:
  • Autonomy
  • Skill variety
  • Task significance
  • Task identity
  • Feedback
Their features include:
  • The team enlarges individual jobs to include a wider range of operative skills.
  • It decides on methods of work and the planning, scheduling, and controlling of work.
  • It distributes tasks among itself, i.e., its members. It plans and guards the process on its own, solves daily problems, without having to consult a manager or supporting services.
  • It takes account of the social or group factors, and the technology as well as the individual motivators.
  • It maintains independent contact with others teams and staff.
  • It improves working methods on its own, and has all the relevant information available on the basis of which they evaluate their results.
  • Its members possess both, qualifications on the product they deliver as well as certain organizational qualities.

Self-Management Team Development

According to Vanessa Urch Druskat and Jane V. Wheeler, leading self-managed teams in an organization is a process that can be grouped into four basic functions.
  • Continually moving back and forth between the team and the broader organization to build relationships.
  • Scouting necessary information from managers, peers, and specialists.
  • Persuading the team and outside constituents to support one another.
  • Empowering team members through coaching, delegating authority, and exercising flexibility regarding team decisions.

Corporate Testimonials

"Whole Foods is very committed to the team structure and self-managing work teams; they're like the basic cells of the company. The teams are empowered. They do their own hiring. They do their own scheduling.
To become a team member at Whole Foods, you have to get voted on by your team after a trial period. If you don't get a two-thirds vote, you don't get on the team," said John Mackey, founder of Whole Foods on this concept.
Hewlett Packard trusts and respects individuals focusing on high-level achievement and contribution, conducting business with integrity, achieving objectives through teamwork, and encouraging flexibility and innovation.

Further Reading

The Self-Managing Organization: How Leading Companies Are Transforming the Work of Teams for Real Impact by Ronald E. Purser and Steven Cabana.