Keys to developing self-managing teams

Check it out what you will find on this article about self-managing teams:

Self-managing teams are teams that can operate largely independently, with minimal supervision. They are often more efficient, more cost-effective, and better for the organization’s overall health. It’s members usually have high moral, are highly creative and motivated, and are great even at cross-team collaboration. But the journey towards this idea is challenging to say the least; but it’s a journey well-worth taking, since the rewards are significant and long-lasting.

When you think about it, self-improving and self-managing teams are like a self-fulfilling prophecy. The term itself already connotes the obvious benefit it can bring to a company. And yes, they are ideal and desirable — what kind of company wouldn’t like to have as many of these kinds of teams as possible? But unlike prophecy, the good thing about self-managing teams is that they’re totally doable. It’s not unattainable and the guidelines and metrics involved are (or at least they should be) clear and concise. But there’s the rub — self-managing teams are tricky and challenging to establish, and managing them is an entirely different hurdle to tackle altogether.

But don’t get us wrong: Self-managing and self-improving teams are boons for any organization, regardless of the industry that they’re in. In part, these kinds of teams are basically the epitome of efficient and effective team task management — managers and leaders don’t need to be overwhelmed with so much duties and responsibilities because the team works seamlessly by itself, with little management or even prodding (sorry, micromanagers). It’s like an automatic and very well-oiled machine.


It takes a lot to put up and run self-improvement and self-managing teams, but the benefits it brings to the organization — especially in the long run — are way and well worth the effort and resources it takes to accomplish it. Just imagine it: A team that works together at an extremely high level of professionalism, creativity, and efficiency. A team that can react and adapt to any situation quickly; members know each other’s work as well and anyone can step in to help where and when needed, eliminating any inefficiencies or possible delays caused by unforeseen circumstances. There’s very little ego, politics, and rank-pulling involved. Make no mistake: Self-managing teams can contribute significantly to an organization’s success and growth.

Understanding the concept of self-managing teams

At its core, the concept of self-managing teams stem from a organizational mindset that puts a large premium on people and the talent and skill they bring to the company. This is very in-line with the kind of mindset that a lot of progressive and successful brands and organizations have today, and directly opposed to the old and outdated Industrial Revolution idea of workers being mere tools that are dispensable and easily replaced.

BusinessDictionary defines a self-managed team as a “self-organized, semiautonomous small group of employees whose members determine, plan, and manage their day-to-day activities and duties under reduced or no supervision. Also called self directed team or self-managed natural work team.”

While the concept has been around for ages (as early as the 60’s), A Harvard Business School study found that it was fast-food chain Taco Bell that was responsible for popularizing the idea in the 1990’s and making it more mainstream. The chain initiated a “self-management” program, where employees underwent training and were also oriented on the use of new technology. The goal was to enable them to train and even hire new employees, do day-to-day inventory management and basic receipts accounting for the particular branch they worked in, as well as be equipped to deal with staff problems. All these would operate under the supervision of a manager who instead of being traditionally assigned to a single branch, “floated” among several stores.

The short of it was that Taco Bell found success with this model. Along with the above-average pay for these better-enabled staff, employees were on the whole much more highly motivated to perform, and were more efficient at their jobs. This translated into delivering superior customer satisfaction as well as better cost control for the fast food chain.


An especially good illustration of the program’s effectivity was through one self-managed team’s initiative called “aces in your places” where staff members took on the positions they wanted to learn during hours when the volume of customers were lower. But come peak operating hours, these same employees went back to their own assigned work stations, achieving as much 50% more efficiency and excellence during these hours.

What makes up a self-managing team?

You can’t just cobble up a team, throw in a little training, and then leave them be. It takes a little more forethought, conscious effort, and intentionality to build self-managing teams. It’s important to have the right foundations, or else the team will see failure sooner or later. So let’s take a look at some of the essential characteristics of self-managing teams.

Shared goals and vision

You have GOT to have all the people who’ll be part of the team on the same page. While personalities will always differ, it’s important to make sure that everyone is crystal clear not only on the goals they are working toward, but also why they are working toward it. Many teams, along with the people who comprise them, feel more motivated and driven when leadership explains their purpose in the greater scheme of things. It shows that leadership and the organization value their contribution, making them true stakeholders in the company’s well-being and progress going forward.


Speaking of value, nothing speaks more of value than empowering self-managing teams. It’s difficult to live up to being called “self-managing teams” when they aren’t given the freedom to proceed with their tasks in the way they see fit. Remember that just like individual people, self-managing teams each have their own quirks (especially since they are made up of those individual people) and what it takes to see them work efficiently may not be something others can understand or grasp. Don’t get us wrong: While there is a need for basic guidelines everyone should follow, team management should be kept at a minimum, or you just defeat the purpose of a self-managing team. Self-managing teams can only achieve their true potential if they are empowered and do not feel like they’re under someone’s thumb.

Shared responsibility

It’s all about teamwork and taking one for the team. Shared responsibility means that everyone is equally invested in seeing tasks completed and goals met. The same goes for rewards and recognition for jobs well done, as well as for failures of mistakes. Pointing to individual people when mistakes happen take the whole teamwork part of self-managing teams away, and without teamwork, a self-managing team may not as well exist to begin with. Shared responsibility means that all members of the team can lift each other up and enrich each other when needed, which not only leads to short-term benefits like the efficient completion of tasks, but also in the long run helps with each team member’s mental and social health, provides them with more opportunities to learn new things, and helps create a culture of collaboration and cooperation.

Everybody can count on each other


Members of self-managing teams need to be able to count on each other and be interdependent at all times. This interdependence is a crucial element to what makes or breaks a self-managed team. This interdependence can be for information or for picking up the slack in certain situations. This way, everyone can focus on his or her particular part of the job with some peace of mind knowing that their teammates have their back and understand each other’s place in the team’s workflow.

Managing self-managing teams

Naturally, self-managing teams also need supervision of some sort. But because of their unique nature, overseeing teams of this kind also need a different kinds of managerial attitude and mindset.

Relationship builder

Managers of a self-managing team need to be excellent at relationship building. For one, getting a team off the ground requires fostering the kinds of collegial atmosphere and mutual respect of all the team members and other stakeholders involved. Leaders should always be politically and socially aware, and must always be active advocates for transparency, better communication, and trust-building within the team.

Despite their benefits, self-managing teams don’t always get the kind of positive response you’d expect. That’s in a large part because of their degree of autonomy and freedom — something that may clash with what’s written in a company’s policy handbook. Leaders should be able to anticipate any backlash, keeping their ear to the ground and be ready to step in and smooth any wrinkles that may arise within the organization. They should also be ready to run interference between the team and other teams, groups, individuals, and decision-makers within the company. It’s is through nourishing positive relationships within the organization that self-managing teams are able to realize their potential and maximize their contribution to the company.

Having a good eye

Number one here is that leaders should always be on the lookout not only for the best talent, but more importantly, talent that works well with others (since unfortunately, not all talented people are team players). Leaders should also have a good eye in the sense that they should be able to anticipate any potential problems within the team and step in to try to find a solution — before things truly go south. Same thing with any team members that might need individual coaching.

Establishing teams, a self-managing team especially, does come with its own set of birth pains, and after that comes the challenge of maintaining and improving the team’s performance. A good manager should always have an eye out not only for would-be problems, but also points of improvement and points of praise. It is having both good discernment and foresight that managers are able to fully oversee and direct self-managing teams.

Good communicator

This goes without saying, really. But to effectively lead and manage self-managing teams, managers need to be on top of communication — and be empowered by the right communication tools, such as the ones provides — so that there is no dead air or space for miscommunication. Even the smallest misunderstanding or misinterpretation can lead to delays and become even bigger problems down the road. Leaders should always be transparent when communicating with team members (and team members should adapt the same approach as well), and should always be clear when giving instructions.

Purpose driven

Finally, speaking of giving clear instructions, leaders of self-managing teams should have clear goals and a clear vision of what they want the team to accomplish, both in the short term and in the long term. Teams trust their leader to point them in the direction they need to go and put them on the right path so they can get to doing their respective tasks. Self-managing teams simply cannot exist if their manager doesn’t have a clear end game in sight.


Also to this end, managers of self-managing teams should always be in contact with superiors and higher management so that the direction the team/s will be going is also in line with the company’s goals and objectives as a whole.

Collaboration is key

Collaboration and cooperation is key to the success, as well as the management of self-managing teams — something that is also all about. It’s innovative suite of workflow management, data generation, and communication tools (among many others) can always be customized based on user needs, making it essential to have in any self-managing team’s toolbox. From task tracking and assessment to real-time generation of various data sets of how the workforce is going about their duties, gives both team members and managers the capacity and capability to make more informed decisions and spot possible points of improvement going forward. To see how these tools can be indispensable to your particular organization, a free trial is available here.


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