What Are Self-Managed Teams? (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 5, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you are looking for a way to organize your team or company's leadership format, you might be curious about alternatives to the traditional top-down structure. For example, teams that are self-managed share the responsibility of leadership amongst a group of working professionals. Self-managed teams can provide an array of benefits that might be right for your team. In this article, we discuss the definition of a self-managed team, the benefits of this type of structure and some tips for using self-management in your own organization.

What is a self-managed team?

A self-managed team is a group of professionals that distributes the responsibility of leadership amongst themselves. This means that they are collectively responsible for the planning and decision-making operations that might traditionally be the job of a supervisor or manager in a hierarchical team setting. Self-managed teams often handle decisions about the work itself, such as workflow management and task distribution, as well as supporting decisions about matters such as employee leave and absences. When it is necessary for one person to lead a particular task or project, self-managed teams might take turns filling that role.

Related: Guide To Self-Leadership

Benefits of a self-managed team?

Self-managed teams can be a productive and enjoyable organizational strategy in the right context. To help you decide if self-management is right for your organization, here are some possible benefits of a self-managed team:

Increased sense of employee ownership and agency

Members of a self-managed team usually all have the opportunity to contribute to decision-making processes regarding the work they do. This can lead to an enhanced sense of employee ownership over the product or service, which might lead to higher quality outcomes. It can also boost employee agency, meaning that employees feel as if they are encouraged to make independent decisions about their work. This can also support productive outcomes because team members may be more likely to take beneficial action more quickly. Both ownership and agency might be tied to increased employee recruitment and retention as well.

Related: 10 Tips For Encouraging Employees To Take Ownership in the Workplace

Better productivity

Self-managed teams often enjoy greater productivity as a result of factors including self-efficacy in workflow management. Team members might also have a better perspective of one another's strengths than an outside supervisor. Because of this, they might be able to leverage the team's strengths most effectively and productively. Self-managed teams might also spend less time on organizing operations such as meetings and delegating tasks, and more time on other important job functions.

Related: What Are Self-Management Skills?

Higher revenue

The added productivity and efficiency of a self-managed team might lead to higher revenues. Self-managed teams might also more readily identify areas where the company could become more cost-effective by providing a forum for every employee to contribute. This, in turn, could possibly drive higher profits. These positive outcomes could then encourage further success from a self-managed team.

Cost savings

In addition to increasing the amount of money an organization takes in, self-managed teams can also help reduce costs. For example, a self-managed team might result in less overhead due to the time saved on supervisor salaries. Self-managed teams might also more readily identify ways to save money in daily operations and put those savings into practice more quickly than if changes were vetted by an external supervisor.

Increased innovation

Self-managed teams may be more likely to drive innovation. This is often a result of their potentially greater creative freedom and agency in their roles. Self-management might also drive motivation and inspiration on an individual level through enhanced camaraderie and morale. Self-managed teams might also be more likely to put innovative ideas into action quickly, since they may be able to readily agree on how those ideas should be implemented.

Good workplace morale

Depending on the context and the professionals involved, self-management can boost workplace morale. This is because many professionals enjoy contributing to the overall goals of their organization and lending their expertise to the team management effort. Self-managed teams might also enjoy mutual respect as an outcome of experiencing one another's skill in leadership and their job-specific expertise. High morale can be a contributing factor in reducing employee turnover, which can also support the function of self-managed teams because those on the team are more likely to have been a part of the group's previous decisions.

Related: How To Boost Employee Morale

Better customer service

Self-managed teams may provide better customer service outcomes for an organization's clients. Individuals on these teams often perform customer service themselves, so they may be best equipped to decide how to deliver solutions effectively. Self-managed teams might also provide a beneficial diversity of perspectives that can help provide great service for customers of all backgrounds and experiences. Any necessary changes in the customer service process might occur more quickly on a self-managed team as well, because they have all the resources they need to make those modifications within the team itself.

Tips for leading a self-managed team

Some self-managed teams also report to another leader or supervisor outside the scope of their particular group. This can be particularly helpful if the group includes few members with leadership experience, or if an organization is particularly large or complex. If this is the case in your situation, here are some tips you can use for leading a self-managed team:

Empower your team

Empower your self-managed team by encouraging them to make their own decisions about their work and providing them with the tools they need to do so. Trust your team to make the decisions that are correct for their particular circumstances and the information they have available. Try to provide guidance primarily when requested and by honoring the team's right to choose what is right for them.

Advocate for your team

Leaders and supervisors for self-managed teams often serve as an intermediary between the team and any positions that might be higher in the organization than that team. When it makes sense to do so, advocate for the team's success and autonomy. Try to defer to their decision-making expertise when possible and reasonable.

Seek balance

Both company leadership and team members will probably expect the leader of a self-managed team to act in their best interest. Be sure to balance the needs of the team with the needs of the organization. Try to understand and accurately represent the ideas of one party to the other. When you can, try to negotiate mutually agreeable solutions of the needs of the team and the larger organization misalign.

Sort teams wisely

Self-managed teams usually function best when they include a variety of perspectives, backgrounds and experience levels. Organize your teams mindfully and pay attention to qualities that are likely to complement one another to help them succeed. You might review your team members' qualifications and resumes to ensure there are individuals with leadership experience present to help the group organize itself. You might also consider preferred work preferences and styles when assembling self-managed teams, to create a comfortable and productive working environment.

Communicate clearly

As the leader of a self-managed team, it will be important to communicate clearly with the members of that team and with external stakeholders. Team members should ideally have a clear idea of what they are expected to accomplish, for example. Other organizational leaders, if relevant, should have a clear understanding of what that team will provide.

Provide responsive feedback

If your team requires or requests your support, try to do so efficiently and effectively. Self-managed teams likely know what to do next when they have the information they need, so prompt responses to inquiries can help expedite their work.

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