Self-Managed Teams: Benefits and Tips for Implementing

Updated June 24, 2022

In many businesses, the traditional method for forming teams includes having a team leader who supervises team members. However, there's an alternative structure known as self-managed teams. These types of teams can offer some unique benefits, such as better employee engagement and decreased costs. In this article, we discuss self-managed teams, including their benefits for businesses and some tips for implementing them effectively.

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What are self-managed teams?

A self-managed team is a group of employees that operates mostly or completely on their own without consistent supervision. They differ from the traditional organizational structure in which a manager delegates tasks to employees while ultimately being responsible for the final product. Instead, these teams handle the production of a product or delivery of a service with minor oversight from a manager. These teams also determine deadlines, schedules and modes of communication.

For example, a software company may create a self-managed team that's responsible for finding new customers for a specific piece of software. This team might determine which audience to target, how to target them and each team member's responsibility. The team members work together to achieve the goal of attracting new clients, with each person contributing equally.

Benefits of self-managed teams

The benefits of using self-managed teams within your organization include:

Greater employee engagement

These types of teams encourage engagement from team members by actively including them in the decision-making process. When employees have input in business decisions, they're typically more invested in the outcomes of those decisions. In addition, these teams encourage participation from every member of the team rather than from just the members who are in charge of the decision-making.

Related: 10 Ideas To Improve Employee Engagement

Less oversight

With self-managed teams, leaders may have to perform less oversight, which can make these teams more desirable for employees who prefer to work independently. For example, if the founder of a local internet marketing business creates a self-managed team to handle social media marketing strategies for their clients, the founder may not need to participate in marketing meetings as frequently. In addition, this can allow the founder to focus on other tasks, such as bringing in additional clients.

Reduced costs

In larger organizations, self-managed teams may help reduce overall costs, as the company may need to hire fewer managers to oversee those teams. The organization may then have additional funds to allocate to other projects or resources.

Better decision-making

By getting input from the entire self-managed team, employees may make better decisions. When teams treat each member as collaborators and equals, everyone may feel comfortable offering their input. For example, one person on the team may discuss a concern that the others didn't consider, allowing the team to address it before making their decision about an issue.

Related: Decision-Making Methods for the Workplace

Disadvantages of self-managed teams

When considering self-managed teams for your organization, it's helpful to be aware of the drawbacks so you can plan solutions to these challenges. Some disadvantages of self-managed teams include:

Longer decision process

Individuals often make decisions more quickly than groups do. When the decision-making process is the responsibility of a group of people, it may take longer for that group to come to an agreement. This can make these teams less desirable in situations where quick decisions are necessary. To address this, self-managed teams can create a system for making decisions quickly, such as a voting system.

Lack of self-motivated employees

In order to work efficiently, self-managed teams need people who are self-motivated and work well with others. However, it may not be possible to create a such a team from an existing group of employees, depending on the skills and work preferences of those individuals. Some solutions include hiring new people for the self-managed team or training existing employees to better perform within a self-managed team environment.

Related: 10 Steps To Building a Great Team

Limited innovation

If a self-managed team has many like-minded individuals or doesn't encourage unique ideas, you might find that the team experiences limitations with creative thinking. For example, if a team creates a successful product, they may continue to produce similar products in the future rather than designing new ones that consumers might purchase. To address this, businesses can add more diverse voices to their teams or regularly rotate members in and out of the self-managed team.

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Tips for implementing a self-managed team

If you'd like to implement this type of team within your business, consider following the tips below:

Provide initial leadership

While self-managed teams typically direct themselves, it can help to provide them with some initial leadership. Consider giving the team a few goals and recommended best practices. As the team continues their work, they can adjust their processes according to their preferences, and you can begin to minimize your direct supervision.

Introduce team-building exercises

Self-managed teams often work best when team members trust and communicate well with one another. If you're creating a new self-managed team, it may help to organize some team-building exercises at the start of the project. Team-building exercises can help people get to know one another, which may make teams feel more comfortable communicating in the future.

Related: 30 Team-Building Ideas for the Workplace

Improve communication channels

After your self-managed team begins their work, consider identifying the tools they need to communicate with each other. For example, if your team members work in the same office space, you might designate an area within the office for them to meet. For teams that operate online, you might implement new software designed for team communication.

Review team performance regularly

It's a good idea to review the performance of your teams over time to help ensure they're meeting project goals. To help your team improve their performance, you might implement methods to improve the functionality of the team, such as suggesting a different way for them to operate or communicate. Depending on the scope of the project, you might review the team's results every few weeks or months. If your team achieves excellent results consistently, you might offer positive feedback or incentives to reinforce their strong performance.

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