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  • Writer's pictureSenthil Kumar

Why Self-Managing Teams Smarter than Smartest Leaders

"Are your employees engaged and committed?

Are they communicating with their peers?

Are they sharing knowledge?

Are they willing to transcend barriers?

Are they ready for change? If not?

Try to organize them in Self-Managing teams.."

Often Managers wonder whether they need to rely on a strong leader to design and execute strategies and bring about changes. Especially in the context of building innovation and quality driven organizations, there is misconception that organizations need to bring in exceptional leaders or pour more resources into change management efforts. New Age smart enterprises, however, challenge this premise and rather try self-managing teams.

Blue chip corporations such as Google, Apple, Samsung, CISCO, Siemens, ABB and Ericsson are implementing new programs such as Shoaling, Communities of Practice, and kaleidoscopic networking for building knowledge based innovative organizations that rely on self-managing teams rather than corporate stars.

Accompanying this trend is a substantial change in the nature of organizations emphasizing knowledge which fosters intellectual capital and dynamic capability to adapt to constant changes. As organizations are increasingly emphasizing innovation and quality, self-managing teams can easily facilitate the transition because innovation and quality thrives in organic structures and flexible work arrangements characterized by autonomy, intense information and knowledge sharing and participative decision-making.

Teams are identified as self-managed when they are able to regulate their behavior on relatively whole tasks for which they have been established, including making decisions about work assignments, work methods, and scheduling activities. Self-managed are also referred to as self-led, self-directed, self-regulating, empowered. The common attribute of all these teams is that they operate with a degree of autonomy, have responsibility for the entire task.

Higher degree of self-leadership also results in increased communication and information exchange. Absence of hierarchical structure causes managers to seek more information from employees rather than rely on management by command. In addition, there is a shift from a limited vertical flow of information to multiple lateral exchanges between equal members of a team.

Since self-leadership involves a paradigm shift from "controlling" to "involvement," employees in SMWTs receive power, information, and knowledge. This approach to leadership in work teams results in commitment building.

Self-managed work team is effective in drawing tacit and experiential knowledge of individuals because it offers the motivational incentives, organizational flexibility, and dynamism required for learning and sharing knowledge. Self-leadership encourages the team members to take cognitive risk in interpreting various cues and information encouraging the employees to transcend physical and cultural barriers.

For organizations wanting to enhance innovation capabilities, self-managed work teams offer a structural, cultural, and leadership solution to design and formulate innovation strategies.

For full article:

Reference: Senthil Kumar, Jane V Wheeler, Bret L Simmons, 2005 Organization Development Journal (Organization Development Institute). Volume23 Issue3 Pages 53-66.


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