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Self managed work teams are work teams that are given permission to organise and control the work that they do.
Normally, a manager acts as the team leader and is responsible for defining the goals, methods, and functioning of the team. However, interdependencies and conflicts between different parts of an organization may not be best addressed by hierarchical models of control. Self-managed teams use clear boundaries to create the freedom and responsibility to accomplish tasks in an efficient manner.
The main idea of the self-managed team is that the leader does not operate with positional authority. In a traditional management role, the manager is responsible for providing instruction, conducting communication, developing plans, giving orders, and disciplining and rewarding employees, and making decisions by virtue of his or her position. In a self-managed team, the manager delegates specific responsibility and decision-making authority to the team itself, in the hope that the group will make better decisions than any individual. Neither a manager nor the team leader make independent decisions in the delegated responsibility area. Decisions are typically made by consensus in successful self-managed teams, by voting in very large or formal teams, and by hectoring and bullying in unsuccessful teams. The team as a whole is accountable for the outcome of its decisions and actions.
Self-managed teams operate in many organizations to manage complex projects involving research, design, process improvement, and even systemic issue resolution, particularly for cross-department projects involving people of similar seniority levels. While the internal leadership style in a self-managed team is distinct from traditional leadership and operates to neutralize the issues often associated with traditional leadership models, a self-managed team still needs support from senior management to operate well.
Self-managed teams may be interdependent or independent. Of course, merely calling a group of people a self-managed team does not make them either a team or self-managed.
As a self-managed team develops successfully, more and more areas of responsibility can be delegated, and the team members can come to rely on each other in a meaningful way.
- Ken Blanchard. pg 7. "Go Team! Take your team to the Next Level." Berret-Koehler publishing Inc. SanFrancisco, CA. 2005