Self Organising Teams still need guidance


As I said back in October, command & control style management is so passé: it works in simple situations where procedural work means people mustn’t deviate from the known process, but fails in the context of today’s increasingly complex business environments.


Knowledge and creative workers need guidance not management to achieve their goals. Research tells us that they need high levels of autonomy; the ability to self-organise, collaborate and develop a greater sense of shared commitment.


"Self-organisation" is a frequently misunderstood term, and when there is not clarification about what it means, goals and how to measure progress, teams will typically create their own convenient meaning. Self-discipline, openness, and ownership of consequences are strong behavioural traits within high performing, self-organising teams. Crucially, performance towards agreed goals is tracked; gaps to target are exposed and filled, by the team itself. They practise the aggregation of marginal gains to improve their own performance.


We describe self-organising teams as follows:

  • They have a certain level of decision-making authority. This level may change and evolve over time, but there is clarity about when teams can make decisions.

  • They are responsible for working toward meeting the vision.

  • They take ownership of how they work and continuously evolve and grow through having a continuous improvement mind-set. In other words, where they are today is not where they will be six months from now.

They do this by means of:

  • Self-sufficiency - the team has or finds the information, knowledge and skills required to deliver their work

  • Self-goal setting - the team set clear goals, realistic estimates and performance goals

  • Self-expectation - the team take pride in their work and have high expectations for performance

  • Self-criticism & self-supporting - the team are self-critical, discourage poor performance and at the same time genuinely support each other to deliver great work

  • Self-improvement - the team gather constant feedback from their own data, their peers and stakeholders so that they can review their performance and find opportunities to improve


Be prepared: as managers it’s hard to let go, change from control to support mode. It takes time and the opportunity to let the team make mistakes and learn. It takes honesty and transparency but the teams will use metrics to demonstrate their own aggregation of marginal gains. They will align their own learning and development to the team’s requirements.


That said, self-organising teams do need a degree of guidance and alignment – not management – that would be an oxymoron. Do you have the environment and tools in place to enable data-driven “guided” self-organisation?



#Management #skills #highperformance #selforganisation #Selfsufficiency #Selfimprovement

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