Self-Directed Teams 1 Running head: SELF-DIRECTED TEAMS Self-Directed Teams HRD 644 Human Resources Development: Theory & Practice Barry University by Jessica Rodriguez Self-Directed Teams 2
Self-directed teams can be defined as teams that 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 (Cohen, Ledford, & Spreitzer, 1996; Goodman, Devadas, & Hughson, 1988). For example, in manufacturing environments, a selfdirected team might be responsible for a whole product, or a clearly defined segment of the production process.
Among the distinguishing characteristics of self-directed teams are the following: they are empowered to share various management and leadership functions; they plan, control and improve their own work processes; they set their own goals (aligned to the corporate strategy); the team creates/manages their own schedule and reviews their performance; they may prepare their own budgets and co-ordinate their work with other departments; they may order materials from suppliers, keep inventories; and team leaders may be responsible for developing skills within the team, when they are needed (Irani, Sharp & Kagioglou, 1997).
In their literature review, Muthusamy, Wheeler, and Simmons (2005) found that selfdirected teams contribute to various dimensions of performance effectiveness, such as; productivity improvements, cost savings, employee satisfaction, quality of work-life indicators, and team effectiveness. They also added innovativeness to this list. Self-directed teams are known to have autonomy, high degree of informality, intense information exchange, and participative decision-making. All of these are characteristics that facilitate innovation (Muthusamy et al, 2005).
When trying to introduce the concept of self-directed teams in a company, some resistance is inevitable. Self-managed teams require new work processes, attitudes and behaviors. They cause upheavals in patterns of thinking about oneself, others, leadership and the Self-Directed Teams 3 organization. Members have to hold themselves mutually responsible for a set of performance goals, which means they take responsibility not only for their own behavior, but for that of others as well. They have to rely on trust instead of orders from on high.
Managers may fear loss of control, while individual contributors may object to being held accountable for group deliverables. Long-held traditions may have to be abandoned (Moravec, Johannessen & Hjelmas, 1997). These concerns and fear will translate in negative attitudes, which might be symbolized by a frowning character with arms folded across his chest, and comments like “What’s the point in going into this? And, what’s in it for me? ” Others may be convinced that their current working groups are self-managed teams already, so why change anything?
The goal is to work through the barriers of resistance and negativity, re-energize the workforce and speed the transition from working groups to true self-managed teams. Moravec, Johannessen, and Hjelmas (1997) explained how BP Norge, the Norwegian arm of British Petroleum, was able to introduced self-directed teams in three overlapping phases: (1) DISCOVERY AND AGITATION: Focusing; changing old thought patterns; recognizing the differences between teamwork, groups and self-directed teams; linking the concept of self-directed teams o the company’s vision and business strategy; breaking the blockage of resistance; and gaining momentum. (2) PROLIFERATION AND DISSEMINATION: Exploring; establishing new ways of working; identifying teams and selecting team leaders; determining what is expected of sponsors to support the next steps; establishing specific team work products and measurable performance goals; transferring responsibility from the hierarchy to the self- Self-Directed Teams 4 irected teams; deepening commitment; and providing just-in-time training to develop specific competencies and mental models. (3) INTEGRATION AND INSTITUTIONALIZATION: Having each group hold itself accountable as a team and recognize that “this is the way we do things around here now”; aligning work processes, decision making, information, measurement, performance management and organization structure with the self-directed teams and business strategy; developing and rotating team leadership; removing boundaries; and practicing new competencies at higher levels of proficiency.
To enhance self-directed team effectiveness, the team members need to be provided with all the related organizational data so that teams perceive that they can independently make and implement critical decisions without the need for consulting external or top-level management. Organizations also should enrich the team’s decision-making capabilities by broadening the team’s repertoire of resources and their technical and interpersonal skills. The design and composition of teams also play a significant role in maximizing the effectiveness of teams.
The self-directed teams need to be designed to support and enhance the communication and learning processes in teams. For example, a higher degree of task interdependence, diversity of team members, team size, and organizational slack in resources and time will complement selfleadership in achieving higher levels of communication and cognitive divergence, thus leading to innovative behaviors in teams (Collins & Amabile, 1999; Cady & Valentine, 1999; Taggar, 2002).
However, organizations need to make sure that self-leadership and resulting cognitive freedom does not reduce the cohesion and consensus among group members that are vital for implementing decisions successfully. Self-Directed Teams 5 The level of quality necessary to compete in today’s marketplace is increasingly being striven for, through the development of empowered team-based organizations. This change is taking place because more people are realizing that empowered teams help provide a way of achieving organizational goals, and in meeting the increasing needs of a changing workforce.
As many organizations either willingly, or out of a need to survive become more efficient, they are beginning to embrace many of the benefits offered by flexible, self-directed, multi-skilled work teams. The development of self-directed teams within an organization can clearly result in an improvement in both business and employee performance. Self-Directed Teams 6 References Cady, S. H. , & Valentine, J. (1999). Team innovation and perceptions of consideration: What difference does diversity make? Small Group Research, 30(6), 730-750. Cohen, S. G. , Ledford, G. E. , & Spreitzer, G.
M. (1996). A predictive model of self-managing work team effectiveness. Human Relations, 49(5), 643-676. Collins, M. A. & Amabile, T. M. (1999). Motivation and creativity. In RJ. Sternber (Ed. ), Handbook of Creativity (pp. 297-312). New York: Cambridge University Press. Goodman, P. S. , Devadas, R. , & Hughson, T. L. (1988). Groups and productivity: Analyzing the effectiveness of self-managing teams. In J. P. Campbell & R. J. Campbell (Eds. ), Productivity in organization (pp. 295-325). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Irani, Z. , Sharp, J. M. , & Kagioglou, M. (1997).
Communicating Through Self-Directed Work Teams (SDWTs) Within an SME Learning Organization. Journal of Workplace Learning, 9(6), 199. Moravec, M. , Johannessen, O. J. , & Hjelmas, T. A. (1997). Thumbs Up for Self-Managed Teams. Management Review, 86(7), 42-48. Muthusamy, S. K. , Wheeler, J. V. , & Simmons, B. L. (2005). Self-Managing Work Teams: Enhancing Organizational Innovativeness. Organization Development Journal, 23(3), 5366. Taggar, S. (2002). Individual creativity and group ability to utilize individual creative resources: A multilevel model. Academy of Management Journal, 45(2), 315-331.
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