Three Tools for Building Self-Managed Teams
Traditional management philosophies take a top-down approach to organizational structure. Staff and management are separated into layers, arranged into a heirarchy, and lines of supervisory authority and responsibility are written on an organization chart. In today’s world, this model just doesn’t work. The best-run and most profitable businesses in the modern era have the flattest organizational structures. In a flat organization, managers have a much wider span of control. Typical command-and-control management strategies are ineffective in this environment and a different management approach is required.
Employees who aren’t used to working in a self-directed environment may experience confusion about “who the boss is” or what is expected of them. The self-managed team can’t achieve cohesion unless individuals understand the purpose of the team and how performance will be measured. Putting these directives in writing allows all stakeholders in the team, including management and internal or external customers who rely on the team, to understand what the team will do.
1. A Mission Statement
The mission statement should describe the reason for the team’s existence. Vague platitudes should be avoided, and conceptual phrases should be concretely linked to strategic activities and specific stakeholders. “To provide excellent customer service” is a nice idea, but it is not a mission statement. “To provide excellent customer service to [customers of XYZ division] in the process of [executing the team’s core responsibilities]” is much better.
2. A Statement of Service Standards
The statement of service standards tells team members and other stakeholders what the team’s inputs and outputs are, and lays the groundwork for performance measurement. This document should clearly explain what the team does at the operational level, including major internal processes of the team. It does not need to describe each team member’s duties in detail, but it should be substantial enough to allow team members to see the “big picture” and to understand what roles they play in the process.
3. Quality Guidelines
Quality guidelines tell the team how its performance will be monitored and defines management’s expectations for specific performance. A published set of quality guidelines also helps set expectations for internal and external customers so that these parties can understand how long it should take for the team to accomplish specific tasks or complete particular projects. These guidelines also allow management to more effectively manage conflict and resolve complaints by quickly identifying the nature of problems. If the team’s output does not meet quality guidelines, an internal problem exists. If the team’s output does meet quality guidelines, then the problem is likely a disconnect between external stakeholder expectations and management expectations.
Flat organizations experience unique challenges that traditional management methods do not handle well. Using these three tools for self-managed teams will enhance performance, team cohesion, and reduce the perceived need for command-and-control management tactics.