Having personally built pure, self-managed work teams and consulted with companies on the same, the definition of self-managed work teams in your September 2009 article [How does one build a self-managed team?, also part of our Clean Show coverage here] is not accurate.
According to your article, “A self-managed team is one that has the ability to act, take responsibility for and take ownership of its service when management isn’t there.” The main question then is why would a self-managed team need management?
The answer is obvious. A pure, self-managed work team does not need management. They have been highly trained to handle all of their own issues, including hiring, discipline, firing, motivation, performance measurements, and training.
Additionally, the self-managed team does not have an appointed leader. Different persons lead as the needs of the team demand. All are equal. The self-managed team reports to a Guidance Team. The purpose of the Guidance Team is to define the “broad parameters” for the self-managed team, clear the path in the organization for the team, and offer advice and counsel as needed.
A self-managed team in full operation is a sight to behold. It is difficult to accomplish, not because the team can’t do it, but because management usually will not get out of the way. Most consulting firms that train about self-managed teams have never built one, according to anything close to a pure definition. Any definition indicating the need for or presence of management negates the term “self-managed.” Most managers, in their pride, cannot possibly believe that a team could do better without them.
The results of a self-managed work team: 30% labor reduction, 60% increase in productivity, and immeasurable increase in customer satisfaction (Marietta Corp., 1992).
Thank you for your articles.
Randy J. Widrick, Director of Sales & Marketing
Bates Troy Inc., Binghamton, N.Y.