teams

Why Self-Managed Teams Are the Future of Business

Could you build a business around teams of people who have no manager and who report to no one up a "food chain"? If you want your business to thrive going forward, you just might want to. Self-Managed Teams Are Already A Proven Success

A recent Harvard Business Journal article was titled, "Are We Ready for Self-Management?" as if this is a new, experimental thing. In fact, self-managed teams are time-tested, proven and here to stay, and a tidal wave of companies are moving in that direction, because the data on why you should do it is irrefutable.

It's Not The Team, It's Ownership

The magic isn't in the concept, but in ownership-- stemming from the power to make decisions. When people are encouraged to bring the whole, creative, messy person to work, and make important decisions, they take ownership in ways they never would before. And ownership is the most powerful motivator in business.

Responsibility, Not Tasks

The archaic Industrial Age system employed by most companies today would have you believe that a single manager is better at making decisions than the ten people who work under them. But in the emerging work world of the Participation Age, a company believes that the ten people most affected by the decision will be better at making it.

The result of both mindsets are revealing. The Industrial Age manager takes the responsibility to make the decisions, and then doles out tasks for the team to complete. But the Participation Age company delegates responsibility to the team, for them to make those decisions. When you assign tasks, people feel used, but when you delegate decision-making responsibility, people take ownership.

Of course this only works if you believe that one manager is not smarter than ten people who are closer to the problem. As Janice Klein of MIT found, a few companies attempted a form of this in the 1980s, but didn't dismantle the management structure that would have reduced their command and control. It's not a management tactic as they discovered, but a culture shift. If you're not totally convinced, don't attempt self-managed teams. You'll just get hives and make a mess of the whole thing.

More of Everything

Many companies have benefited for decades from giving people back their brains. These companies grow faster, are more productive and more profitable, have lower turnover, and have increased longevity. As more and more business leaders see the numbers, they will demand that their companies move in this direction.

It's Simple, Just Not Easy

Are you motivated to engage self-managed teams? It won't happen overnight. A century of "bosses" have taught people they are not quite as smart and motivated as managers. You have to reverse that notion, and it will take time for people to trust you really are doing it.

Here's how:

1) Form a team around an objective (i.e. 4-12 people)

2) have them FIRST clearly define the desired result,

3) then the process(es) needed to get that result.

4) Then THEY set metrics for steps in the process and

5) for pay based on the result desired (quality, quantity, speed, etc.,)

6) finally THEY decide what happens if the metrics aren't met and how to move team members along if they are not contributing appropriately.

7) Leadership approves.

8) Run it.

Safeguarding Your Future

In the Participation Age, people don't want a JOB, they want work that allows them to be fully human, make decisions and own their stuff. Giving people their brains back is becoming a necessity for keeping them. Self-managed teams is one great way to do that.

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Chuck Blakeman has an off the grid approach to business that has been adopted by thousands of business founders and leaders. He has bootstrapped eight wildly different businesses from the ground up, making every mistake possible along the way to some big wins. As an internationally acclaimed business speaker averaging more than 100+ speaking engagements and workshops per year, he has been quoted and featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, CNNMoney.com, NYTimes.com, other online magazines and small business blogs throughout the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand.

His company, Crankset Group, works with business founders and leaders around the world to help them make more money in less time and get back to the passion that brought them into business in the first place, so they can build a mature business in support of their Lifetime Goals.

Do Your Teams Make Good Decisions?

When questioning if a good or bad decision was made we need to look beyond the outcomes. It is normal to consider only the outcomes but what makes a decision a good one is more than that. A good decision is not outcome based only, you need a good decision process. If your teams were literally rolling dice to decide between options how would you feel? Even a string of past success is not enough to say, “Keep it up”. It is intuitive; we know that is not a sound process. To get important options in a decision considered, evaluated, and committed to takes purposeful agreed to steps.

So what if your teams were making decisions based on who talked the loudest or the most? Not much better. What if the decision was driven by who got paid the most, had the most seniority, and was the “ranking” person in the room? We’re no longer in the randomness of rolling dice. But these unstated decision-making processes are not getting the most from your teams. If you truly want a team decision you need a process that outlines how the team works together.

We avoid teams defaulting into decision process ruts of loudest or highest in the org chart by defining an alternative. Consider the following four decision-making roles.

  • Facilitate Making the decision process move forward. Insuring others participate and carry out their contribution to the decision. Insure the team understands the decision and the options being considered.
  • Consult Similarily evaluating alternatives and narrowing down to a choice but when you consult your input may or may not be followed. If you consult into a decision your recommendation may not be followed and that is OK. If your input was heard, understood, and considered then the consult was completed.
  • Decide Actually making a decision through evaluating alternatives and narrowing done to a choice. When multiple team members have a ‘decide’ role then they need to agree on the choice. This is the much-maligned consensus. Sometimes consensus is essential.
  • Inform Being informed after a decision was made. That is often key in that decisions impact others. At times those impacted need to know but don’t need to participate for a decision to be effective.

Team decision effectiveness rises meaningfully when all those who are involved understand their part. The alternatives are people guessing or trying to discover their fit over time. As leaders, we equip our teams for decision success by outlining how the group works together. Use the four decision-making roles, Facilitate, Consult, Decide, and Inform as a guide. Good team decisions are not just about good outcomes; you need a solid, well-understood process for each person. Each needs to know how to carry out their part. Equip your teams with this clarity, they will appreciate it and the chance of better outcomes will increase. It beats rolling dice.

Why Self-Managed Teams Are the Future of Business

ould you build a business around teams of people who have no manager and who report to no one up a “food chain”? If you want your business to thrive going forward, you just might want to. Self-Managed Teams Are Already A Proven Success

A recent Harvard Business Journal article was titled, “Are We Ready for Self-Management?” as if this is a new, experimental thing. In fact, self-managed teams are time-tested, proven and here to stay, and a tidal wave of companies are moving in that direction, because the data on why you should do it is irrefutable.

It’s Not The Team, It’s Ownership

The magic isn’t in the concept, but in ownership– stemming from the power to make decisions. When people are encouraged to bring the whole, creative, messy person to work, and make important decisions, they take ownership in ways they never would before. And ownership is the most powerful motivator in business.

Responsibility, Not Tasks

The archaic Industrial Age system employed by most companies today would have you believe that a single manager is better at making decisions than the ten people who work under them. But in the emerging work world of the Participation Age, a company believes that the ten people most affected by the decision will be better at making it.

The result of both mindsets are revealing. The Industrial Age manager takes the responsibility to make the decisions, and then doles out tasks for the team to complete. But the Participation Age company delegates responsibility to the team, for them to make those decisions. When you assign tasks, people feel used, but when you delegate decision-making responsibility, people take ownership.

Of course this only works if you believe that one manager is not smarter than ten people who are closer to the problem. As Janice Klein of MIT found, a few companies attempted a form of this in the 1980s, but didn’t dismantle the management structure that would have reduced their command and control. It’s not a management tactic as they discovered, but a culture shift. If you’re not totally convinced, don’t attempt self-managed teams. You’ll just get hives and make a mess of the whole thing.

More of Everything

Many companies have benefited for decades from giving people back their brains. These companies grow faster, are more productive and more profitable, have lower turnover, and have increased longevity. As more and more business leaders see the numbers, they will demand that their companies move in this direction.

It’s Simple, Just Not Easy

Are you motivated to engage self-managed teams? It won’t happen overnight. A century of “bosses” have taught people they are not quite as smart and motivated as managers. You have to reverse that notion, and it will take time for people to trust you really are doing it.

Here’s how:

1) Form a team around an objective (i.e. 4-12 people)

2) have them FIRST clearly define the desired result,

3) then the process(es) needed to get that result.

4) Then THEY set metrics for steps in the process and

5) for pay based on the result desired (quality, quantity, speed, etc.,)

6) finally THEY decide what happens if the metrics aren’t met and how to move team members along if they are not contributing appropriately.

7) Leadership approves.

8) Run it.

Safeguarding Your Future

In the Participation Age, people don’t want a JOB, they want work that allows them to be fully human, make decisions and own their stuff. Giving people their brains back is becoming a necessity for keeping them. Self-managed teams is one great way to do that.

Communicate Like You Don't Work Here Anymore

I was chatting with a friend who recently left a ministry job in which he’d been very effective, yet was not appreciated for his talents and efforts and as such was considerably underpaid.  Plus he admitted that he wasn’t listened too. While my friend loved the ministry and the job, he was in essence forced to look elsewhere for a job from which he could support his family, as well as feel appreciated and rewarded for his efforts. I was stunned when my friend told me that after he’d notified his boss that he was leaving, they were able to sit down and have a better conversation about the job, expectations, pay and goals than at any other time during his two-year employment.  His comment was “I wished we could have talked like this when I was still with the organization.” 

How did this happen? I thought about my friend – passionate about the ministry he’d worked for. He gave it his all, and had done a great job in helping it grow in effectiveness. By all accounts he was very good at what he did. Now he was going to a new (and hopefully better opportunity), while the ministry he left was now in the position of having to replace a valuable team member with somebody new. My sense is they’ll be lucky to hire someone as good.

As I thought about what happened I asked myself why my friend and his former boss didn’t have their really good discussion (or perhaps several of them) prior to his leaving? That could have been a game-changer…with perhaps drastically different results than what happened.  Isn’t that what a ‘healthy’ organization would do?

Pat Lencioni, considered by many the ‘father’ of organizational health, identifies 4 essential elements of team health:

  1. Build a cohesive leadership team
  2. Create clarity
  3. Over communicate clarity
  4. Reinforce clarity

In case you missed it, the word CLARITY is used in 3 of the 4 disciplines. Could Mr. Lencioni be trying to emphasize the importance of CLARITY? My friend might ask why clarity is so hard, and how can we learn clarity to learn better, more healthy teams?

Maybe we’re not clear because we fear confrontation, or perhaps we’re not paying attention, or thinking the other person knows what we are thinking, or don’t know how to be vulnerable with the rest of the team? Or perhaps all of the above.

Whatever the reason, the only way clarity can be exhibited, practiced, and perfected, is through effective communication. As servant leaders, it is our responsibility to lead the effort to practice excellence in being clear with our team. Here’s a short list of some of the most effective ways to accomplish this:

  1. Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31) - pay attention to them, show you care for them.  Put them first.
  2. Seek first to understand, then to be understood (a corollary of #1 by Stephen Covey).
  3. Ask lots of questions (Jim Alampi suggests your questions / statements ratio should be 20:1).  Good questions dig the holes that provide ‘wells’ of solutions.
  4. Listen. Listen well. Then listen some more.
  5. Be vulnerable and transparent. Your leadership in this area will bring about the same in the rest of your team. If you’re not vulnerable your team won’t be either.
  6. Over communicate (Lencioni says that when your team begins to mimic you that you’ve achieved the proper level of communication!). It is almost impossible to over communicate!

Create clarity – over communicate clarity – and reinforce clarity. Focus on that and you won’t end up having your best conversation with a team member after he leaves your firm. And you’ll have to hire one less person.