Self-Managed or Self-Directed Work Teams
Unlike traditional work groups. self managed work teams tend to operate very autonomously. They have responsibility not only for solving problems, but also for implementing solutions and measuring outcomes. Typically composed of 10 to 15 employees, these teams take on many of the activities and responsibilities that were formerly the duties of their supervisors. Members of a self-managed team are likely to have collective control over
(a) work assignments for team members .
(b) the pace at which work gets done.
(c) assessing the quality of team and individual output .
(d) who joins the team.
For example, self-managed teams at the General Motors plant in Fitzgerald, Georgia, which manufactures sealed, maintenance free automotive batteries, prepare annual material and labor budgets, evaluate group members for pay raises, and can shut down the production line to solve process and quality problems. There are, however, some unique problems with self-managed work teams especially in service operations. For example, a guest at the front desk of a Ritz-Carlton Hotel became very upset when she was told that there was no manager for the front desk (it was a self directed work team). To address this type of problem, each team member becomes "manager for a day" on a rotating basis to address specific guest requests "requiring a manager." Effective self-managed teams have produced some important benefits for organizations and their employees. The greater autonomy and responsibility given to employees in self-managed teams tend to increase worker motivation and job satisfaction. Employees are empowered and can see how their efforts contribute to organizational success. This motivation and satisfaction also result in positive effects on productivity and the organization's bottom line. For example, an employee on a self-managed team at ACES. an independent electric power producer, noticed that fans similar to those used in his plant were being sold at a local discount store for one-third the cost of those bought by ACES from the original manufacturer. He took the initiative to buy the discount store's entire inventory of fans. Because of his participation in a self-managed team, he knew the cost of the ACES fans, understood the purposes for which the fans were used and how often they would need to be replaced, and felt authorized by the company to implement a solution that would save money. The self-managed teams at the General Motors Fitzgerald plant also contributed to
satisfaction and productivity. The plant was able to manufacture its products at costs significantly lower than similar plants run in a more traditional, top-down management style, and its levels of employee satisfaction were among the highest throughout the entire General Motors organization.
The successful implementation of self-managed teams, however, is not easy. It takes considerable time. effort. and organizational commitment. Team mer.ibers must not only have technical expertise but also develop. kills in problem solving. decision making. interpersonal communication and team management. The organization must he willing to create innovative reward and incentive systems that reflect both individual and team performance.Managers must learn to become facilitators and coaches of empowered, self-managed teams rather than directors and bosses of individual contributors.