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4 Ways to Create Self Managed Work Teams – A Future of Work Strategy

August 14, 2015

The future of work is here now and companies are looking for the structures and the processes that can speed up the journey to get there. As leaders look for ways to increase employee engagement one of the key strategies is to increase autonomy and meaningful work for everyone. A recent survey by found that 68% of employees feel their company isn’t doing enough to create a work culture in which employees have a sense of purpose and a meaningful impact.

What can companies do to create a work culture that increases meaning and purpose for employees?

They can move towards a shared leadership culture and one of the tenets of shared leadership is ‘self managed teams’.

Self managed teams are based on the premise that ‘everyone is a leader’ which means the focus on personal development is around providing leadership skills to all employees. It also means that leadership becomes equalized among all levels and performance is based on team leadership results.

Here are 4 ways to create self managed work teams:

#1 – Depending on the size of your company you can set up your self managed teams in a few different ways – if your company has 12 employees or less you can create either two teams of six or three teams of four. In a larger company of up to 100 employees you would start with a ‘beta’ test of one team of no more than six people from every department in the company. For large multi national companies you would ‘beta’ test within a few divisions and again maximum team size in each division is six people and you would want to choose people from distinct and different job functions to make up the team.

#2- Choose the team dynamics at the outset (once self organized teams have had success they will want to self organize their next team based on project scope) Focus on bringing together people who have specific skill sets and that each team member brings unique skill set based on experience, expertise or department. Prepare the teams with leadership training and behaviors that are needed for self organizing teams. Examples are training on ‘everyone is a leader’ as well as the personal skills of leadership such as self awareness, elevated communication skills, problem solving skills, decision making skills, personality styles training and more. Facilitate a session on ‘dynamic teams’ where the focus is on valuing the unique skill sets of each other and how to effectively elevate disagreements or potential conflicts to solutions.

#3 – Start with a specific project and clearly discuss/share and let the team agree to the focus and goals and objectives – help the team to agree to the overall goals (not the tasks), clarify the resources available, identify their parameters of decision making (make this very broad so that they can have as much freedom as possible to self create solutions), establish rewards and recognition for milestones. Give the team as much leeway as possible in order to assess the success of the team being truly able to self organize to create results.

#4 – Self organized teams create increased employee engagement and increased employee motivation. A Deloitte study predicted that the 2020 workplace will be highly digital, integrated and built around employees. Workplaces will be interconnected hubs that allow people to work from a variety of work spaces. This means that the urgency to create the skills needed include building the capacity for everyone to develop leadership skills as well as being able to work in self organized teams. The last step in creating self managed teams is to be there to support and guide as well as share the successes of each team throughout the company with the focus on how they were able to self manage to solutions.

The commitment to take action now to create a shared workplace will have you and your company way ahead of the competition. It is the companies that are able to attract and retain top talent and provide work environments that allow employees to have autonomy, the ability to create, the ability to solve problems and the ability to self organize that are leading the way to the future workplace today.

In my new book, (Wiley 2015)  “The Art of Change Leadership – Driving Transformation In a Fast Paced World” there are more strategies and examples of companies that are on the leading edge of many of the future of work strategies.

Cheryl Cran, Future of Work & Change Leadership Expert

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