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1.3 Self-managed teams

Self-managed teams have been described as one of the more important approaches to improving team performance in recent years. Other teams with this style of team organisation are described as ‘self-directed teams’ and ‘semi-autonomous work groups’, which gives some sense of how a self-managed team manages itself.

A self-managed team is a team in which the members take collective responsibility for ensuring that the team operates effectively and meets its targets. Typically, members of self-managed teams are employees within an organisation who work together, within a broad framework of aims and objectives, to reach a common goal. When setting up the team, two of the parameters that have to be defined are the levels of responsibility and autonomy that are given to the self-managed team. So teams can have varying degrees of autonomy, from teams who have considerable control over their work, and the boundaries within which they operate, to self-managed teams that are set boundaries by team leaders. (Some authors give different names to teams at different ends of this spectrum. In this unit we use the same term.)

In general, self-managed teams have considerable discretion over:

  • the work done and setting team goals
  • how work is achieved – which processes are used and how work is scheduled
  • internal performance issues – distributing the work and the contribution made by each member of the team
  • decision making and problem solving.
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