Are The Teams Of The Future Self-Managed?

The pandemic caused a rapid shift to full-time remote work for many information workers and consequently to our definition of work groups. Presently, teams are not only remote but are becoming increasingly self-managed – a process for which most global managers lack preparedness. Thus, an introduction to teams thinking is presented, followed by applied recommendations for practicing managers wishing to become familiar with the future of teams.

What is a team?

Teams are formed deliberately to meet work needs individuals cannot meet as effectively. Although many groups are called “teams,” not every work group is a team. In a work group, performance is a function of what its members do as individuals. The focus in a work group is individual goals and accountabilities. A team’s performance is measured primarily by the products produced collectively by the team.

Teams share certain characteristics, including a clearly defined purpose (mission) and goals. Teamwork is defined by a shared commitment both to the team’s process (how the team works together) and to its product (what work the team accomplishes). This commitment to team process is demonstrated through the development and use of team norms and ground rules, a willingness to pay attention to group process and a sense of mutual accountability both to the members of the team as individuals and the team as a whole.

Types of Teams

  1. Project teams are time-limited teams formed to complete a particular task disbanding after task completion.
  2. Standing teams are formed as ongoing organizational units.
  3. Cross-functional teams bring together members from different departments or functions.
  4. Self-managed teams unlike manager-led teams, manage themselves and do not report directly to a supervisor.
  5. In virtual teams members are not located in the same physical place.

Team Success Indicators

Working on a successful team or a high-performing team should be an empowering experience. Team members in high-performing teams have a sense that the team can overcome obstacles and realize its goals. Successful teams get their work done, meeting deadlines and achieving their goals. Effective group process entails commitment to open communication, mutual accountability and appropriate self-evaluation.

Factors indicating the success of a team include:

  1. Shared understanding of the team’s mission;
  2. Commitment to the team’s goals;
  3. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities;
  4. Agreed-upon ground rules, and;
  5. An established decision-making model

Self-managed teams

Shared leadership shifts the focus from formal hierarchical authority; Leadership, power and responsibilities are shared within the team amongst team-members in autonomous work-groups, self-managed or leaderless teams.

Supportive leadership is a necessary condition to ensure the success of self-managed teams. Self-managed teams require a set of precise facilitating conditions, such as clearly defined shared objectives, appropriate recognition and rewards, strong support from top management, a competent external leader and members with strong interpersonal skills. Nevertheless, team members may select their own leader and may even take turns in the leadership role.

Recommendations for the future of teams

Overall, global managers are underprepared for the lengthy process involved by the implementation of self-managed teams that requires a mentality shift and different allocation of resources to produce performance. As such, the following recommendations are devised for global managers to deploy in their operations:

  1. Shift directive management to a supervisory one, monitor and read the environment;
  2. Consider how to improve the team functioning and contemplate the nature and frequency of interventions – when to intervene and whether an internal or external, relational or task intervention is required;
  3. Cultivate member self-leadership gradually and reduce your influence as followers become capable of self-leadership through initial modelling and guided participation in a controlled space for practice;
  4. Adhere to a system of either temporary or rotating leadership and instil symbiotic accountability; Through power shifts, members are better equipped to meet situational demands, and;
  5. Ensure individual interaction through diversity trainings, formal and informal gatherings, perspective talking, process analysis and alignment sessions.

My course on Working In Teams is part of the Master in Global Management offered through Monarch Business School Switzerland and can be accessed at: