A self-managed or self-directed group is a leaderless workgroup; a group without a designated leader, supervisor or coach. Many organizations change the titles of their middle management personnel to “coaches”, although they still keep all the traditional supervisory roles upon their teams. Even though this is an admired intention of trying to move away from micro-management practices, it does not constitute a true self-managed group.
The main difference between traditional workgroups and self-managed groups is the fact that the responsibility of the work itself lies where the work is being performed and not one level above. Individuals in a self-managed group are equally responsible for the work that they are performing and not relying on supervision from above. In a traditional organization, the ‘coach’, manager or supervisor is responsible for the work that is being performed by his/her subordinates, sometimes up to three or more levels down. This leads to micro-management from the “responsible” and disengagement on the part of the subordinates, the ones actually doing the work.
More and more successful organizations are adopting self-managing groups: W.L. Gore, Semco, Worthington Industries, Morning Star are examples to name a few. Of course, these are all examples of those who have announced it publicly and have undergone a full-fledged whole systems change.
Self-managed groups inevitably lead to higher accountability, engagement, productivity and an overall happier and healthier working environment. This democratic shift in organizational life will continue to grow; something that once was ridiculed, is now becoming a trend and will be the norm of the future. Let us help you make the shift today in redesigning your traditional organization into a highly performing self-managed system.
For more information on self-managed groups, please refer to the following resources: