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What are self-organizing teams?


Following up some of the questions in my last webinar on March 6 I want to explain what distinguishes a self-organizing team from a manager-led and self-governing team.

self-organizing teamsManager-led teams are defined and led by someone from the outside.  A manager appoints a project manager and the project manager becomes the boss of a team. The team reports to the project manager; the project manager to the project sponsor or another manager.  The team does whatever the manager tells it to do.  It is an extension of a linear hierarchy we still can witness in many organizations these days.

In contrast to manager-led teams are self-governing teams.  These teams do not have exposed leaders at all.  Indeed there is not even an outside manager.  Teams are self-selected in the sense that team members have found each other and work on something their teams decide.  The directions of such teams come from the teams themselves.  A mob may serve as a good example.

Self-organizing teams are somewhere between manager-led and self-governing teams.  While the overall direction of the work of self-organizing teams may be defined from the outside, self-organizing teams decide by themselves how to execute these tasks, manage processes and monitor progress.  Self-organizing teams design their own activities that cumulate in final project deliveries.

Questions from the webinar:

Dinesh K: How do you rate productivity of different team (managed vs. self-organized vs. self-governed team)?

Productivity can be high in either team.  However, it is most likely that self-organizing teams have a greater productivity in the long haul.

Thomas D.: Do Managed Teams use teamwork?

Yes, they can.  However, don’t necessarily expect team magic, i.e., team synergy effects, to evolve.  Often a “team” which is manager led is more like a group of indviduals.  In case the manager empowers the team, true teamwork can evolve.

Posted in: Agile, Empowerment, Leadership

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