Teams, T-Rexes, and Thirty Somethings

T Rex WEB SMLWhen you hear the term self-directed work teams does a chill run up your spine while visions of chaos and anarchy dance in your head? Or do visions of freedom, doing things your way, and finally being heard give you a euphoric, light headed feeling? Or do you feel a mix of these feelings?  There are some who think that self-directed teams are the new kid on the block who just wants to flex his muscles and cause trouble. Self-directed teams have been playing in your neighbor’s back yard for years.

Just Say No to Control Freaks

According to several sources self-directed teams have been around for decades. Organizations like W.L. Gore, Semco, and Barry Wehmiller and others have been operating with self-directed teams for over 50 years. The difference is that there seems to be a “tidal wave” of organizations that are beginning to implement them as if they are the newest management trend. While others see them as tantamount to a societal fringe. Some sources call those who are not willing participants as control freaks.

Prehistoric Management Styles Don’t Work for Millennials

The “old or prehistoric style” of management depending on your point of view was to horde information to direct or control employees. Millennials at any age of the spectrum have grown up with hordes or information at their fingertips, are self-taught on any number of topics, and transparency is their watchword. Therefore, the idea of self-directed teams is more than a little appealing and this writer suspects are more demanding of the transparency that a self-managed team offers.

Why Self-Directed Don’t Work

  • According to one source it is a lack of accountability, that is having one source of accountability. But doesn’t that go against everything self-directed teams stand for? That is that every team member share accountability.
  • A lack of context meaning that the boss isn’t being clear about the context or goals of the team. Again, in a self-directed team, they members make that decision.
  • According to one source, the reason self-managed teams fail is a lack of training.

The Key to Making Self-Managed Teams Work

  • Adequate training is one key to the success of self-managed teams. Training in the areas of communications, problems-solving, meetings, handling conflict, and even budgeting are among the several topics one source suggests.
  • Ownership is a big principle in holding self-managed teams together. Ownership comes from the ability to make decisions and this leads to ownership – a powerful glue.
  • Selecting the right people to work on any team is essential. This begins at hiring. There are still many people who prefer structure and direction at their job. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if your culture leans toward self-direction, you must take extra care in your hiring process to ensure that you have a good fit for your culture.

You are right in fearing a T-Rex. Fearing  self-managed teams is not necessary if you take the right steps to hire the right fit for your culture and putting the right team members together on a project regardless of their age.

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Graphic Credit:

Blakeman, C. (2014, November). Why Self-Managed Teams Are the Future of Business. Inc.
Mihalicz, D. (2015, October). Why Self-Managed Teams Don’t Work. LinkedIn
Solis, R. (2015, July). The Rise of the Self-Directed Learning: 3 Things Millennials Want You to Know. Training Industry
Wellins, R. & George, J. (1991, April). The Key to Self-Directed Teams. Training & Development Journal.

Teams,, Self-Management, Self-directed Teams