Want to get the best out of your team? Upgrade your work environment to the next level by transitioning to a self-organizing team. Learn how to build and effectively use self-organized teams in your company and watch your entire team shine. Throw away the idea of a traditional team and your team dynamic will blossom.
What are self organizing teams?
Imagine people working together to achieve a common goal. Empowered to make decisions and take actions freely and autonomously.
Self-managing teams are responsible for managing their work processes. Team members collaborate with each other to achieve the best results.
What's great is these teams have the freedom to decide how to work, define tasks and set their own goals.
No one man show, but teamwork my friend. Actually, high levels of teamwork. Key ingredients in the recipe for cooking the most delicious self-managing team are collaboration, communication, and trust.
Well-defined goals will lead your way to success in self-managing teams. What are these goals? It is to increase productivity, quality, and innovation.
The project goals in a self-managing team focus on achieving a specific outcome or completing a task within a set timeframe while ensuring high quality work. Let's not forget about building strong communication (this is ultra-super-mega important) and collaboration within the team, promoting accountability of tasks. Empowering team members to take initiative is also part of the process.
Self-managing teams strive for continuous improvement, identifying areas for process optimization, enhancing team skills and knowledge, and building a creative work environment.
Self-managing teams show higher effectiveness. How? By improved productivity, increased employee engagement, innovation, better decision making, collaborative approach to problem-solving, and higher job satisfaction.
Team members in self-managing teams work together without direct supervision. Everyone has equal rights.This leads to, surprise - increased job satisfaction and productivity. These teams are given a high degree of autonomy. Empowered to make decisions, and organize their work in a way that is most effective for them. This level of autonomy makes every person accountable for their part.
Even larger organizations can use self-managing teams. Just look at Zappos, with more than 1,000 employees,that is working magic. Self-managing teams have been implemented successfully in various industries such as technology, healthcare, and manufacturing. The success of self-managing teams depends mainly on clear roles, responsibilities and goals, effective communication, collaboration among team members, and appropriate monitoring and support from the organization.
As Phil Jackson, former professional basketball player and winner of NBA championships said:
“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
How do self organizing teams work?
What is the secret behind the success of these teams? Let's examine and look closely at 5 key principles of self-organizing teams:
Trust: The culture of trust and safe work environment is what matters.
Autonomy: Means working independently and making decisions based on knowledge and expertise. Members have the freedom to take on tasks that interest them.
Accountability: While each member has a high degree of autonomy, they should also take responsibility for their actions and work they produce.
Communication: Open communication leads to effective functioning. Team members should communicate ideas or concerns in a constructive and respectful way
Continuous Improvement: Members welcoming new ideas, willing to experiment, and look for ways to improve the processes and outcomes.
Everyone in the team should be self-reliant, responsible, and work with others.
Forget about managers in the traditional sense. There is no such manager in self-organizing teams. Instead, team members take responsibility collectively for the success of the team. When there is a leader or manager, it is only to help in guiding the team's direction and facilitate communication and collaboration. The manager or leader does not have authority over team members, but works as a support system for the team.
In self-organized teams, time management and planning skills are major. Time tracking and task management tools like Ayanza are helpful in managing time in self-organized teams.
Self-managing teams set an iteration goal, a high-level objective that a team sets for a specific sprint. The ideal goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, and it should align with the team's overall goals or objectives. The purpose is to provide focus and direction for your team, help prioritize work, and ensure everyone is working towards the same goal.
Regular meetings are scheduled to communicate progress, discuss any obstacles, and revise the plan if needed.
What are the key responsibilities of team members? It is collaborating with team members to define and prioritize tasks and building positive relationships.Sharing knowledge and expertise with team members to support their growth and development, providing feedback to help the team improve and lastly, taking a proactive approach to problem-solving and decision-making.
The skill sets that members need are soft skills, such as ability to listen and teamwork.
When your team members lack some of these skills, no worries, proper training or mentoring can fix everything, such as behavioral-communication training or soft skills training.
Mentoring is a way to go in self managing teams. The goal is to support the growth of team members, help them reach their full potential and become more self-sufficient. Mentoring helps team members build confidence and competence and identify opportunities for further learning. Mentors can provide feedback and guidance to team members, set goals, and develop action plans. This will result in more productive and successful self-managing teams.
Key skills of a person working in a self-managing team to effectively contribute to the team are:
Open-mind - being open to new ideas and approaches
Proactivity - taking initiative and showing leadership skills within the team
Self-motivation - the ability to self-motivate and stay focused on the team's goals.
Challenges faced by the self organizing teams
As we all know, life is not a fairytale. But, your team can and will have a good ending. Just beware of these obstacles or challenges, so you know what to expect and prepare carefully.
Common criticisms of self-organizing teams is:
Missing clear goals
Communication struggles: Make sure that everyone knows what to do to operate efficiently.
Lack of trust: When team members don´t trust one another, there is a high risk of conflict or tension in the team.
Resistant to change: Self-organizing teams have to adapt to changing circumstances. Team members must be willing to accept change and try new approaches.
Insufficient resources: Limited resources, such as funding or not enough staff, can impact a self-organizing team's ability to achieve their goals.
No clear direction: Without a leader, it can be difficult to establish clear goals, priorities and strategy.
Potential for conflict: Conflicts can arise when team members have different ideas or approaches.
Risk of groupthink: Tendency for members to conform to group norms and avoid thinking otherwise, leads to a lack of innovation and creativity.
Difficulty in accountability: It can be difficult to hold individuals accountable in a self-organizing team, since responsibility is distributed across the group.
Unequal distribution of workload: Without management, there may be an imbalance in workload distribution among team members, this can end up in resentment and burnout.
Customer challenges: These teams need to be able to adapt to different customer needs and preferences quickly which can be exhausting and demanding.
Benefits of having a self organizing team
Self-organizing teams have outstanding benefits. Check this out:
Increased productivity: Since people take ownership of their work, outcomes are better
Improved creativity and innovation: When team members are given the freedom to generate their own ideas and solve problems independently, they tend to produce more creative and innovative solutions.
Faster adaptation to change: Self-organizing teams are more adaptable to changing circumstances and adjusting their approaches if needed.
Enhanced teamwork: Self-organizing teams collaborate and communicate more closely which helps to build stronger relationships and foster greater trust and respect among team members.
Higher achievement of goals: These teams have been shown to be effective in achieving goals and solving complex problems better than traditional management systems.
Continuous learning: Team members can explore underdeveloped skills. Since they have to execute a variety of tasks, they have the opportunity to improve their skills. One of the biggest benefits for every single person working in a self-organizing team is therefore a growth opportunity.
Let´s inspect advantages of customers:
Enhanced Customer Satisfaction: Allowing customers to have direct interaction with team members leads to faster and more effective problem resolution, which results in higher customer satisfaction, hooray!
Improved Efficiency: Self-managing teams are more effective because team members share knowledge and work collaboratively on tasks. Teamwork = dreamwork. The result is that customers receive services or products faster. There are even tools like Ayanza that help you build strong teamwork and healthy teams.
Better Quality: Team members have a high level of responsibility for the work. This means customers get a high standard of quality in the products they receive.
Innovation: Self-managing teams try new approaches to solving problems. This leads to innovative ideas and solutions that can benefit the customer.
Creativity blooms in self-managing teams thanks to an open and supportive environment. This leads to benefits like:
Team members are comfortable to share their ideas and opinions
Everyone feels actively involved and valued
A culture of transparency
Team members feel empowered
New ideas: team brainstorming sessions help team members generate fresh and better ideas
Intra team feedback: helps to improve your team dynamic
Not convinced yet? Just look at Spotify as the greatest example of a highly-functioning and successful self-organizing team. Let's look at other companies that have adopted the structure of self-managing teams and shine bright like diamonds.
Examples of a self organizing teams
Companies that have implemented self-organizing teams in their organizational structure and achieved outstanding results are:
1. Spotify - The music streaming giant's engineering department is organized into self-organizing scrum teams and it works wonders. In 2022, Spotify generated a revenue of over 11.7 billion euros…yes, a lot.
2. Zappos - Zappos said goodbye to manager roles and job titles and decided to transform into self-management. The online shoe and clothing store uses self-organizing teams and achieves amazing results.
3. Valve - The world’s most powerful gaming company known for its unique organizational structure, which is completely flat and consists of self-organizing teams. Every year their revenue goes higher. Valve promotes itself as a completely flat structure where “nobody reports to anybody else”.
How to create a self organizing team
My brother once told me, I am a person who can never work in a self-organized way. Thank you for the feedback, bro. Few years later, I am working as a highly proud team member in a self-organizing team. If I could do it, you can do it, too.
The ideal team size for your self-organizing team will be between 5-9 members. A smaller group size allows for better communication, collaboration and decision-making.
Here are some steps to create a powerful self-organizing team:
Choose the right people
Pick individuals who can work well together and are compatible. Search for motivated, self-driven people with a strong work ethic. It's beneficial to have a mix of people with different backgrounds, experiences, and skill sets. Sharing a common vision and values is basic. It's important to have a balance between introverts and extroverts, team players and individual contributors.
The ideal blend of skills contains:
clear and effective communication skills
critical thinking and problem-solving abilities
flexibility and adaptability
emotional intelligence and empathy
subject matter expertise or technical skills
Set clear goals and expectations
Provide a clear vision and set realistic goals for the team. Communicate the expectations and let the team know what success looks like.
Develop trust and respect
The team has to work on the basis of trust. Encourage open communication and honesty within the team. Team members should feel free to speak up and share their thoughts without fear of criticism. Be respectful of everyone's opinions.
The team should be empowered to make decisions. Provide your team with the resources they need to succeed, but also give them the freedom to try new things and take risks.
Foster a learning culture
Provide learning opportunities and encourage the team to seek out new skills and knowledge. Everyone should be supported to grow.
Create metrics to measure the team's effectiveness and understand where improvements can be made. Feedback is essential. Acknowledge the team's achievements as well.
Assign tasks equally
Team members should share responsibility equally. Avoid situations where one team member takes on too much. Ensure that everyone can decide what they want to do.
Open gate to collaborate
Teamwork, my dear friend, is the most precious strength of self-organizing teams. Work on open communication and create an environment where team members feel comfortable as in their favorite cotton slippers. Can team members share their ideas and opinions without judgment from others?
Each team member should have a clear role and accountability. This ensures that everyone is clear on their individual responsibilities, deadlines, and what is expected of them.
Have regular check-ins to make sure things are running smoothly. This allows all team members to stay up to date on what the team is working on. Or you can save your time and energy and use online tools for team collaboration that inform you about the latest happenings and progress of your team, even when you are on the other side of the world.
Opportunities for professional development
Team members can work on raising their skill levels by learning from experts, such as mentors or professionals in the field, by attending courses, workshops or conferences. Good news is that team members don't need to have a lot of experience. As long as each member is willing to learn, actively participate and cooperate with the team.
Creating a self-organizing team is worth it and can lead to sensational results.
The importance of self organizing teams in agile
Self-organizing teams are important in agile. Why? Because they can adapt to requirements easily, work collaboratively and communicate effectively. This leads to better understanding of the project and its goals.
Agile methods emphasize the importance of creating products that solve customers' needs and provide value. Teams work continuously on their products to improve features based on customer feedback. Through frequent and ongoing communication with customers, teams ensure that customer´s expectations are fully understood and met.
Self-organizing teams are constantly looking for ways to improve their processes, delivery, and quality. The primary aim is to achieve customer satisfaction and bring a high-quality product.
Self-organizing teams are forced to come up with innovative solutions to problems. This can lead to breakthrough ideas and solutions and that is what agile needs.
Agile development uses short development cycles - sprints, constant communication between the development team and stakeholders, and a flexible approach to change. Product innovations in agile teams are driven by the team's ability to collaborate and deliver quickly.
Agile teams encourage product innovation with:
Continuous feedback: from customers, stakeholders, and team members to identify areas for improvement and new ideas. This feedback is used to continuously update on the product.
Regular retrospectives: Agile teams hold regular retrospectives to review past work and identify ways to improve the process, product, and team dynamics. In Ayanza you can retrospect and check your progress. Boost your productivity and achieve success through Retrospective Reflection.
Cross-functional collaboration: Agile teams are made up of members from different parts of the organization who bring unique perspectives. Collaboration between these team members sparks innovation and creativity in product. People with diverse professional backgrounds allow a team to have a broader perspective on the project.
Agile frameworks: Agile frameworks, such as Scrum or Kanban, provide a structured approach to product development through the use of sprints, stand-ups, and prioritization techniques.
That is why self-organizing teams are great in agile. Thanks to them you can stay ahead of your competition.
Building a self-organizing team is a way to go, because it has shown great results. By encouraging collaboration, creativity and keeping an open mind, you can create a team that has super powers.
What is the difference between a self-organizing team and a self governing team?
Both a self-organizing team and a self-governing team work toward achieving a common goal.
Self-organizing teams have a hierarchical structure, with a leader or manager that provides guidance or support.
Self-governing teams have a flat structure, with no formal hierarchy or leader. They are completely autonomous.
What are the characteristics of self-organizing teams?
Self-organizing teams are known for their Autonomy - freedom to make decisions and take actions without direction from a manager, Flexibility, Collaboration, Accountability, Trust and respect of one another, Continuous improvement - team is always looking for ways to improve their processes and performance through ongoing learning and reflection.