Moving To Self-Management? First Answer These Questions!

Pim de Morree
Written by Pim de Morree December 11, 2019

Recently, we wrote a widely shared blog post on how to implement self-management. We discussed some approaches we have seen around the globe. Choosing the right one requires answers to some vital questions. Here, we discuss some of them.

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1. Team coach

In many self-managing organizations team coaches play a crucial role. They might support teams to become better at, for example, conflict-handling, giving feedback, measuring and improving team performance, or the distribution of tasks.

The team coach's role - however - is not about decision-making, task distribution, or other traditional manager-like activities. The role is one of support. And in self-managing organizations it's a vitally important role.

So, what are some of the considerations when designing the role of coaches?

What will coaches be responsible for?

Will they provide support only when teams ask for it? Or can they initiate unsolicited support? Will they be involved in improving the self-managing organization (they have a good overview of the problems and challenges)? Will they assist individual employees? Or will the teams do this themselves?

How many coaches are needed?

How many coaches will be available to support the teams? At home-care nursing organization Buurtzorg there are about 25 coaches to support ~1,000 self-managing teams. (That’s one coach per 40 teams.) Astrid Vermeer and Ben Wenting (two experts on self-managing teams) wrote in "Self-Management: How it does work" that every coach should allocate 2 hours per week to each team. "This includes individual contact, phone calls, answering emails and so on".

During implementation, teams need more support—around 2 to 4 hours per team per week. Astrid and Ben offer an interesting warning about the "span of coaching". "Experience shows that a coach should definitely not coach too few teams. [...] If a coach has only a few teams, and still wants to be 'useful', then he/she runs the risk of interfering with teams too much".

Sounds strange, but consistent with what we've seen around the globe.

Will coaches be attached to teams?

Will coaches be attached to teams? Or can teams select from a group of coaches? The benefit of attached coaches is that they develop a deep understanding of specific teams and individuals. On the other hand, it can be beneficial to have teams select a coach from a group of available coaches. For example, the team itself can decide which coach they prefer to work with for a specific challenge.

2. Team set-up

There are options. In some organizations it makes sense to organize by geography. (e.g. Buurtzorg teams focus on one neighborhood). In others it's better to organize around clients (e.g. at FAVI where their ‘mini-factories’ organized around clients like FIAT or BMW). Others organize around products or services (e.g. financial consulting firm Finext). And some find a combination of the above works well (e.g. white goods company Haier).

In other words, it depends on the kind of business you are in, and what aspects you prioritize. Consider all the options.

3. Decision-making

How will decision-making work, within and across teams? Will they use the advice process to boost initiative-taking? Or will they seek consensus? And how will they come to joint decisions? Via a democratic process? Or consent-based decision making? Check out our blog post on the variety of decision-making processes.

4. Performance assessment

How will team performance be assessed? Should each be able to compare their performance with other teams? If so, metrics like throughput, customer satisfaction, the number of complaints, or revenue are used. Once again, this is dependent on the type of teams and the type of organization. Most important is that teams can easily assess their own performance data. This helps them improve and grow.

Some organizations use comparisons to motivate staff. They promote a bit of competition by benchmarking performance against the average, or other teams. More information on how pioneers assess team performance can be found in this article.

Just a start..

For many organizations, other things should be considered before adopting self-management. For example, role distribution within the teams, the ground rules of how teams will collaborate, and how the transformation is going to be made (i.e. team by team or all at once). In short, there is much to think about. But these considerations are - according to us and the pioneers - the most vital ones. Get in touch with our consulting company Revolt if you need support on this topic.

Question to you: What other questions and considerations would you include? What lessons can you share with the community? Drop your suggestions in the comments below.

Written by Pim de Morree
Pim de Morree
As co-founder of Corporate Rebels I focus on: researching, writing, speaking, and building our company.
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