From Self-Management To Team-Management

Joost Minnaar
Written by Joost Minnaar July 07, 2021

If you hadn’t noticed, people in the Future of Work arena are excited about the possibilities of self-managing organizations. Although many talk about 'self-management', we should talk about 'team-management'. Buurtzorg (one of the world's largest 'self-managing organizations') shows how in their onboarding materials.

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At Buurtzorg, new recruits receive a powerpoint deck on their unique way of working. The aim is to speed up onboarding. The slides give simple guidelines on a range of topics.

When we were developing an online course about Buurtzorg for our Academy, we were given access to these. It is all about bringing team-management alive. Here are the main points in the deck:

Three core believes

Buurtzorg's team-management is based on three core beliefs:

  • Employees (Buurtzorg calls them 'professionals') are self-reliant
  • Employees do the right things
  • Employees are to be trusted

They believe team-management can be implemented well only when everyone shares these beliefs. These beliefs guide Buurtzorg's vision of team-management.

How is this different from traditional ways of working? The deck highlights three kinds of behaviours:

  1. You can have to think along
  2. The manager team decides and is responsible
  3. Focus on productivity quality

No anarchy

They make it clear that team-management does not mean anarchy, but the opposite. Teams are supposed to work within the broader organization framework.

This framework is set by the top management team, and is the same for each team. It is all about 'what' needs to be done by the teams.

'How' things are done is totally up to the teams. They are encouraged to develop their own interpretation of the framework. Team management happens within this framework.

The broader organization framework highlights the following:

  • Teams should strive for self-reliance
  • Each team is encouraged to find solutions to its own problems
  • Team tasks ought to be divided by team members themselves
  • Teams always share joint responsibility for team performance
The concept of team-management is based on 3 core beliefs about employees: Employees (1) are self-reliant, (2) do the right things, and (3) are to be trusted.
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Clear team responsibilities

While teams enjoy lots of autonomy in making decisions, they also have far-reaching responsibilities. The deck mentions three areas:

  1. Clients
  2. Each other
  3. Managing the team

1. Teams are responsible for their clients

As teams strive for self-reliance they are encouraged to ask the following questions, and use their skill and resources to deliver the best possible care to clients:

  • What can I do/solve to satisfy client wishes?
  • What can the team do/solve to satisfy client wishes?
  • What can be done/solved within the broader organization?
  • What can be done/solved outside the broader organization?

2. Teams are responsible for each other

Just as teams are encouraged to find their own solutions, they are encouraged to take care of each other, by doing the following:

  • Monitoring team workload
  • Always making it possible to discus difficult situations
  • Getting help if it's needed by someone in the team

While teams are encouraged to take care of these points, they are also encouraged to behave as follows while doing so:

  • Respect each other's differences
  • Think along and cooperate with each other
  • Ensure a fair distribution of benefits and burdens
  • Focus on deploying personal qualities
  • Think, and act, in a solution-oriented way

Team solution-orientation is guided by the following behaviours:

  • Communicate based on wishes
  • Only give advice when requested
  • Everybody participates in team processes
  • Strive to find consensus amongst each other

3. Teams are responsible for managing their team

Members are responsible for managing their own team, and for dividing between themselves the tasks necessary to do this.

The distribution of tasks (like planning, housekeeping, mentoring, etc.) follows six guidelines:

  • Every team member should have 1 or more tasks
  • Tasks should be divided based on talents of each team member
  • Tasks should rotate periodically
  • Everyone should participate in important team decisions
  • Everyone is equally responsible for managing the team
  • Everyone is equally responsible for performance of the team
If you hadn’t noticed, people in the Future of Work arena are excited about the possibilities of self-managing organizations. Although many talk about 'self-management', we should talk about 'team-management'.
Click to tweet

Team meetings

Regular team meetings encourage all members to join in managing the team. They are guided by the following:

  • All team members should take part in each meeting
  • Team members are jointly responsible for the progress and outcomes of each meeting
  • A clear meeting format should be followed
  • Team meetings/discussions should have goals set in advance
  • Team meetings/discussions should focus on finding consensus
  • Irrelevant comments are to be avoided

Major decisions can only be made at team meetings. The decision process has six guidelines:

  • All team members have an equal say in the decisions to be made
  • Decisions are made by consensus
  • All decisions are temporary
  • No team member is authorized to make a team decision without the consensus of the entire team
  • Decisions are binding until another is reached by consensus
  • Everyone should be willing to make sacrifices

Reaching consensus

It should be clear by now that reaching consensus is important in Buurtzorg's concept of team-management.

They argue consensus is best achieved once team members shift from talking to listening. Behaviours that support this shift:

  • Don't try to be proven right
  • Don't try to convince others
  • Do ask each other questions
  • Do come up with proposals
  • Everyone can say something
  • Think out loud
  • Cherish different opinions
  • Listen to each other
  • Ask each other clarifying questions
  • Search for solutions together
  • Indicate when you need something
  • Talk with each other, not about each other
  • Indicate when you find something difficult
  • Revisit things that do not feel right
  • Do not fill in the blanks for others

A healthy team environment

The guidelines encourage teams to cultivate a healthy environment similar to what you’d like in your private life. They characterize this environment in four behaviours:

  • Be transparent to each other
  • Be curious about each other
  • Wish each other the best
  • Trust the good intentions of each other

Being transparent means that, sometimes, you need to hold each other accountable. They suggest things to consider when doing that:

  • Do it right away - do not bottle up frustrations
  • First investigate, then judge
  • Hold somebody accountable by being open, honest and curious
  • Use a feedback protocol or/and a coach in the process


Finally, the decks list five behaviours that hinder team-management:

  • Being too dominant
  • Always wanting to be right
  • Being overly flexible, or not flexible enough
  • Lacking an entrepreneurial drive
  • Wanting to arrange too many things
5 behaviours hinder team-management: (1) being too dominant, (2) always wanting to be right, (3) being overly flexible, or not flexible enough, (4) lacking an entrepreneurial drive, (5) wanting to arrange too many things
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Corporate Rebels Academy

Buurtzorg is a case study in our 6-week course, "Understanding and designing progressive organization structures". With Buurtzorg, we've developed unique content for Academy students.

Ready for more? There are still a few seats left in the September cohort. Be quick though. The first two cohorts of the course sold out in no-time.

More info can be found here.

Written by Joost Minnaar
Joost Minnaar
Co-founder Corporate Rebels. My daily focus is on research, writing, and anything else related to making work more fun.
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