The Benefits of Self-Managed Teams and Ways to Implement Them

Self-managed teams could be the team structure to solve all your management issues. Learn about how to implement this method of management!

Working environments are becoming increasingly innovative and management systems and structures are changing for the better. Self-managed teams are on the rise and individual autonomy is flourishing. Self-managed teams are structured in a way that there’s no single authority figure making all of the decisions within the team; these kinds of teams distribute decision-making power evenly between team members, and having a self-managed team can lead to greater productivity, engagement, and team performances. Supervision isn’t always effective depending on the type of work you and your team are completing. Learn what it means to implement self-managed teams, what kinds of advantages they offer, and the risks that are associated with them. 

What are self-managed teams? 

Self-managed teams are teams in which employees are autonomous and equally responsible for planning and completing their tasks without any supervision from a manager or leader. This model enables autonomous working methods where each person takes complete ownership of their role, schedule, workflow, roles, and processes. Because this management method eliminates hierarchy, each team member needs to hold themselves accountable to their teammates and to the commitments they’ve made to ensure that productivity and effectiveness reach a high point and drive the team to achieve their collective goals. 

Foster a self-managed team

Share real-time feedback on meetings, projects, and performance to foster self-managed teams with 360 feedback or by hosting feedback meetings. Try a tool like Fellow today!

What are the advantages of self-managed teams? 

1Increase in productivity 

Sometimes, self-managed teams demonstrate increases in productivity because the proposal and approval process is eliminated, meaning the workflow can speed up quite considerably. Without the need to go back and forth with a leader regarding specific instructions, things to be aware of, modifications that are required, and more, self-managed teams complete their work autonomously and are empowered to make the calls that leaders would typically make. Because the more traditional management hierarchy (in which someone needs to authorize each decision) is eliminated, teams can work much more quickly and gain additional time to take advantage of new opportunities and confront challenges that surface. 

2More opportunities for growth 

Self-managed teams also tend to provide more opportunity for growth within the organization. In this type of management structure, employees often rotate roles and wear multiple hats, which means that although each person may have a primary role, there are other responsibilities that need attention and are therefore rotated between team members. This rotation gives employees the opportunity to be exposed to different tasks that require different skills which they then acquire as they take on something new. In this way, individuals gain the ability to expand their experiences and try out different responsibilities, learning from their coworkers who may have completed these tasks before them. What’s more, this variation in responsibilities boosts both collaboration and communication amongst the team. 

3Realistic expectations 

Employees in self-managed teams are better able to set realistic expectations because they’re setting these expectations for themselves and have the power to make them more attainable. This freedom is beneficial because it reduces the stress and pressure that employees may feel to meet unrealistic expectations that are set in a more conventional management structure. When employees set realistic expectations, they are much more likely to meet these expectations and achieve their goals. Self-managed teams further motivate and encourage individuals to keep performing in an impressive way so they keep meeting subsequent expectations that are set on an individual and project level. 

4Reduced costs 

If you choose this model of management, fewer managers are necessary to hire because you don’t need additional leaders to oversee team members. This cost-savings is extremely helpful, especially since fewer and fewer individuals actually want to be in management positions these days. Managers tend to feel more stressed, more overworked, and far less supported than employees in non-management roles. This goes to show that management under the traditional and hierarchical structure is no longer sustainable. It may be worth thinking about if you would prefer to boost autonomy and trust in your team, or put pressure on one individual to oversee the entire team and take on the responsibility of a collective effort. 

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What are the disadvantages of self-managed teams? 

1Challenges during transition 

It can be pretty tricky to initially implement a self-managed team. There’s no doubt that you and your team are going to experience challenges during transition, so it’s up to you to determine whether the risk is worth the rewards that come with having a self-managed team. It’s important to note that the transition is challenging because you’ll need to reorganize your entire team, meaning those who were managers will no longer be in leadership positions, which may not sit well with all of them. Moreover, workflow delays are bound to happen as the transition begins and you assign particular areas of focus to each employee, while also deciding on rotating responsibilities. 

2More training required 

More training will be required for your team to become a successful self-managed team. This means really investing in proper training and development, including videos and presentations for the group on how self-managed teams work and come to be successful. Be sure to offer your team in-depth knowledge (yes, this means you really need to do your research, too) as well as case studies that highlight this management structure so best practices for this working style become solidified knowledge. For this training to be effective, the team needs to be open-minded even if they’re more seasoned and experienced employees. Start with the basic principles of this model and build from there. 

3Lack of self-motivation 

For a self-managed team to be effective and efficient, the individuals within the organization need to be hugely self-motivated, independent, and collaborative. If this is not the case, this structure of management is not likely to work well. It becomes even more difficult to boost self-motivation in an existing group, rather than hiring a group of individuals who are aware of the self-management structure from the get-go. Of course, this isn’t necessarily an issue if your team of employees are highly motivated and open to new ways of operating. That said, if this isn’t the case, it may be more suitable to hire a group of individuals who are prepared to self-manage in the first place. 

Ways to implement self-managed teams 

1Promote team rapport with team-building activities 

Because team cohesion and communication are essential components of having a successful self-managed team, you’ll need to promote team rapport. One effective way of doing this is through team-building activities. Organizing team-building activities, especially at the beginning of a project, can help people get to know each other better and make people feel more comfortable with one another. When team members feel more comfortable with one another, communication, problem solving, and decision-making are far more effective between individuals. Because collaboration is key in any team, even more so for self-managed teams, team-building activities that require working together to solve challenges are especially effective. 

2Improve communication 

To implement a self-managed team, you and your team will have to work on your communication. It’s so important that you incorporate a collaborative meeting agenda to improve communication in each team meeting. This way, when the group gets together everyone has the ability to voice their comments, suggestions, ideas, and concerns. Self-managed teams oversee their own responsibilities, so in meetings especially, it’s important that each person has an opportunity to update the group on the work they’re doing, the progress they’re making, and the additional support they need (if any). Ensure you’ve established clear communication channels, whether this is through an instant messenger or by physically visiting a teammates desk. 

3Provide team and individual feedback regularly 

You’re going to need regular feedback to become embedded in your team culture and to have a successful self-managed team. Ensure that each individual is providing team and individual feedback regularly. Incorporating feedback into your team means normalizing regular feedback, having individuals ask for feedback, providing feedback to others, and tracking this feedback over time. These are all things you can do with Fellow to stay on top of tracking your team’s success. Feedback is not solely constructive, so it’s important that you and your team are also making an effort to give one another positive feedback and recognition for strong performances and team achievements. 

360 feedback

Parting advice

In self-managed teams, each individual is given the power and autonomy to complete their tasks without a leader overseeing their work. This means that each person’s self-awareness grows as they have to contemplate their own work and performances. The support from team members is extremely important for successfully running self-managed teams because feedback, communication, and collaboration are central to this management model. Many businesses are now opting for this innovative approach versus more traditional and hierarchically organized companies. While self-managed teams are not suitable for every company, they certainly offer some unique benefits that are worth exploring.


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About the author

Kate Dagher

Kate Dagher, BA Communications and Business Management, has a management and corporate consulting background, having worked in the public sector, sales and corporate finance. She is now making a shift from business to psychology and bridging her knowledge from both domains, as she pursues a Graduate degree in psychology at Trinity College, Dublin. Kate is fascinated about how our physical environments influence our thoughts, behaviours, actions and wellbeing. She is a certified yoga teacher, a passionate writer and traveller.

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