Self-Managed Teams

Self-managed teams, such as your project team, have several characteristics that distinguish them from other types of groups and teams. These are discussed below.

#1  Superordinate Goals

Teams are formed in order to accomplish some set of goals. In the case of your project team, the overriding, or superordinate, goal is to complete the project requirements in a manner acceptable to the instructor. This goal needs to be in the forefront of all team members’ minds at all times. Individual goals are discussed later.

#2  Complementary Knowledge, Skills and Attributes

Recognize that your team represents a unique set of individuals with different knowledge, skills and attributes (KSA). Understanding that everyone on your team is different is an important step toward building an effective team. Just as a basketball team has players who are good outside shooters and players who are good at rebounding, so does your team have members who are good at writing and members who are good at performing research. When dividing up the work, be aware of these differences and assign tasks accordingly. Be careful here, however. The main purpose of the team project is for the members to learn. By being involved with the research part of the project, a member who feels uncomfortable with their research skills can become more proficient in that area. However, giving this person total charge of that portion of the project is not a good idea. Teaming them with someone who feels that they are good at research gives both a chance to further their skills.

#3  Resource Control

Self-managed teams have control over the resources provided to accomplish the project goals. In the case of your project team, your major resources are time and the team members’ labor. Although you are required to hand in task assignments to your instructor, your team has total control over how those assignments are made–the leader simply wants to make sure that the assignments have been made and that no major tasks are missing. Your leader can also provide insight into how much time and effort is involved in completing various tasks. The team is responsible for seeking this guidance and for managing time by planning meetings, meeting milestones, etc.

#4  Making It Happen

Leaders have a reputation of doing what they say they will do. This is the evidence, the proof, and the baseline for trust and credibility. Someone who does not get the work done does not have credibility as a professional. At the same time, the occasional spot of incompetence is not necessarily a bad thing. People need to take risks, learn new skills, try new things, or start new jobs. The important thing is to keep a firm grasp on one’s limitations and acknowledge them. People who are expanding their abilities or making transitions can avoid damaging their credibility by being careful about making promises regarding new areas of expertise.

#5  Individual Goals

One of the most important tasks for managers is to bring individuals’ goals into congruence with the organization’s goals. The situation is similar with self-managed teams. Although there is no formal manager, there are team and individual goals and each member must find a way to achieve their individual goals while still attaining the team’s goals. Even though every member will have a unique set of goals, we can assume that most members will have at least three:

  • To learn course material;
  • To gain interpersonal and teamwork skills; and
  • To get a good grade.

#6  Individual Rewards

In self-managed teams a portion of an individual’s reward is based on team performance. In this class, your external reward is your grade in this class. As the syllabus notes, 30% of your course grade comes from your project grades. To put it another way, your performance as a team has a significant impact on your individual reward-your grade.