Empowered Self-Managing Teams
Glaser develops his idea of leadership based on the notions of followership…Superleaders have the capacity to help their followers develop self leadership so that they can contribute more fully to their organisation’s efforts. Team facilitators need to be empowered in order to empower teams.
(Linstead, Fulop and Lilley, 2009: 562)
Discuss the inter-relationships between effective leadership, effective decision-making and empowered self-managing teams. Do you believe that leaders should devolve decision making to self-managing teams? Use examples to illustrate your argument.
Effective Leadership, Effective Decision-Making And Empowered Self-Managing Teams
“Devolving decision making has the potential to unleash an agility that will always be impossible if decisions have to travel up and down a corporate hierarchy”. Brisbourne 2008
There are many reasons why organisations would or would not choose to devolve decision-making. In hierarchical
organisations managers process large amounts of information. At some point a manager’s
capacity to process information and make decisions is exceeded, resulting in pressure to
devolve (Galbraith, 1973; Mintzberg, 1979; Tompkins & Mawditt, 1994). Effective leadership, decision making and the ideology of self-managed teams plays a key role in determining the potential success or failure of decision devolvement.
Over the past 15 years organisations, predominantly of those in the USA, have experimented in self managed work teams. In the United States alone estimates of organisations using self managed work teams have ranged from 30 to 55 per cent (Cohen et al. 1996). Traditional bureaucratic organisations are being replaced by self-managing work teams. As a matter of fact, one of the most common changes that organisations have made is the implementation of teams.
Among researchers, the concept of self-managed work groups has also gained increasing interest. Stemming from the concept of socio-technical systems developed by Emery and Trist (1969), self-managed work groups have been most recently utilised as a form of work system, particularly as pressures from a highly educated workforce for more responsibility and empowerment through team-based leadership are being exerted on organisations. There is also additional pressure for organisations to become more responsive to the competitive environment and the global economy that we live in.
Self-managed work teams have a number of key characteristics. They consist of a small group of individuals (8-15) who are generally responsible for completing a whole unit of work, performing a variety of tasks, and utilising a number of skills which the group as a whole possesses. Job feedback is also important to the work team so that variance from goal attainment can be controlled by team members within a defined work area.
Although strong empirical evidence supporting the benefits of team structures is still evolving, several case studies, both within Australia and the USA, have proved that the implementation of self managed teams produces outcomes such as increased employee satisfaction, the opportunity for increased socialisation in the workplace, increased autonomy, opportunity to learn new skills, and other aspects such as reduced absenteeism and turnover, increased performance and motivation. However some researchers are questioning the benefits of self-managed work teams and believe that their link to effectiveness does not always exist in practice. Several case studies undertaken have indicated that one of the main reasons contributing to failures of self-managed work teams has been the reluctance of supervisors to hand over power and control to the team. Hence the role of leadership is critical to the success of self-managed work teams (Manz, 106).
An important role in self-managed work teams that has received little attention in past research is the leader in the group. Little research exists on the external leader and its effect on the functioning of the group. The basic idea behind self-managed work teams portrays group members in total control over their work environment and responsibility for all tasks within their group. Researchers in the past often presumed that the role of external leader is redundant and therefore to be of little interest.
However research by Charles C. Manz (1992) looks at the role of self-leadership on the effectiveness of self-managed work teams and the changing nature of leadership in self-managed work team environments. Far from becoming redundant, the research suggests that leadership has moved away from the traditional role of supervision and control to a highly facilitative of management, much less direct but still essential for the effectiveness of the team.
Leadership, when applied to self-managed work teams, describes the idea of “a person who leads others to lead themselves” Termed the “super leader” or self leadership by Manz and Sims (11986), the idea of the formal leader in the self-managed work team system implies that the leader works towards making his or her own position eventually redundant through guiding the group towards total self-management. The leader’s job in this environment changes to one that helps followers to develop the necessary skills for work, especially self leadership.
Later work by Manz and Sims (1991) provides a basis upon which to evaluate leadership in the self-managed work team setting. The recommended style of leadership, namely self leadership reflects the basic requirements of self-managed work teams. According to Manz and Sims (1991(, the leader engages in the behaviours that help team members learn to lead themselves. Instead of inspiring workers by generating an attractive vision, leaders; effective leaders help members to reorganise theory own capacity for effective decision-making without the need for direct involvement by the leader. This research has revealed basic behaviours that leaders perform, which directly affect level of self management displayed by the team. For example, self leadership behaviour encourages self-reinforcement by team members. Through reinforcement of high levels of team performance, the self-leadership behaviours encourage the team to recognise and appreciate actions that lead to effective performance. The leader supplies the team with sufficient information to allow the team to evaluate its own performance. Most of the behaviours enacted by leaders in this environment concern the internalisation of the concepts of task responsibility and influence over organisational outcomes. In other words, the leader, through a subtle process of boundary control, helps the team feel responsible for its own outcomes and recognise intrinsic rewards in its own work setting. The leader supplies information and feedback as needed to permit the continuance of self-leadership behaviours. Through the selective se of legitimate criticism and rewards, the leader enforces self-leadership outcomes (Manz and Sims 87; Sewell, 7).
Team members are encouraged to be critical of their own performance. By learning to recognize faults in their work practice, members can gain increased knowledge of their work and recognize, appropriate behaviours for team success. Not mentioned in the literature, although implicitly implied, is the need for the external leader to promote norms of behaviour based on group aspect.
Since the primary goal of the leader in this empowered environment is to improve the performance of the team members through the development of their own self-leadership capabilities, employee self-goal setting is an important ingredient. The leader through coaching and modelling helps assist members to engage in the behaviour of self-goal setting within the team, and helps them to effectively set specific challenging goal for themselves. Other leaders encouraged behaviours include self coordination, self rehearsal d self-expectations.
While the leader’s position in self-managed work team is describes as a leader who leads others to lead themselves (Manz and Sims 86), the inference s that the leader is moving toward becoming redundant or at least only influential in a minor way. It would be more suitable to express the role of the leader in this environment as a leader who teaches others to appreciate the effectiveness of self-leadership for both organisational and individual benefits and who encourages members to look at management in a different, though not necessarily less influential, way. The team’s relationship with the leader changes from one basic reliance for the designation of tasks, rewards and direction, to a subtler, though just as important, role of maintenance and facilitation. The team may not rely on him/her in terms of having to ask for desired input once self-leadership is established, but the leader evolves into a facilitator of team behaviours and acts as a buffer between the group and the external environment by supplying information and resources to the team (Manz, 1119).
The concept of self-leadership is still a relatively unexplored one. While theories relating to the type of behaviours required of the leader in a self-managed work team environment are available, there is very little research on the actual effects of a variety of organisational variables on the various dimensions of self-leadership behaviours. The purpose of this research study then, is to examine the relationship between selted self-leadership behaviours and relevant organisational variables. Based upon the above discussion, the following hypotheses are examined. However, due to lack of research in these areas, literature support for the propositions is limited. Nevertheless, it is important to discover the relationships between self leadership behaviours and those variables that are important for the effective functioning of self-managing work teams (Manz, 90).
Self-managing work teams operate in a culture that supports and fosters employee empowerment. The organisation provides them with the information about work processes, quality standards and customer requirements. As such, the team members have the authority and power to make decisions about work processes and outcomes. In addition they not only have the resources to accomplish their work but the training that enables employees to develop the knowledge required for effective performance. If this is the direction the organisation wants to go then it is important that conditions be created to foster, nurture and reward the development of self-leadership behaviours.
In traditional organisations, employees are often controlled by managers and this cna lead to a feeling of powerlessness. Empowering employees on the other hand gives them control and consequently makes their jobs more meaningful. Hence, if self-managed work teams are going to be successful, the manager must be able to make the transition o being facilitator and coach. According to Manz(1986), in a self –managed team environment employees develop their own standards of performance, undertake self-evaluation and self-regulate their own job behaviours. These self-managed behaviours are the essence of self-managed skills. Therefore, leading a team that manages itself requires a unique and different approach to leadership (Manz and Sims 87). In this system, managers are expected to lead their team by delegating authority and management back to the team. This requires that they build relationships with team members, and understand their perspectives in order to enhance their influence. They also need to develop the conditions necessary for team success, competence, productivity and effectiveness. Building trust with team members and engaging in self-leadership behaviours, as the results of this study indicate, creates such an environment. If organisations want to obtain the maximum returns from empowering workers, the focus should be not only on building teams, but supporting a culture that supports and encourages this system and a decentralised structure that encourages autonomy. Finally, it should be pointed out that encouraging self-leadership behaviours is only part of the ingredients of the leadership process n self-managed work teams. Personnel policies, including the provision of ongoing training to help socialise employees to the norms and values of self-managed teas, and identifying and selecting those individuals who can adapt these behaviours to such a system should be developed (Allen, 434).
Empowered self-management as a team design construct, is frequently presented as a natural development of autonomous team working. Structural participation and involvement in, thus the devolvement of decision making, indeed, are often seen to be greater within empowered teams, when compared to that available to autonomous teams. This superficial similarity of the two design concepts, however, masks the fact that participation n the empowered team is increasingly on managements’ terms. Empowered teams are delegated managerial responsibilities and are encourages to identify with management’s goals and objectives. Empowered teams are closely integrated within managerial systems of control rather than being autonomous from such systems of control. When we look at empowerment as a team design construct we must conclude that team empowerment comes at the expense of team autonomy, rather than being built upon the back of it. This and other changes in the task environment of work teams necessitate the development of a new approach to the study f work design. The means and modes of individual and team accountability for performance need to be understood in much greater depth and conceptual frameworks that elucidate the differing ways in which accountability is achieved, need to be developed. New questions need to be asked and new design concepts developed, in order for the work design literature to progress (Manz, 273).