What is a self-organizing team?
There is no simple answer to this question. Self-organizing teams come in all shapes and sizes. Some self-organize teams organize their own recruitment, and performance and reward review. Other teams leave this to HR, but do operate without a manager. It its most basic form a self-organizing team is a team that is guided by a central (team) purpose, within clear boundaries and is free to decide how to best achieve its goals.
The advantages of self-organization
There are two major advantages to self organization. Research has shown more autonomy at work means makes people experience a higher level of wellbeing. The greater the influence employees have on their own task set, work division and way of working, the happier they are. Happy employees result in raised productivity (by as much as 37% according to Harvard Business Review), and ever higher stock prices.
The second advantage of self-organizing team is that they respond better to customer needs. They are closer to the customer than their manager and are therefore better informed about their customers needs. A serf-organizing team is also more responsive and quicker because they are not dependent on the traditional bureaucratic and decision-making structure.
Is self-organization the solution for every team?
Yes, and no. Yes, because we believe teams can be at their most effective when they are at their most autonomous. No, because teams need to decide for themselves to what extent they want to self-organize. Some teams prefer to have a manager who makes sure the proverbial clogged drain (a task no one wants to do) is cleaned. Or to have specialists that assist in recruiting new colleagues or pick up supporting tasks. Other teams prefer to pick up these responsibilities themselves. This includes finding finding the perfect new team member, choosing work hours and doing their own periodic performance and remuneration reviews
Starting with self-organization
How to get started? How to figure out whether a team should self-organize or not? The simple answer: simply get started. Start with a single team and discuss to what extent they would like to self-organize. The complicated answer considers issues such as a team purpose, a clear insight into results, governing processes, meeting structure, and how to make multiple teams work together effectively. Indeed, the answer is different for every team. Fortunately reinventing the wheel is not required. Social technologies such as Agile and Sociocracy 3.0 can support you in this process. It also helps to engage an experienced coach . Someone who can help the team to find their own answers, because the right answer is always contained within the team itself.