This presentation examines two case studies with control dynamics in self-managed teams (Conrad & Poole, 2005, pp. 130-133) to inquire if self-managed teams empower or imprison their members. Specifically:
Self-managed teams examined: Exel & Stitchco
Different industries, geographies, markets and national cultures
Similar obstacles with empowerment and control processes
Intended versus unintended consequences of self-managed team structures
Resistance to change when inconsistent with employees’ needs (Coch & French, 1948; Tichy, 1983, as cited in Maynard, Mathieu, Marsh, & Ruddy, 2007, p. 3)
Barriers to success when transformational leadership or union support is lacking, and when bureaucratic administrative practices in place (Pearson, 1992, as cited in Parker, Wall & Cordery, 1993, p. 431)
These recommendations assume self-managed teams succeed via the following:
An Industry Professional’s Perspective Phil Zulfer, director of Surety Operations for Liberty Mutual Group, explained the difference between manager-led and self-managed teams (personal communication, November 16, 2009):
Manager-led: “With the right manager it can be advantageous, a bad manager, disastrous,” and, “A good manager will give their employees projects and tasks for professional growth and betterment.”
Self-managed: “Group dynamics is most important; however someone needs to step-up and take a leadership position,” and, “… projects can take longer to get started with looser timelines and deliverables.”
Golden Rule “ Err on the side of transparency” is the road to collaboration (Klinemeier, 2009, August 3).
Conclusion Overall, the case study of Xel and Stitchco serve as a cautionary tale for organizations that create flattened hierarchical structures hoping to better meet the needs of their respective markets without adequately preparing the organization and staff for the new way of working. As a result, they exposed the organizations to numerous unintended obstacles and setbacks due to abrupt changes that put peers in unfamiliar positions of authority over one another that eventually led to an inability to manage even simple day to day tasks. This case study gives a profound glimpse into the complexity of organizational change, and the critical importance of the human element and relations-oriented leadership behaviors in self-manage team models.
Discussion Questions 1. What forms of control are characteristic of relational strategies of organizing? 2. How do these forms differ from traditional strategies? 3. Is it true this case study that self-manage teams provided a better quality of worklife for employees while improving results at the same time? 4. What interpersonal factors are involved in the success of relational strategies in teams?
Discussion Questions Continued 5. What other characteristics do you think comprise a team? 6. Do you think it's possible for self-managed teams to avoid becoming iron cages? How? 7. What team dynamics have you experienced in your organization? What organizing, relations, or communicating skills benefited or hindered your team?
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