How do you set up your self managed team? One of the first tasks to begin with is discussing the framework under which you self managed team is going to work. You either like frameworks or you don’t. If you don’t, you might find self-management a struggle. If you’re open to something much less binary than rules and regulations, and you don’t see the world in black and white, then working with frameworks is more likely to warm the cockles of your heart. Frameworks are a bit like neural networks – they’re the hidden highways across which information travels and decisions are made.
Where you begin depends on how radically you’ve approached the whole idea. Before they begin to move towards self-management, most teams have managers. Some organisations dispense with the role of manager immediately. Most organisations I’ve encountered go for something more evolutionary, and make the first step by shifting the manager into a coach/manager role. So it’s often the former manager who helps the team shape their own frameworks.
Common concerns are: where do we start? What’s the difference between a framework and a rule? how do you ensure team members keep consistently to the framework? So let’s see if we can set a framework for setting frameworks!
Do It Together
This should go without saying, but often it’s the first trip. A former manager and a team should work out the framework under which they want to work and commit to each other, together.
Be clear about the Team’s Relationship to the Organisation’s Mission
The team will already have participated in early discussions about the purpose and mission of the organisation. The team’s role is to discuss and design how it will deliver something meaningful and valuable, not just to themselves, but to the organisation’s mission. After all, if the organisation doesn’t thrive, everyone will be out of a job.
2.Deciding the Team Structure
Ideally when you get together to discuss frameworks, you should already have done some work individually on what you want your personal role to look like so that you can contribute some thoughts to the discussion. You should have some idea what your needs are from other members of the team in order to perform your role to the best of your ability. But these things can also be looked at during the framework discussion because they are pertinent.
One of the first things to decide is what the team structure should be. How many people are optimal to make a meaningful contribution to the success of the team, what are the roles that need to be covered, who is going to fill those and how?
Sometimes the organisation will already have decided the size of the team. At Dutch care company Buurtzorg, the size of most regional teams is 12. This is based on the most efficient operating model to serve a set number of customers in a given geographic region, professionally with the level of care they want to deliver, and profitably. So sometimes the new economic model for the organisation is important.
At aerospace engineering company Matt Black Systems, teams form each time a new tender is up for submissions, and a permanent team is formed once the contract is acquired depending on what is needed.
A key principle therefore of shaping the team is to look for the optimum size to sustain sufficient work whilst providing all the members of the team with meaningful work they want to do.
3. The Main Framework
The goal is to create a team where the members feel responsibility for the quality of their work without being ‘controlled’ by a system into which they have no input, and in which they can do meaningful work which contributes to the success of the organisation.
A framework can be set up to include any key principles the team wants so long as they meet this main objective.
They could decide that a framework for operating would be to ensure there are never any lost customers. It would then be the responsibility of the whole team to work out what keeps loyal customers and how to satisfy and serve them.
Another team could decide that they want to shape their framework around constant innovation. Again it would be their responsibility to work out how that would be done within the organisational framework.
Yes another team could decide they want to shape their operating framework around constant learning, or happiness, or even an annual growth target. It is simply up to the team to decide what matters most to them.
If teams can be encouraged to see frameworks in this way, there is infinite scope to create a happy and productive team that contributes in its own unique way to the organisation’s mission.
What do you do if a team doesn’t agree a framework?
This happens often in the early stages of transitioning to self-management before teams have got some practice. This is where a manager transitioning to a coach/manager can be very helpful in facilitating a discussion around disagreement. One of the benefits of self-management is that it does facilitate true adult-adult conversation and communication, where people have to find ways to compromise and get along whereas in a hierarchical organisation, they can usually play ‘pass the parcel’ to a manager or the HR department.
Sometimes a team doesn’t agree to the company’s framework. If it’s a retail organisation, the company may want the team (in any given store) to work Bank Holidays like Christmas. These issues can always be discussed within the team, by the coach/manager or with the support services that have been put in place. But the role of any of these facilitators is only ever to put forward advice, not to decide for the team. The responsibility for deciding how to work within a framework they do not like or do not agree with, is always the team’s decision and it must operate to the framework it has agreed with the organisation.
Does this sound difficult? That’s because it takes an enormous degree of personal growth to actually choose to take responsibility for all your actions and decisions without what many see as ‘the relief’ of handing those over to someone else! Welcome to self-management!