What are the purposes and objectives of self-managed teams in the workplace?

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The purpose and objective of using self-managed teams is to provide an increased sense of “ownership” to employees so that those employees will be willing to assume a greater level of responsibility for outcomes, while minimizing or eliminating the more costly level of management that would otherwise be needed.

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The purpose and objective of using self-managed teams is to provide an increased sense of “ownership” to employees so that those employees will be willing to assume a greater level of responsibility for outcomes, while minimizing or eliminating the more costly level of management that would otherwise be needed.

It is a basic truism in most workplaces that employees are critical of management and are desirous of having much greater influence in how the company’s mission is defined and realized, in how decisions affecting those employees are made, and in how decisions are executed. In virtually every endeavor involving levels of rank and management—in most if not all vertically structured enterprises—failures by management to solicit input from workers lead to less efficient operations and diminished productivity. Morale suffers, and, consequently, productivity suffers as well. Any good manager or owner understands that there are almost always voices among the rank and file worthy of input in terms of how missions are executed. Vesting workers with the responsibility for carrying out activities with little or no management oversight is a way of ensuring those workers know that they are listened to and appreciated and are trusted to perform their work in an acceptable manner. When organizations function this way, management is free to focus on other elements of the company’s operations. In some instances, ownership can reduce management by allowing for the organization and function of self-managed teams.

A weakness of self-managed teams, of course, is that they are dependent upon “buy-in” from all members of the team, and team chemistry must be monitored in order to prevent personnel problems or conflicts within teams from escalating and harming productivity. Any team, in general, needs at least one individual in whom the others trust to act as a leader, someone to resolve conflicts and ensure that everyone is held accountable. In that sense, a form of vertical management is reinserted into the process—a development logically inconsistent with the whole idea of a self-managed team. When each member of a self-managed team understands their role, however, and is sufficiently emotionally mature to avoid unnecessary and petty grievances from emerging and disrupting productivity, the need for a team leader is minimized or eliminated. (And management is not completely absent from the process, anyway.)

In conclusion, the purpose and objective of self-managed teams is to allow for greater levels of involvement by those tasked with the execution of a given activity in how that mission is executed. Providing such organizational and structural mechanisms for bottom-up input into decision-making and manufacturing processes improves morale and, often, productivity.

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Self-managed teams provide a sense of autonomy within the workplace. They serve the purpose of efficient, team-oriented decision making and goal-setting. Self-managed teams do not have to work under constant supervision and are able to work independently to produce results for a company. Under this style of work, teams are able to have a sense of ownership over their work and production. Self-managed teams are often able to produce more creative and innovative work, as they are not constrained by typical worker-supervisor dynamics. Such teams are comprised of workers who are trusted to take their own initiative, understand the fundamental goals of the company, and produce cutting-edge and innovative work. Studies certainly support that self-managed teams are directly correlated with company success.

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Self-managed teams are a group of employees who are responsible for providing a service or delivering a product within a company. In other words, the primary purpose and objective of such a team is to get a job done. Rather than working in isolation, being part of a self-managed team enables team members to work together to create greater efficiency, working with minimal external control.

The goal that the self-managed team is working towards will be defined by somebody external to the team, and the team's objective will be to meet that goal. For example, a self-managed team within a marketing company could be tasked with finding new clients. Within that self-managed team would be cold callers, people following up inbound leads and people capturing the new clients into the system so that they can be processed by the company as a whole.

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Self-managed teams work together to define and accomplish their own goals. They produce their own objectives and control their own work process to achieve these goals. They are different than self-directed teams, which work together to achieve goals determined by outside management. 

The purpose of having these types of teams is that they may have greater motivation than other teams, as they determine their own goals and how to achieve them. When people have ownership over their work, they are more motivated. Data show that a sense of ownership is the most powerful way to motivate people at work. Organizations also use self-managed teams to increase productivity because these teams determine schedules and assign tasks. They combine managerial tasks with work-related tasks, thereby eliminating a layer of management and lowering costs. According to research, companies with self-managed teams have increased profits and productivity and decreased turnover (for more information, see "Are We Ready for Self-Management?" in the Harvard Business Journal).

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