Self-Directed Teams: Definition, Advantages & Disadvantages

Self-Directed Teams: Definition, Advantages & Disadvantages
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Donna Swarthout
There are many types of teams found in different business organizations. In this lesson, learn about the advantages and disadvantages of self-directed teams.

Self-Directed Teams Defined

As teams have become a more popular method of organizing the workforce, different types of these groupings have emerged. One of these is a self-directed team, or a team in which the members are responsible for an entire business operation, generally with very little input from a manager or supervisor.

A self-directed team typically manages its own workload in addition to having primary responsibility for producing a good or delivering a service. The team members share both managerial and operational responsibilities, as well as accountability for the team's output. Self-directed teams date back to post World War II Britain's effort to increase economic productivity.

Self-directed teams are not right for every business situation, so it is important to understand when an enterprise will benefit from this organizational approach. Businesses with a decentralized decision-making culture and employees who are empowered to take full responsibility for their work are good candidates for self-directed teams. Managers outside the team still play a role, but more as coaches and facilitators rather than as supervisors. Self-directed teams are also known as self-managed teams. Federal Express and 3M are examples of companies that have used self-directed teams with positive results.

Advantages of Self-Directed Teams

There are plenty of advantages to having self-directed teams. A successful self-directed team is likely to boost a company's efficiency and productivity. When the team members possess the right set of managerial and technical skills for the job, the team may achieve results that would not be seen under a command-and-control approach. Self-directed teams have the freedom and flexibility to devise innovative solutions to business problems and rapid responses to organizational challenges. Companies may even be able to trim their managerial ranks as the team shows growing levels of independence.

Self-directed team members who are empowered with full responsibility and accountability for their work tend to have high levels of commitment and motivation. They take more ownership of their work than employees who must follow orders from managers who sit above them in the chain of command. Self-directed team members are also likely to have a high level of job satisfaction, which can mean low absenteeism and turnover for the team.

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