A team comprises of a group of people who are working together for a common purpose. There are several types of groups, which differ widely in the way that they are organized and managed. These can include project teams, virtual teams, and self-managed teams, independent and interdependent teams. These differ from each other in terms of organisation, functions, leadership system and methods of accountability.

Each type of team has its own advantages and disadvantages, and when it comes to human resource management, it is essential to research on and evaluate the different kinds of team structures in order to ensure that you come up with the best strategy that will work in different cases.
A self managed team, also known as a self directed or self regulated team, refers to a kind of team whereby unlike in the traditional models where there is hierarchical mode of administration, there is a perceived sense of freedom whereby members plan determine and manage their day to day activities.

This leads to a system where there is a mutual responsibility among the members, as well as reduced or no responsibility at all. Self managed teams have proved to be an efficient way of human resource organisation, since they not only enhance creativity and innovativeness, but they also lead to a situation where more is achieved while the operating costs are reduced (Glick 1998).

The need to research on the self-managed team is motivated by the need to outperform and improve efficiency in today’s world. Every organisation or employer is keen on getting the best output from the employees, thus spending many resources in human resource improvement, management and organisation. The effectiveness of self-managed teams has been documented in many cases, but to date, not every organisation will adopt such an approach, perhaps out of fear of the unknown or in an attempt to ensure that there is tight control of what the employees do.

Of course, there is an extreme need for supervision in some kind of tasks, but others could do a bit well with self-managed teams, especially in a team that require innovation, sharing of ideas and a lot of team work. In addition, it would be extremely applicable in teams where there are senior employees of the same rank or when they are different, departments are involved.

This necessitates the need to explore the functioning and working of self-managed teams, in order to have some concrete information on this trend, which has grossly failed in some cases and has been extraordinarily effective in other cases, leading to a total transformation of the concerned organisations (Overell, 2002). Human resource management researches should be in a position to provide information on how to make the concept work also explain what has caused its failure in some cases.

Today, some companies have managed to develop some exceptionally high performance teams through the use of self-managed teams. A good example of these is Google, which lets its engineers and developers work in their own self-regulated teams, and the outcome of this has been an extremely successful corporation, which is developing technologies that its rivals cannot match.

Literature Review

Teamwork has been a powerful tool that has been used to enhance performance and achieve what an individual cannot achieve as easily. For a long time, organisations have spent a lot money in improving their team performance, resulting in a situation where efficiency has been substantially achieved. Any organisation today is comprised of teams working together to achieved a common goal.

The organisations that focus on human resource management have also gone into considerable depths of coming up with team-building practices; activities that meant to promote working together in an organisation. A team is essential in ensuring that employees do not pull in different directions, resulting to wastage of resources, time and poor working morale.

Teamwork has been documented to be a significant source of success for any organisation. In the team environment, there is increased productivity since the employees have a sense of belonging and ownership. They feel that they are appreciated and valued, leading to high productivity. Teamwork has been shown to promote learning and personal development, since it enhances sharing of ideas and skills in the concerned field. To make teams work, human resource managers have gone into considerable depths of forming structured supervision and management roles, which serves to ensure that teams work and function as expected.

This is done to avoid the risk of a group losing focus as a whole and deviating from the existing organisational culture. Supervision has therefore, been a key component to the functioning of teams (Batt 2004).
However, not all teams would call for supervision or the hierarchical form of leadership; there are several demerits of these, which cause lack of optimal performance in an organisation.

Research has shown that in managed teams, there may occur some forms of destructive competition and a herd mentality, which may limit the effective output of the team. In other cases, the culture of innovation would not be extremely much encouraged since the leadership tends to take credit for the good that is achieved, while the employees are reprimanded when something goes wrong. This calls for the need to enforce and run a self-managed team. These teams have proved to be a useful tools towards managing projects or related tasks.

There have been cases both of success and failure of this self-managed teams (Attaran, 1999). There are also an equally large number of reasons and theories trying to explain why these succeed or failure. However, it is extremely difficult to come up with one straightforward explanation that fits all. What I cam generalise is that there is a wide range of reason on why self-managed teams will work in one case, and fail in another. Most of the information available on these is based on the research that has been made based on specific case studies.

These include the ones that have been successful and the ones that have failed. Both can give an extremely strong insight on the suitability and workability of self-managed teams. In the report ‘Self managed teams do not just happen’, Chaneski (1999) illustrates the working of a self-managed team. He shows that although the main goal is to reduce supervision, self-managed teams are never entirely autonomous, but there is a form of supervision from a distance. However, members take complete responsibility for the success of the team and all work to improve the welfare of the team.

The role of the team manager is equally shared throughout all the employees, giving rise to a sense of mutual responsibility. Consequently, the team members equally share the responsibility of failure and success. This can be particularly encouraging, as opposed to the systems where a single person is entrusted with the managerial work and is therefore, forced to make sure that the team works, since he is answerable.

To the top management, the risk comes when the implementation of self-managed teams appears to get things moving in the wrong direction. This can be understood at first, since there is a tendency that things get worse first before they get respectable. However, it is essential not to ignore the warning signs of failure, which should be imminent from the start. Lack of adequate preparation would be an opportune recipe for failure, and therefore the correct mechanisms would need to be put into place.

Research also indicates that many managers feel that this kind of management strategy would render them jobless or with less work to do. Unfortunately, this is partially true since there will be less management and supervisory roles required. On the side of the workers, there will also be a problem of the staff adopting to the habit of being under scrutiny by their peers.

This might initially cause some discomfort and anxiety. However, this fades with time especially when there is a shared goal among all the staff (Salas, Stagl & Burke, 2009). What are then the keys to making the self-managed team work? The answer may not be easy to give, but perhaps we can look at the previous case studies of the organisations that have tried to adopt it.

This can help give a clear picture of what causes the success or failure of the approach. However, the general agreement is that for the self-managed teams to succeed, a wide pool of skills needs to be available. These include multiple skills, common functions, interdependence authority and accountability. Without a good mix of these, there is little chance for success.

This is the reason why careful planning and research are necessary in order to implement the self-managed teams. Interdependence helps to create the need to work with one another, as well as making every member of the team feel valuable and appreciated. Multiple skills help create interdependence while authority gives confidence to the team as it progresses.

Overell tries to analyse the trend in human resource development for quite a number of years, and the challenges posed by the wide generational gaps that are all in the workforce. From the baby boom generation to generation Y, all these people have different ways of understanding, thinking and doing things. This raises a problem in understanding what may work best in self-managed teams for each of these groups.

The elderly generations may be more receptive to supervised work, but the younger generations want to prove that they can achieve anything with little or no motivation. However, he asserts that this should not be taken to be the absolute truth, but just a crucial factor that one can consider while coming up with a self-managed team strategy.

The key to a successful self-managed team is training. No amount of self discipline will substitute the need for proper and adequate training, although self discipline is a central character trait. For any corporation or organisation to succeed in adopting self-managed team, there must be training to ensure that the staff has the right skills that it takes (Allen 2004).

They also need to develop the required culture, which is the most difficult part of it. An institutional culture therefore, needs to be developed based on the need to make the staff more responsible. If this is not done, there will be a problem in the workability of the concept.
In developing an organisation culture, what needs to be developed is a whole set of skills such as goal setting, work scheduling, material management and accountability.

These are not all, but there is a wide range of others that need to be looked at depending on the organisational needs. There should also be a mechanism for evaluation and assessment, both and external so that to detect flaws and problems early enough. The training should be carefully done in order to ensure that it is remarkably effective; otherwise, it will be training for the sake of training. It has to be based on specific needs of the company or the institution involved.

Although self-directed teams have been in existence for a long time, they have experienced a mix of failure and success. However, there are a number of organisations, which have proved the effectiveness of the approach of late. A careful study of the cases of failure in implementing the self-directed teams can helps us to determine what works and what fails, as well as what should be the area of concern and main focus and extreme caution when dealing with the challenges that may arise.

The success of Google in their developer’s teams can provide a excellent example, or even the failure of Chevrolet manufacturer in implementing this self directed teams can provide some useful insight. In any case, the key thing required is doing a proper analysis of the information available.
Based on the above information, I would say that self-directed teams are a brilliant idea.

However, the problem arises when in an attempt to form or create self-directed teams; we end up just substituting the managerial role and expect that things will work as usual. This is a common misconception, which should be eliminated by understanding that there must be complete mechanisms put into place, which will ensure that the supervisory functions are substituted not eliminated.

This is what can bring a lasting and effective self managed team. Additionally, the failure of some institutions in implementing a self managed team does not mean that the idea is doomed, but there are many firms, which have done this for their benefit, resulting in effective performance among the teams. Google is a superb example of this.


Just like many other aspects of human resource management, it is impossible to have conclusive information on self-managed teams, especially in the current dynamic and ever-changing world, where nothing is static anymore. However, more research and study needs to be carried out in order to ensure that the needs of the present world are met.

Self directed teams play a pivotal role in the current global trend of outsourcing human resource, since effective supervisory is not possible. At the moment, the most valuable thing is to find out how we can make them be more effective and achieve their purpose. There will be more adoption of self-managed styles of management in the future.


Allen, N. (2004). The ‘romance of teams’: Toward an understanding of its psychological underpinnings and implications. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. 77 (4). 27.
Attaran, M. & Nguyen, T. (1999). Self managed teams. Industrial Management. 41 (4). 24
Batt, R. (2004). Who Benefits from Teams? Comparing Workers, Supervisors, and Managers. Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society. 43 (1): 183-188
Chaneski, W. (1999). Self managed teams do not just happen. Modern Machine Shops. 71 (10). 52- 53.
Glick, L. (1998). ‘What’s so tough about SMTs?’ Journal for Quality & Participation. 21 (3): 34.
Overell, S. (2002).   The evolution of HRM. Personnel Today. 06/04/2002, p13.
Salas, E., Stagl, K. & Burke, C. (2009). 25 Years of Team Effectiveness in Organizations: Research Themes and Emerging Needs. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Zaacute, C & Bonache, J. (2003). Assessing the team environment for knowledge sharing: an empirical analysis. International Journal of Human Resource Management; 14 (7), 1227.


What’s so tough about SMTs?

Presents information relating to self-managing teams (SMT). Experiences of an operations manager of an insurance company during the implementation of SMT; Details on the improvement of SMT; Identity of the most effective time to train self-managing teams.

Evolution of HRM

Analyzes the evolution of human resources management (HRM) in organizations in Great Britain. Effect of strategic HRM on lives of employees; Availability of information for HRM research; Importance of commitment in HR.

Assessing the team environment for knowledge sharing: an empirical analysis

The self-managed work team is an organizational structure that is much used by companies today. It is put forward as the most appropriate setting for the creation and transfer of knowledge, while protecting the source of competitive advantage. However, achieving efficiency in a work team is not without its difficulties.

The literature indicates that a suitable climate minimizes these. In this study, we analyse, both theoretically and empirically, the components of that climate as well as some organizational initiatives that favour its presence. The empirical study was carried out on a sample of 363 individuals working in self-managed teams within companies, mostly multinationals, located in Spain.

Self-Managed Work Teams Don’t Just Happen.

Focuses on self-managed work teams. Features that characterize such teams; Benefits; Challenges in implementation.

Self Managed Teams

The article discusses how organizations succeed through self-managed work teams. Responsibilities of self-managed work teams; Details on the organizational restructuring of Kern River Asset Team of Bakersfield, California; Conclusions.

The ‘romance of teams’: Toward an understanding of its psychological underpinnings and implications

Although advocates of teamwork suggest that teams enhance performance, empirical evidence does not consistently, or robustly, support these claims. Still, a belief in the effectiveness of teams—among managers, employees, and the general lay population seems very strong. What accounts for this ‘romance of teams’? In this paper, we offer a psychological answer to this question.

We review evidence regarding the actual effectiveness of teams, in order to show that teams are not as effective as many believe them to be, and we argue that the romance of teams stems from the psychological benefits of group-based activity. Specifically, we propose that team members experience both social-emotional, and competence-related, benefits, and we review an eclectic mix of research in support of this claim.

We argue that these psychological benefits of teams lead people to assume that teams are ‘high performance’, thus, causing the romance of teams. Finally, we discuss potential implications of the romance for organizations, researchers, and employees.

25 Years of Team Effectiveness in Organizations: Research Themes and Emerging Needs

* The Essence of Teams
* The Popularity of Team-Based Work Organization
* How Effective Are Teams in Practice?
* Contexts Suitable for Teams
* Designing a High-Performance Team
* Effective Within-Team Processes
* Supporting High-Performance Work Teams
* The Future for Teams

Who Benefits from Teams? Comparing Workers, Supervisors, and Managers

This article offers a political explanation for the diffusion and sustainability of team-based work systems by examining the differential outcomes of team structures for 1200 workers, supervisors, and middle managers in a large unionized telecommunications company. Regression analyses show that participation in self-managed teams is associated with significantly higher levels of perceived discretion, employment security, and satisfaction for workers and the opposite for supervisors.

Middle managers who initiate team innovations report higher employment security but otherwise are not significantly different from their counterparts who are not involved in innovations. By contrast, there are no significant outcomes for employees associated with their participation in off-line problem-solving teams.