I’ve noticed in Fellowstream’s Google Analytics data that a lot of people get to the site by reading some past articles I wrote on selfmanaged teams.  I’m very passionate about this subject because I’ve done my absolute best work under the hand of a well-run self-managed-team.  When executed right, they give you the flexibility to take risks and have responsibility over your own tasks, but still leave you accountable to the greater goals of a team-driven project.

One thing I haven’t written about is how to start a self-managed team.  Here are some things that worked for me:

Choose your goals wisely.

Any team needs specific goals, but a self-managed team needs them even more.  If you don’t know what your team is working toward, you won’t be able to gauge your work against the work of someone in a different field or discipline.  Sometimes it helps to pick a goal with a specific deadline, like a project that must be delivered by a certain date.  Start with a small goal and work your way up to bigger ones.

Determine your feedback loops upfront.

Accountability doesn’t mean your team members are running free and loose.  Everyone on the team should be held to a feedback standard, so that if one team member goes off in the weeds, he or she realizes it quickly.  Figuring out those processes up front will not only help create team-based solutions, but will also ensure that feedback is not forgotten because “real work needs to be done.”  (My opinion: Feedback is real work and should be executed on every team you work on.  Otherwise, people can’t grow.)

Communicate results early and often.

Self-managed teams almost always require management buy-in.  If you are allowed to form a self-managed team, make sure you schedule in time to talk to management about what you’re achieving.  If they don’t hear back from you, they’ll assume nothing is getting done.  Appoint someone on the team to communicate this message the moment you form, or you might forget and lose all your hard work in the end.

Read other teams’ success stories.

Even if you don’t know anyone personally who runs a self-managed team, you can bet a bunch of people on the Interwebs are talking about it.  Do Google searches for self-managed teams in your field and start reading up on tips and tricks from others who have gone before you.

It’s not easy to start a self-managed team, but the rewards can be great, not only in revenue, but also overall employee satisfaction.  If you’ve had a positive experience working on a self-managed team, please share your advice below.

-Deborah Fike

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