Are We Ready for Self-Management?

On its face, self-management looks like a "win-win" answer to the scarcity of good managers and the predominance of low-involvement entry-level jobs. But are sufficient numbers of entry-level employees ready for self-management? And is management ready?
by James Heskett

Summing Up

Predominant reactions to notions of self-management explored in this month's column could perhaps be described best by two words, "enthusiasm" and "skepticism." Many respondents felt that the concepts should be implemented by a broader range of organizations. But just as many cited obstacles to its implementation, chief among them management itself.

Many respondents were enthusiastic. For example, Leeor Geva characterized self-management as a "win-win strategy." In Jonathan Narducci's words, "Any method that gets all company employees interested in how their jobs affect the customer … in how their jobs can be improved … in getting work done more effectively is most definitely welcome." Birgi Martin said, "I think self-management is needed at all levels of staff." Lavinia Weissman characterized self-management as "a leadership decision that invites initiative and not followership." But John Inman's comments suggested a concern that was more strongly voiced by others, when he commented that "if you are a command and control manager … keep away from self-management …. However, if you can ask and not tell, engage people in learning conversations, coach, develop, and create a clear picture of the result, you probably will be thrilled with the result …."

Others, while attracted to the idea in theory, characterized these views as too inclusive and optimistic. Gaurav Goel suggested that "Self-management may work well when team sizes are small and there are limited personality conflicts." Ashutosh Tiwari, while questioning whether self-management could "prove its effectiveness in the long run," concluded that it might work "where skilled employees get together to accomplish a specific task within a certain time frame."

Self-management is perhaps an extreme case of what we have found, in our research, to be one of the features of high-performance work places that are most attractive to the people who work there: latitude to deliver results for customers, whether external or internal to the organization. However, the path to greater latitude on the job is not short. It involves, as Pradipta Saha commented, "Selecting the right entry-level employee …." We have found, for example, that high performance organizations give at least as much attention to attitude as to skills in selecting people. Next, as Debbie Lee suggests, "… there has to be a great deal of training." Again, high-performance organizations train for skills, not attitude. Nari Kannan points out two other critical components of a self-management initiative: "Proper structuring of work and responsibilities … incentives, advancement and promotions." Must all of these steps be achieved before latitude is expanded to deliver results, perhaps through self-management?

The major obstacle to self-management, as one might suspect, was thought to be people, especially managers. C. J. Cullinane identified the most important requirement for self-management success as "conviction and commitment of top management." As Peter Johnson put it, "True and genuine self-management cannot happen if there are bosses or supervisors around." Barry Frank commented, "You've got to choose carefully who wants to self-manage and who doesn't." Margie Parikh concluded, "Self-managed teams happen only if readiness is there on both sides." What do you think?

Original Article

In the early 1990s, Taco Bell's management was faced with a dilemma. It wanted to create thousands of new locations, including stores and kiosks, at which its line of Mexican-themed products could be sold. At the same time, it was experiencing a shortage of capable managers in a fast-food industry known for low-paying management jobs. One part of the solution was to create fewer, higher-paying management positions. The other was to train thousands of entry-level workers at its stores to manage themselves. This enabled Taco Bell to assign one manager to several stores and to increase the "span of control" for area managers from ten or so units to several times that many.

Under the "self-management" initiative, employees were trained and given new technology to enable them to hire, train, and supervise their new colleagues; manage the day-to-day inventory of the store; handle the resulting receipts; and deal with personnel problems themselves under the supervision of a "floating" manager responsible for several such stores. They received above-market pay, partially in the form of performance incentives. The result? More highly energized workers, better cost control, higher customer satisfaction, and new ideas for organizing work. One self-managed team, for example, developed a program called "aces in your places," in which team members assumed jobs they wanted to learn during slack business hours, then took their "battle stations" to achieve maximum capacity (up to 50 percent higher) during rush hours.

This is an extreme example of the creation of "work teams" that has provided an answer to the "assembly line" philosophy of work. Such teams are designed to provide greater variety and responsibility for frontline workers given the responsibility to assemble and deliver a complete product, sub-assembly, or service. It characterizes what James O'Toole and Edward E. Lawler III in their new book, The New American Workplace, would regard as a "high involvement" workplace in which employees are treated as assets rather than just expenses. They contrast, for example, the high wage, high benefits, and high involvement policies of Costco with those of Wal-Mart. Both organizations, of course, have been highly successful. (One might argue that Wal-Mart has achieved high involvement through less expensive methods including the creation of a strong culture.) But the authors maintain that the Costco model not only is more attractive for workers but also creates fewer social costs for such things as medical expenses.

What would seem to be a "win-win" answer to the scarcity of good managers and the predominance of low-involvement entry-level jobs nevertheless raises some questions. Are sufficient numbers of entry-level employees ready for self-management, especially if it requires the application of new technologies to help them perform jobs such as interviewing and hiring new team members or ordering supplies and managing inventories? More important, is management ready for this? After all, it flies in the face of traditional command and control management practices. And in many cases it will require the development and use of new management information systems in which many organizations may be unwilling or unable to invest. What do you think?

    • Anonymous
    Gerdau, the leading steelmaker in Brazil, has great success stories around self-managed work teams. For this concept to work, management must learn that line workers are the same humans they are: capable, caring, and driven by interesting work and recognition.
    • Anonymous
    This is how an increasing number of professional services and high-tech companies are being run. A firm called CultureRx claims that this approach can work anywhere and is betting their livelihoods on it. Perhaps the most comprehensive implementation of this sort of thinking is taking place at Netflix.
    • Jonathan Narducci
    • CornerStone Cubed
    Any method that gets all company employees interested in how their jobs affect the customer is welcome. Any method that gets employees--those who know their jobs the best--to develop ideas on how their jobs can be improved, performance wise, is also welcome. Last but not least, any method that enables cross functional collaboration in getting work done more effectively is most definitely welcome.

    Process development is cross functional and good processes are competitive advantages and essential for the present customer centric/experience economy.
    • Anonymous
    I have worked several low-skill, high-repetition jobs during my time as a student, and so I say, quite confidently, that anything that helps to ease the dullness and increase the complexity of low-skill jobs will be greatly appreciated by the millions of Americans stuck in them.
    • Leeor Geva
    • Consultant
    The key is to pay above-market rates so that employees do not question their earnings and the retention rate is higher. Next you must have genuine recognition, and keep the work place creative. Last but most important is balancing clearly defined performance-based bonuses with quality assurance and customer satisfaction. The reason for this important balance is because when you structure your performance bonuses on quotas alone, you drag quality and customer service through the mud. I would also add that empowering employees is a win-win strategy. In the employees' mind, they have gained the trust to make decisions that they will live up to. Your job is made easier because you have effectively delegated common tasks throughout the whole organization. In the grand scheme, underperformers and poor judgement-makers can either go through training or be let go.
    • Joseph Manuel
    • CEO, Society for Self-Management Services, India
    Yes and no. Some may be more ready and some less. Most may not yet be ready. Many were not ready for the Internet. Many are still not ready for it. While some work on the issues of the digital divide some are at the forefront. It is true of self-management too. The flat land that emerges as a consequence calls for real-time responses. Self-management is the enabler of technology to deliver. Creating that readiness is an imperative of the time.

    Some other imperatives are these:
    At the level of each individual manager, the professional, or the knowledge worker, how one manages oneself marks the critical difference, though the options available at this level are more or less the same. This recognition prompts one to explore the possibility of catalyzing self-managed teams across the organization.

    Most of recent corporate history has been created by entrepreneurial breakthroughs: individuals who are challenging hierarchies and traditional management systems, which highlights the role of the self and of managing oneself.

    For those who do not work in organizations - a farmer, or a fisherman in the developing world, there never will be an alternative other than self-management.

    Habits and culture weigh in. Some cultures are more ready to recognize the need for self-managed teams or for creating internal community. Some would place higher emphasis on individual roles and contributions.

    The real challenge is how fast we can create the readiness and accelerate the process.
    • Anonymous
    The Taco Bell experiment is interesting, but it's also history. Taco Bell does not currently use that method of team management in its stores. Reflecting on why is critical to understanding this subject.
    • Pradipta Saha
    The self-management concept needs utmost caution at the implementation level. Professional managers come prescreened. Selecting the right entry-level employee for managerial and multitasking responsibilities is crucial. Companies need to ensure that their system has that strategic intuition.
    • Sweta Mohapatra
    • HR Manager, Marico
    One of the critical success factors for such teams is clear responsibilities assigned to team members. And one could also look at nominating an informal leader.

    To me, the idea of self-managed teams is not only novel and revolutionary but also the highest form of empowerment.

    However, the single largest requirement for experimenting and nurturing self-management teams would remain the conviction and commitment of top management.
    • C. J. Cullinane
    It is not only beneficial that more employees be developed into working managers but it is absolutely critical that they be trained. As the "baby-boomer" demographic starts to retire and leave the work force, they will leave an enormous void in the ranks of middle and upper management. This void needs to be filled.

    With a combination of on-the-job training, online education, and the new communication tools, a lower level or entry-level employee can be fast-tracked into management duties if not management itself.

    If concepts such as self-management are not utilized many companies will have to not only limit expansion but may also have to close stores. What will be interesting is if the companies will utilize more profit incentives at this level.
    • Richard Rowan
    I would say "no," if self-management means simply back-filling for thinly stretched bosses in traditional businesses like Taco Bell.

    I would say "yes," if it means designing the work from scratch around customers and workers.
    • Debbie Lee
    • HR Manager, Associated Sprinkler
    Has anyone been to a Taco Bell in the last few years? The self-management process may have worked at some restaurants, but unfortunately not at the ones in my area. You still can't beat "earning your way." When employees are given too much authority too soon without earning the right, the scales get out of balance. Rights and responsibility must always balance each other out. If the self-management process is going to work, there has to be a great deal of training.
    • Anonymous
    Until managers are ready to give up "control" to their employees, it will never work.
    • Rowland Freeman
    • Chairman, Williamsburg, VA SCORE
    We should go slow with this concept as we have an upcoming generation that in many cases has commitment problems, though commitment is an essential ingredient for self-management. One of the biggest problems with startups is "staying the course" when things do not quite work out according to the excellant business plan. Commitment and patience does not seem to be a common ingredient these days. Even with franchise training, the failure rate is substantial with managers, as instant success is seldom achieved. Too many look over their shoulder and see another option which looks more interesting, and off they go.
    • Dave Chambers
    My experience has been that, if the Taco Bells that I have been to have self-managed teams, then the plan is a dismal failure. I'd be curious about their employee turnover in a business that has historically high turnover rates. Did this concept help with that issue? My guess is no. I would also be interested in learning how many employees were able to move into the roving manager positions. This plan seems to me like a way to avoid hiring the supervision necessary to run the stores.
    • Bharat Bhushan
    • R&D Engineer, Synopsys Inc
    I work in the IT world wherein we manage projects across time zones mostly through e-mails. Teams are geographically distant and people work from home all the time. Under such situations, we usually trust people to work on their own schedules and be disciplined enough to deliver the same productivity.

    Personally I have done the same a few times and have felt the need to be closer to the team at other times. However, if phone calls were cheap/free and videoconferencing was available for cheap, we could simulate most of that interaction.

    Technology is the solution, at least for the tertiary sector.
    • Susan Marshall
    • President, Executive Advisor, LLC
    Self-management starts long before a person arrives on the business scene. Assuming that entry-level workers have the ability to manage their reactions to stress, voice their need for more information, and deal effectively with other self-managed workers who may rub them the wrong way is taking a great leap of faith. Process is important; understanding human development is essential. Growth takes time and guidance.
    • Imelda Bickham
    • Director of IS, Local Government
    The concept of self-managed employees and teams has many benefits for the individuals involved and for the organization as a whole.

    A side benefit of self-management is getting individuals out of their comfort zones. This allows for individual responsibility to grow, team cohesiveness to strengthen, and leadership qualities to emerge.

    The concept works but I don't think it can be sustained over extended periods of time. At intervals, a manager needs to do reality checks to ensure continued alignment with organizational goals.
    • Paul T. Jackson
    • Owner/Consultant, Trescott Research
    There will always be some who are bad apples, either not doing the work necessary or taking advantage of something within reach rather than altruistically working for the crew and company.

    On the other hand, from working with prisoners I have found that, given the responsibility, they would do as well as some of my professional colleagues and sometimes better, when given the chance at running a program or programs.

    There are some problems created if those trained and given responsibility are continually moved from one place to another: this leads to less contact with customers and the loss of knowledge of materials, personnel, or processes at a particular venue.
    • Anonymous
    I have 44 years in industry, I'm degreed, a Six Sigma Black Belt; managed a large plant, a small business, and been on a Fortune 200 corporate staff. So, these comments are based on real experience.

    The issue of a shortage of managers is most likely a result of the American corporate obsession with cutting staff and exporting good jobs. I've worked with a series of "MBAs" who have no idea of what occurs in the business they are supposed to be managing, yet they somehow get promoted. I've worked under at least two that have destroyed the business they were responsible for, yet they moved on to bigger positions. I've also worked for good managers who have tried a self-directed team model before it was fasionable or even in the lexicon. The shortage of managers is our own fault. As a former corporate type, I've met the enemy, it is us ....

    The issue of a shortage of good managers seems to stem from an HR concept that an MBA automatically makes a person a better manager. American workers are the most productive in the world despite the product of the MBA schools, and given the chance, combined with the proper and well-designed systems they need, most will probably excel in being part of self-managed teams. All we need is the change in corporate culture to provide those systems and a change in the attitude towards work in general.
    • Mahadevan
    • Philips Software
    The idea is good as it empowers employees early on and also helps them seek out new avenues to learn during slack hours. However, self-management in entry level workers is a rare commodity! It needs a certain maturity that develops over a period of time. It is linked to the personal value system of the individual. This is where the educational system, in my opinion, plays an important role. Schools have to create awareness of self-management at an early stage in life if this concept is to succeed in human society at large. A famous adage comes to my mind: Where there are disciplined thoughts, there is no need for bureaucracy; where there are disciplined actions there is no need for controls; where there are disciplined people there is no need for hierarchy!
    • Anonymous
    When I was five years old, I started working in my father's business, where I learned to be self-managed. In my teen years, I worked as a salesman, mechanic, and book-keeper in my father's business. This enabled me to operate my father's business for months at a time during several of my father's extended hospital stays. I supported myself through college by starting and operating my own business. After graduating from college, I worked as a project manager in environmental consulting for 17 years and as an in-house consultant for three years in municipal government.

    Regardless of whether I had low-skilled or professional-level employees under my supervision, I always made efforts to afford them every opportunity to develop skills and take responsibility. In most cases, the employees required progressively less supervision and became very loyal.

    My early work experience in father's business trained me to be a self-starter and to be self-managed for my whole life. I have always tried to be as nurturing as my father. After all, most people spend more time at work than with their families. So, work is like your second family. I think this shows that giving young workers the opportunity to develop a mind-set to take responsibility for their lives and work greatly affects how productive and satisfying their careers will be.
    • Chris Whitecross
    • Director, Arrowdynamics
    For self-management to work in any environment it requires those above to be competent and effective in the management arts of coaching and delegating. Unfortunately, these are two areas where many senior managers are sadly lacking.
    • Anonymous
    "Self-management" sounds great in theory, and I would like to see it work in many varied environments. The concept should be renamed so as to not suggest the assumption of supervisory or managerial duties sufficient to deny workers protection by, and organizational rights under, the National Labor Relations Act. There might be less unnecessary objection to the concept of "Working Responsibly."
    • Ed Riehl
    • Site Manager, Corrugated Box Factory
    In my experience, hourly employees do a fine job of running their machines and completing orders. Most become technically proficient and are proud of what they do. A few have the aptitude and interest to become leaders in the plant. We have had success promoting these individuals into hourly leadership roles for further develoment and evaluation. Many have become salaried supervisors. The salaried supervisors tend to add more value through the setting of team goals and by looking for ways to continuously improve the overall process. They tend to be better problem solvers and have a more global view of plant operations.
    • Ram Kumar
    • Director, Rhea Knowledge Technologies (P) Ltd
    Self-managed teams might be a reality if the individual / team activities are closely monitored. Most of the time democracy does not work in business, especially at the entry level. Entry-level employees have to be given clear tasks and processes. Every human being brings his [or her] own levels of understanding to the scope of work. Certain tasks which have longer-term implications may not be readily understood by entry-level worker due to their lack of understanding of the bigger system.

    Top-level understanding cannot be easily transferred to the minds of entry-level workers. So while it is a good idea to have self-managed teams at the entry level, its benefits might be too difficult to achieve due to the human behavioural issues.
    • Asiya Shervani
    • Head, Learning & Development, Alcatel South Asia Limited
    The concept of self-managed teams, in my opinion, works well when the team members have complementary skill-sets. I have seen it work in projects which are multidisciplinary in nature, where archaeologists, anthropologists, sociologists, and maybe even geologists need to work together. Maturity levels need to be high and a very high sense of involvement needs to be there for the concept of self-managed teams to work.

    Thus, a high sense of involvement is a prerequisite to successful self-managed teams. I am not sure if it can be an "outcome" of a self-managed team. First, getting people in the corporate world to even theoretically understand and appreciate the concept might be a daunting task!
    • Kapil Sopory
    • Company Secretary, SMEC (India) Private Limited
    We belong to a system where right from birth someone or other controls our actions. Parents, teachers, senior colleagues, bosses, and even our spouses continuously advise--many a time offering unwanted and undesirable critical comments--and scope for individuals' personal development is curtailed. In such a scenario, self-management would not work and we would always be looking around for someone else to "guide" us.

    The solution lies in employers--companies in particular--developing new staff in such a way that staff are groomed as managers of their own self. It is important that we develop high character to own our mistakes and make ourselves truly accountable in our own eyes even when our actions escape the attention of those to whom we are answerable. This will mean high ethical actioning. The world needs such people who will also be result- and performance-oriented whether working individually or in a closely-knit group as proposed by James Heskett.
    • Anand
    • Corporate Head - HR, Lumax
    Self-help groups on the shop floor go a long way toward having a confident and motivated workforce, which in turn has positive effects on productivity, cost, & quality, provided the managers heading such clusters are able to impart cohesiveness to the groups and function as mentors and coaches. Among different clusters a healthy intra- and inter-cluster competition can be generated. The prerequisite for this is that all managers of different clusters should function democratically and not as command-oriented.
    • S. Ramachander
    • Management Consultant, Independent
    Self-management is needed to some degree at any job level in order to counter the de-humanizing that inevitably follows a high level of automation and process orientation. People will feel like zombies otherwise, and I don't think in this day and age we can still retain the mental model of one set of rules for managers and another for the managed. Ricardo Semler [of Semco, Brazil] has proved the extreme case very well indeed, and in a metal-bashing engineering industry in a developing society over 20 years. There must be some truth in that method!
    • Satyadev Singh
    • Senior Consultant, SAP India
    It is for organizations to tap the aspirational side of an employee to engage him/her in a "self-management" mode. The benefits are obvious both to the employee and the organization in terms of career movement/compensation for the employee and higher productivity levels/cost efficiency for the organization.

    But for this model to succeed, the organization needs to find a pool of people who possess enough aspirational critical mass among them to be fired up.
    • Abhishek
    • Senior Executive Engineer and MBA, International
    Self-management starts at the personal level with an ability to manage yourself: being organized, managing time effectively, and carving out time for self-improvement. Amongst entry level workers, those who have the above traits can only be seen as having managerial potential.
    The others need to be further trained and then reevaluated. Companies that are able to do this meticulously and efficiently are ready for self-management.
    • Rohan Lobo
    • Senior Consultant, KPMG
    I find the concept of self-management to be of increasing utility in today's business situation as compared to traditional command concepts of management. Key reasons are:

    --Increasing sophistication, knowledge and ambitions of entry-level employees.
    --Low attention span for routine or mundane jobs.
    --Desire for increased involvement in the running of the enterprise as compared to working in the enterprise.

    Management would require additional investment in information systems and procedures for control of operations. The challenges it needs to consider are levels of commitment in the entry-level positions and unreasonable growth ambitions of entry-level employees.

    However, it seems that terrorists have been better at capitalizing on this distributed model of operation and management. What is making it difficult for the "war on terror" is the growth of independently managed, disciplined terrorist cells that are aligned to a broad theme of hatred.

    Lessons for the business world from these terrorist cells are to motivate well-trained, self-managed teams to a strategic theme that is openly communicated and honestly executed by the organization, while ensuring discipline, consistency, and knowledge-sharing among the various self-managed groups.
    • Anonymous
    I have to agree with the comment made by an anonymous person that we (American businesses) have created this problem of having to use self-management as an escape from no management. We use degrees, however valuable they are, as guidance for promotion, and we do not use the personality traits, work habits, commitment, and dedication as those things that make managers. It's time for the good ole U.S.A. to wake up and start realizing that there is more management material at their disposal than they think ... and it's right under their collective noses.
    • Helen Kelly
    • International Editor, The Working Manager
    What I find important here is that we have a shortage of good managers. In my view, the potential talent pool and their ideas--managerial and otherwise--is drowning in secondary school testing. Policymakers steadfastly refuse to educate teachers such that they know how to help people develop ideas. Is it any wonder that there's a shortage of reflective people, including in business and industry?
    • Anonymous
    Self-directed work teams have been around a long time in the manufacturing environment. The concept has proven itself many times over. The only thing new here is the environment (self-contained and physically separated from the parent organization).

    This will be succcessful only if the teams are educated in the concepts governing self-directed work teams and reeducated as the team dynamics change. Additionally, management must be educated in how to "manage" self-directed work teams.
    • Anonymous
    In my experience, there have been some very effective self-managed work teams. But the ones which had the most effectiveness turned out to be ones that built this into the organizational design at the beginning working at a new facility. The philosophy I experienced was to make everyone in the manufacturing organization a "business person" first. The effort was in hiring people with the right aptitudes and attitudes, then training them in the necessary skills to support and handle operations. The changes involved in training are much more easily accomplished with the right kind of people than trying to change the viewpoints and perceptions of the indiviuals involved.

    In many cases, when trying to retrofit an organization, there needs to be full buy-in from all levels of the organization. Often there is an expression of desire to move to self-managed teams, but this fails to translate to action as the necessary authority and accountability are not at the level required for efficient operations. In some cases, the individuals making up the team are unwilling to take accountability for the full scope of decisions made. In other cases, the organization is unwilling to allow decisions to be made outside a specific zone of control. While it is feasible to have a self-managed team working in a tight threshold of accountability, this does take effort on the part of the managing body to communicate and motivate effectively.

    Are we ready for self-managed work teams? I believe the answer is yes, but there becomes a more intense preparation in order to change a culture to make it work. The cornerstones of self-managed teams are clarity in the principles the organization is to work with and mutual understanding of the accountabilities involved. If one is willing to make that effort.
    • Isaac
    • Internal Controller, M (M) L
    If management develops a strategy map that correctly represents the real strategy of the business, and if the company hires people for attitude, I think knowledge is transferable. Yes, self-management is win-win.
    • Fernando das Neves Gomes
    • Consultant, Independent
    I think the best process is to partner with or develop competencies in people companies: recruiting, training and selecting people directly related to their competencies. Independence is a result of competencies, more integrated systems, more independence, and fewer responsibilities. It's a selection process .... At this point, probably, the headquarters creates one team to research global opportunity business locations and promotes local people with competencies to run the business in local market.

    It's another question, I think, when we talk about large-unit businesses with a lot of people and with recruitment processes very well stabilised internally. But to start thinking about that we have to began with the words self-motivation, self-compromise, and more overall return to the company. Things done well in less time, with fewer people, with fewer problems, give more satisfaction to the customers.
    • Margie Parikh
    • Lecturer, BK School of Business Management
    My experience as a trainer says that the shortage of managers and self-managed workplaces has a causal relationship.

    If self-managed teams are the best bet under the given situation, we should go for it and make it work. Self-managed teams happen only if readiness is there on both sides. The real game begins after both sides have shown willingness to go the self-managed way. The organizational and managerial processes have to be geared to support them, sustain them, and terminate them if needed.
    • Marco Ottenga
    • Manager, Cabur, Italy
    What do we mean by "manager," how deep and well-rounded is his experience, how does he integrate different functional needs of the organisation, and how experienced is he in communicating a vision and the goals to be achieved? If we forget all of that or we leave that to consultants, then yes it is possible for "self-management." Even with real management, quite often the results are very poor (depending on the quality of the managers).

    I believe it is much better to select good managers and pay them as good managers rather than trust in good consultants, thus eliminating the difficult tasks of managers.
    • Ellis Baxter
    • CEO, Ellis Baxter Designs Inc.
    This is the single most important idea in years. The trick, and it is a trick, is to change the culture. What we did was spin off and break up our enterprise.

    Vision and core values are the main responsibility of the CEO; unless that is correct, nothing else matters. Teaching is the second job, giving a basic economic understanding of how we make money, how your job affects the bottom line, and how you will be rewarded if you win.

    Training on how to do the work is job number 3. Save all voicemail unless totally necessary for after-hours. Stop all employees from hiding from customers: Meet them head on. All meetings should be in a room with a raised platform and a white borad (digital recording) and no chairs for anyone. (ADA rules should be observed, of course.) The meetings will be quick and to the point. Reduce all reports to six. Choose how to measure productivity improvement.

    Then let the people figure it out.

    The nature of [our] culture is such that all people help each other. Now we have a close and tight enterprise. Costs will reduce every year for the next five and profits will improve.

    Small is in fact beautiful if you let the people just do their work.
    • Birgi Martin
    • Consultant
    I think self-management is needed at all levels of staff. The degree to which it is needed depends on the job level. The important point is that upper management and supervisors should approach their colleagues as people who are instrumental in business growth and the development of solutions.

    One who feels the trust of others has a lot to offer and is much more motivated to "self-manage." Depending on the job level and corporate culture, deployment of this approach within the organization could create much more synergy and bring higher productivity to the organization.
    • John Inman, Ed.M., PHR
    • OD and Training Manager, Kah-Nee-Ta
    I would recommend that if you are a command and control manager and see the world through the lens of "everyone is less intelligent and less capable than I" that you keep away from self management. You will invariably sabotage the initiative and it will fail. However if you can ask and not tell, engage people in learning conversations, coach, develop, and create a clear picture of the result, you probably will be thrilled with the result of treating people with respect. You will find that almost everyone wants to do a good job and be proud of their accomplishments. You will be amazed with the creativity and pride that people of all ages will bring to the community. You can be involved in transforming not only your organization but peoples lives and that of their families and communities.
    • Gaurav Goel
    • Project Manager, Infosys Technologies
    Self management may work well when team sizes are small and there are limited personality conflicts. The challenge is in trying innovative business processes that can engage larger groups of individuals and prevent their personal ambitions from overshadowing the team spirit of the group. New organizational structures need to be identified that can support a sustainable self management strategy at the lower levels.
    • Gaurav Sood
    • Sr Mgr Business Excellence, ICICI Prudential
    "Self-Management" can solve many problems faced by companies - be it training employees, reducing attrition/ staffing, creating hierarchies, automating processes to make them system dependent - & would result in savings at the same time.
    But certain critical factors need to be taken care off for moving towards it:
    1. Showing benefits of this concept to the teams
    2. Empowering these self-management teams to take decisions on their own
    3. Evolve right performance evaluation factors for these teams
    4. Recognition of the teams
    5. Need not be said - needs to be top driven
    • Rajesh
    • Head PMO, Zydus Cadila
    Great Idea! It will work. Freedom is the ultimate craving of an individual and every employee would relish it. However, it would be prudent to expect that patience and perseverence would be required when one plans to implement the concept.
    Needless to say that employees need to be 'adequately' educated in terms of expectations. Individual behaviour is influenced by environment. So, care should be taken at 'environment' level to ensure early success. The objective must be set to have the employees get addicted to the self management style. The results in terms of multiplication of employee productivity because of sheer joy of working should be apparent.
    • Ashutosh Tiwari
    • Business Development Officer, SEDF-IFC
    Managing yourself is difficult enough, and requires at least a few years of focused yet continuously feedback-oriented trial-and-error--what works and what doesn't in how one goes about effectively accomplishing tasks.

    In "Managing Oneself", an HBR article, Peter Drucker discusses the challanges and the importance of self-management for individuals.

    But letting workers manage themselves is something that would be very difficult to achieve for long. That even Taco Bell appears to have discarded the practice suggests that perhaps it was an experiment that bore fruits in the short run, but could not prove its effectiveness in the long run.

    I draw two conclusions here. First, self-management of/by groups works -- but only in the short run, such as where skilled employees get together to accomplish a specific task within a certain time frame. Those employees then disperse at the end of the task.

    Second, when a firm is completely employee-owned, then self-management of/by groups is likely to be possible. In law firms, for instance, partners (i.e. employee-owners of the same rank) 'manage' one another to make sure that all are pulling their weight to make sure that partnership remains profitable.
    • Heather Neary, CMCE
    • Executive Chef, MCCS
    Delegation includes conveying responsibility and authority to your employees so they can carry out certain tasks. However, you leave it up to your employees to decide how they will carry out the tasks. Skills in delegation can free up a great deal of time for managers and supervisors. It also allows employees to take a stronger role in their jobs, which usually means more fulfillment and motivation in their jobs.
    • S K Lahiri
    • Head Infrastructure & Logistics, Tata Steel
    The idea is certainly good and desirable. However, to ensure early success, there needs to be a well-designed training program for the 'self-managers' to improve customer focus, interpersonal relationship, empathy, communication skills, negotiation and descision-making skills, understanding of EVA, and surely on how to contribute to the bottom line individually and collectively. Senior management needs to nurture and support them, and also give positive feedbacks in a transparent way.
    • Lavinia Weissman
    • Managing Director, WorkEcology
    A self-managed work environment is a leadership decision that invites initiative and not followership.

    It is also a statement that invites participation and learning. A self managed work environment implies that every stakeholder including the board and core group that has financial responsibility need to learn with a wider reaching social network that is involved in operations and carrying out strategy. It's a demanding organization form key to encouraging organizational learning.

    As Pfeffer and others have described, it is a cultural form that invites learning, doing, and innovation. It is a cultural form that invites pay for performance.

    It means you are also inviting people to "think."

    If you start this way from scratch you can foster and expect it. If core leadership decides to launch it as a change initiative, you have to factor in what it takes to empower self-management and let all stakeholders learn what it means on an individual, team, and organizational scale.

    I first worked with this form of culture in health care. It transformed clerks into people who took responsibility for the consumer as a way to learn, do, and innovate.

    I often wonder what it would mean to the payor system that blocks most change intiatives in health care and what it means to expert environments in health care where a few professions dominate (e.g. doctors, researchers and nurses) rather than encourage input from everyone including consumers.

    If you think about this write me. I would love to hear your experiences and observations.
    • Mohamed Ali Vaid
    • HBS '06
    I think "management" is often confused with "leadership" and as such, the concept of self management can often be misunderstood and hence rejected. Many industries would do well to move to a self-management model where the direction of day-to-day activities is left to the individual worker. However, for this model to be successful, the organization would need to have very strong and energizing leadership to create exceptional motivation among self-managed employees. The successful growth of multi-level marketing companies such as Amway and Avon is a great example of this concept in action.
    • Sainath Nagarajan
    • Personal perspective
    The concept of self management effectively appears to be an instantiation of entrepreneurship within corporate walls.

    The key to sustainable success will be in establishing clear goals, objectives, metrics and qualitative criteria that form the set of self-reinforcing interests, which in turn bind the distributed self-managed workforce and align them towards the larger entity, the corporation. In doing so, one can provide a platform for self-selected leadership.

    The recognition and reward given to a self managed leadership level can in turn be a motivating driver for the "working masses." The aspiration factor that innately drives the industry of human endeavor can now be channelized more tactically towards a specific actionable end-state: a self-managed leadership role.

    The existence of policy, protocol, or process criteria (or strictures) should be seen as a set of guiding principles and a safety net, not as management interference. After all, aren't we all accountable to some sort of higher authority, one way or the other?

    Are sufficient numbers of entry-level employees ready for self-management? That's something we should be able to better address after insitutionalizing a training and development plan to help identify and highlight the pool ready for the next step.
    • Henrique Plöger Abreu
    • Marketing Manager, JD
    The question is closely linked to the level of skills and competencies that entry level employees bring with them.

    Generally speaking I prefer to think about managing/coaching with a long leash rather than micromanaging, meaning empowering people to take actions and to be accountable for them.

    Creating a self management culture within a business organization has to do more with leadership than management, because leaders have a vision of where, when, and how the organization is heading. They are able to share this dream and the direction that other people want to follow. True leadership vision goes beyond a written organizational mission statement or vision statement. The vision of a leader is found throughout the workplace and is manifested in the actions, beliefs, values, and goals of the organization's staff.

    A leader inspires his followers by appealing to their common sense rather than resting on his formal authority.

    A leader fosters hope rather than fear.

    A leader says "we" rather than "I".

    A leader do not need to ask for respect; followers willingly respect him.

    A particularly helpful way to support new-entry employees in their quest to become future leaders is through mentoring. A close relationship with a senior executive of proven leadership skills is likely to keep a young manager open and willing for growth. Mentoring should be paired with a portion of warm, friendly, positive, and proactive support, which means that the mentor should free up important time on his agenda to perform this task.
    • Nari Kannan
    • CEO, Ajira Technologies, Inc
    Self-management is the way people are supposed to be managed for optimum performance and job satisfaction. Failure of self management experiments are primarily due to a number of factors:

    a. Proper Hiring: Only a subset of applicants for any self managed positions are suitable to be self managed. It requires an individual who wants to do a good job at what they are doing, not a junkie that wants a day job.

    b. Proper Structuring of work and responsibilities: Self management has its limits also. An entry level person may make decisions up to a certain limit and thereafter it may fall upon supervisors and so on. This is not a reflection on the entry level employee but that you just need more experience and judgment born out of experience doing the lower level jobs first.

    c. Proper structuring of incentives, advancement and promotions: Merit based incentives, advancement and promotions need to reinforce the value the company places on better self management.

    Taco Bell may have failed in one or more of these areas in places where it failed.

    Human beings do not need bosses to tell them what to do every minute of their time. That's early 20th century management thinking.

    21st century thinking is more practiced by Japanese manufacturing as in Toyota and the Toyota Production System. Harvard and Stanford may be a little outdated in this area!
    • Akhil Aggarwal
    • IBM Corp.
    Is it self-management or higher degree of involvement--and hence a sense of greater authority--that we need to bring to the company's culture? If we talk about training our employees to manage themselves and make their own decisions, are we not forgetting the need for counseling, mentoring and leadership? Can we afford to forget the importance of a role model and leading by example in any work place? The ever-growing demand for good managers will never converge with the supply, but the change perhaps can be concentrated at the ground level, which is to "create" better managers. The management programs already are coming of age and exploring newer means of enhancing the future manager's perspective. It is at education level that we need to bring the values of creating a solution-oriented approach and teaching self-management in times of need. Total self-management can work in few industries not, all.

    It is not easy to have people who can lead in the absence of authority. However, we can aim at creating such skills using education.
    • Joe A. Srampickal
    • Marians International
    Self management can be successful in an organization only if employees are motivated to achieve greater heights in their career within the organization.

    Enabling employees to manage the show independently with minimum supervision can be highly harmful for the health of an organization if it consists of demoralized employees.
    So before applying and implementing self management tools, top management has to understand the value of its employees and take initiatives to motivate them and make them feel they are part of the organization.

    Are sufficient numbers of entry-level employees ready for self-management, especially if it requires the application of new technologies to help them perform jobs such as interviewing and hiring new team members or ordering supplies and managing inventories? Training is the key to this question. Other than handling the extreme complex situations which needs tools and means of support, a normal human brain is capable to handle any situation. And when such complex tasks arise, there should be support teams or specialists available to support such issues.

    More important, is management ready for this? No. No matter how hard we say otherwise, it is a fact. Very few organizations are willing to apply and practice it. In such cases you will also note that either an external influence or the management knows that their control is unquestionable and unshakable. It is mostly happens in organizations where management consist of top-of-the-class professionals in their field of expertise.

    Again, regarding investing for management information systems depends on the visions of the visionaries behind such an organization. If you look at the future with a limited span of few years, it may not make sense to invest a huge sum on new tools and systems. But if you look at the future witha wide angle view then you will realize and understand the importance of this act.

    So, we can conclude that though it is a win-win situation for both employees as well as an organization, in the long term the organization will attain major/greater benefit from this "self-management" initiative. It is better now than later to embrace the proved methods for the success for your organization as well the success of your employees.
    • Shann Turnbull PhD
    • Principal, International Insitute for Self-governance
    I do not think it realistic to expect corporate boards and their executives to introduce self-management without obtaining the consent of their shareholders to both facilitate and legitimize this approach. Without such changes executives are locked in to a fiduciary duty to monitor and direct the business through a command-and-control hierarchy that must deny any genuine self-management.

    Non-trivial sustainable self-managing firms decompose decision making labor not through a command-and-control hierarchy reporting to a single board but through a network of boards with oversight over various functions that become self-managing by being regulated by their stakeholders. The nested networks of stakeholder controlled firms with network governance located around the town of Mondragón, Spain provide an outstanding exemplar. Their architecture and operations are described in Chapter six of my PhD thesis with descriptions of US and UK self-managed firms in Chapter 5.

    The reason why the decomposition of decision making labor into almost self-managing subcomponents can be much more effective than hierarchies for managing complexity was demonstrated by Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon in his famous 1962 lecture on "The Architecture of Complexity". Another reason is that it also reduces the need for educated managers and complex information systems as illustrated by Mondragón firms.
    • S.S. Rajeshwari
    Every human being has the quality of self management. It is only the question of opportunity given which brings out the quality.

    If an organisation feels that it should do something for its employees, it should adopt the theme of self managment in its structure. In many organisations people at the entry level do not know the mission of the organisation for which they work. They are very much involved in their routines and sometimes stop thinking beyond themselves. But introduction of self management techniques will definitely uplift the employees and help them extend their vision, which will definitely give them a sense of satisfaction and belonging towards the organisation. It will help them grow, feel that they are always marketable, and avoid becoming redundant.

    If the organisation is not comfortable with bringing in self management at the entry level, it can introduce the same at lower-middle-level management or middle-level management where the employees will have more than three to four years of experience.
    • Kuldeep Singh
    • Manager - Organizational Effectiveness, Infosys Technologies Ltd, India
    Self management requires self leadership as a pre requisite to be effective. And self leadership is much dependent on a person's maturity level. Unless a person is able to lead self effectively, their ability to contribute in a self managing team will be abysmal.
    • Peter A Hunter
    • Author, Breaking the Mould
    Taco Bell discovered accidentally that when people manage themselves their effectiveness hugely increases and they start to enjoy what they do.

    This and other emerging examples show us the damage that conventional "command and control" management causes.
    When, instead of telling people what to do, the manager starts to listen to the workforce and get them involved in their own management, the results are staggering.

    We are more than ready for self management. The day will come quite soon when it will not be possible to manage a business in the old directive style because the dispirited and demotivated workforce that this style of management produces will not be able to compete in the same marketplace as the the workforce that has been allowed to manage itself.

    Peter A Hunter
    • Barry Frank
    • OD Director
    Sometimes I think we forget not everyone looks to work to "achieve". For many, especially in the frontline service sector, it's just a job. Self-management is a great idea for those who are dedicated, driven, and looking to create something. Not so great for the person in a day job waiting for their other ship to come in.

    You've got to choose carefully who wants to self-manage and who doesn't.
    • Phil Clark
    • President, Clark & Associates
    Self-management has been alive and well for centuries. Every employee since the beginning of time has decided how much they will work, what they will do, and if they support the organization they work for. Even in management and control organizations...the managers were only fooling themselves if they thought they really controlled the employees.

    I have taught leadership and management for many years and I have always told students that you must treat all employees like volunteers. If you really want to learn leadership, volunteer for an organization and learn how to accomplish projects by working with people. With no dollars to dangle in front of people's faces or promises of a raise or promotion, I have seen promising leaders fail. They failed the real test: they could not motivate and provide an environment where others can be successful.
    • Eva Benita A. Tuzon
    • Programme Officer-Research, Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific
    The concept is ideal for developing countries with slackening resources, e.g., excellent executives! But readers from South Asia could only dream for a culture and eco-political environs that would promote such flat structure. Self-management suits individuals who are on the fast-lane and who attain a certain level of excellence in everything they do.
    • Saurav Mukherjee
    • Manager Operations
    Self management can be the next best thing to sliced bread for companies if it can be implemented and managed. All teams in a company should believe in it to make it a success, or else it will die.

    This will start with the recruitment team to analyze entry-level candidates for their maturity levels. The candidate should not break under stress--inventory management and handling of staff conflicts are highly stressful.

    The company should be willing to invest on technology and infrastructure. This model will be good for customer-facing modules like pizza outlets and telecom outlets. This might not be the right model for the retail or manufacturing units.
    • Paula Hurst
    • IT Manager
    I agree with Phil Clark that we are all self managed at some level, determined in a great part by our own initiative. The ultimate self-managed worker owns the business.

    What amuses me is that the self-management concept is restricted to business and not often proposed as the salvation for other public arenas such as education or sports. Perhaps this is because it is commonly accepted that professional sports teams and publiclly funded classrooms need to have a coach. Or perhaps its because coaches are marketed by films like "Miracle", while managers play their most dramatic role in "Dilbert", much beloved by just about anyone in high tech.

    Behind the most successful self-managed work teams is a manager ensuring that the team knows the target, the boundaries, and have the resources to do the job. Ultimately, the concept of self-managed workers or work teams translates into the activities of crafting jobs with a wider span-of-control and putting the right people into them. And that takes great managers. Enjoy!
    • Eric Husman
    The answer depends largely on the type of work to be organized. Software? Communication and the nature of the work will allow it. Linux and Wikipedia are examples. Manufacturing? To some extent. Anywhere that hierarchy serves some efficiency purpose, and to the degree that it does, teams will simply not work out. Services? I think probably so.

    On the other hand, some would argue that self-directed work teams can always work, and the more the teams control directly, the more effective they will be when you are looking at a small scale. In other words, no way could you build a 7E7, but you might be able to build solar cars.
    • Jatin
    • Maersk
    Self improvement as a concept can provide a "win-win" situation for companies as well as for employees. But a greater responsibility lies with the company to convince the entry level managers "what is in it for me". Once that is done, the initial resistance can be converted to motivation, as people move up and set examples for others. In this scenario, the employees who can really set up new benchmarks in the process can be given higher responsibility in the organization. So companies do not have to search outside for good managers--the talent pool is already with them. At the same time, the high performing individual should be kept on the management radar, or else the company can lose them to competitors.
    • Heerim
    • Administrator
    As many readers commented on this issue above, self management team would be effective depending on types of industries and organizational structures. Once managements find that it is beneficial to their business and develop strategies, the next step would be to convince their potential managers of the benefits of creating self management team. Some people are motivated by monetary compensation but others may be more interested in getting authorities. As far as motivation is concerned, companies should consider this issue from every aspects.
    • Peter Johnson
    • Senior Manager
    True and genuine self-management cannot happen if there are bosses or supervisors around. We tend to like using all these high-sounding concepts such as leadership, self-management, empowerment, and so on. But the reality of the workplace is the boss. You cannot get away from the issue of the boss, unless you are willing to do things radically differently. I recommend that everyone read a brilliant paper at "Why your boss is programmed to be a dictator." It gives you a dramatically different leadership paradigm, which in turn leads to some very outlandish but absolutely spot-on conclusions--where you think, this cannot be true, but it is.
    • Mayur Vegad
    • Structural Engineer, WS Atkins & Partners Overseas
    In majority of the organizations, the balance is induced automatically. When the traditional method starts giving way and the show is still running, it means that self-managers are in effect. To retain them, their identification & encouragement is needed; business is personal. Of course, imposing the programs may not be that effective.
    • Anonymous
    Self-management is a good idea. However, companies need to make sure the individuals put in charge are very dedicated, hard working, have a good work ethic, good decision making and judgement skills, are honest, fair, and do not play favoritism. If not, the companies stand to lose good employees with the above attributes.
    • Venkatesh
    • Program Manager, Symphony Services
    In the knowledge economy the only way to succeed is to move towards self management. It will soon be impossible for managers to decide things for everybody reporting to him/her. Interestingly, consider similarities beween democracy to styles of participative management. Who wants to move away from democracy today?

    There is also talk about treating entry-level employees as different. I believe if you are thinking of empowered employees, then start very early. Self-managed employees will find the shortest paths to end goals as compared to employees who wait for you to tell them which road to take at every crossroad.
    • Pancho Otero
    • Director, IPM (ex-CEO Banco Sol )
    In the late 80s, prodded by one of our teachers, we adopted "autogerencia," literally: "self management." It was a resounding success: We became the most profitable bank in the country in a few years, and had no write-offs to speak of. As to your question whether people fresh off the streets were ready for autogerencia: Of course not, but even so there are two things you can do to solve this. First, you specifically hire people who are able to work without a boss (for this you need to develop a detailed profile); and second, you can train those that you do hire, and in a matter of a few weeks they are ready to manage themselves. In spite of the costs involved in this, it is still worthwhile to adopt self-management.
    • Anonymous
    Self-management is a goal. Any organization that understands the future will have a plan to work in that direction. They will do it in a way that best fits the nature of that organization and industry. There will be HR policies that focus on development, etc. This evolution is necessary because participative management produces the highest rate of adaptation. Rate of adaptation is becoming the most important component of success. Adapt or die. If all adaptation is directed and controlled by managers, the organization is dying or dead and just not yet buried.
    • Jay Somasundaram
    • Analyst
    Professor Heskett hits the nail on the head: Most important, is management ready for this? As Maslow would put it, people's physiological and safety needs are met in a modern welfare society, and workplaces should be meeting the higher needs if they are to attract good employees. However, that is too hard for management, and they prefer to promote a model whereby people are motivated by more money. It is an easier management paradigm, and encourages increases to their own salaries.
    • Norman Carter
    • President/CEO, Development Systems International
    Self-management is a significant way to increase productivity, involve more employees, and hold down costs in linear structures. However, when cross-organization, cross function, cross cultural, and complex business environments are involved, it is a mine field.

    Imagine the problems of virtual team management in medium to large outsourcing and off-shore business relationships being self-managed.

    The inability to benefit from the different skills and business interactions on outsourcing situations has arisen because each party to the contract has self-managed, often without much communication between the parties.

    Costs, quality, schedules, and loss of effectiveness are common in these situations.

    We do not need more structure; instead we need to more completely understand what each party brings to the success of the contract, then determine how the different parts of the work need to be structured and above all managed by a small management team that understands the business processes involved and how each contributes to the total success of the endeavor.

    This is hard work, and cannot be done if the lead manager is managing several different sites, each one part time. To hope for success is not related to the effort to gain and manage success except in the most linear organizations.

    By all means, maximixe the self-management efforts in clearly defined functions. But never forget that in truly complex business relationships, failure is a guaranteed outcome.

    It is too bad that we still hope for a simplistic model that fits most business situations. That is a mirage.
    • Fred Olande
    • Head of Regional HR, Diamond Trust Bank
    The concept of self-managed employees and teams is basically employee empowerment. When employees feel they are valued, they take ownership and develop a high level commitment that salary alone cannot buy. It should be acknowledged that just as the CEO strives for support for his/her programmes to drive the business to the next level, so too do junior staff. When employees get the sense that they are not appreciated, and only receive negative feedback about their performance, they recoil into their own cocoon, lose interest in their work, and get demoralized. This scenario may lead to a dangerous situation from which few employees survive.

    Whereas traditional organizations require management systems that control people's behaviours, the organization that will stand the test of time in a volatile business environment will be one that acknowledges the quality of employees and empowers them to take ownership and be held accountable for their functions. They will be organizations that are differentiated as market leaders with strong leadership cultures that acknowledge and encourage employees to think for themselves and learn from their mistakes. They will be organizations that invest in improving the quality of learning and thinking and are capable of developing the capacity for reflection and introspection amongst and within teams, encourage team learning, and include the capacity to mobilize their teams around shared visions and values in the understanding of complex business issues.
    • Motty Perel
    • P. Eng.
    Self-management is coming. Enterprises that will continue with the command management would have to close doors.

    One of the pleasant consequences and great savings for knowledge-based enterprises will be that the bulk of its massive workforce will be able to work from home rather than occupy expensive buildings.

    Workforce productivity in developed countries is rising at a single-percentage speed a year, while technological advances call for substantially higher productivity growth. The now-fashionable team-building training will not correct the discrepancy because before long the employee realizes there is nothing for him in this team. The transition of enterprises to self-management of the production processes, self-management based on self-interest, which is the essence of the next-after-employment entrepreneurial mode of labour utilization, will fill the void in productivity growth, turn the pioneering enterprises into fierce competitors, and raise the general level of wealth to a new level.

    People are looking for the transition to the new mode. Some are there and some are close.
    • Jasper Ojongtambia
    • President/CEO, AEC Computer Division
    Self-Management is a good tool for motivating employees but it needs careful studies before implementation. Why? One model does not fit all.

    What might work for a fast food business with low wages and low educational requirements for employment may not work for a high technology firm with highly educated, highly trained workers. Hence, every business must abide by certain management resources (physical, human and organisational) for success.

    Cost: Cost of implementing these management resources may be lower for a fast food company than for a biotech or information technology company.

    Conclusion: The idea of self-management is good and a
    wonderful tool for motivating employees and increasing productivity, but it not one model that fits all.
    • Kiran
    • Cordys
    I would say, self-management is going to be (or perhaps already is) the necessity of the day, not an option. The old school of management styles and power centres did not allow us to experience the fact that people can always manage themselves. We probably built an element of doubt and uncertainity among people by means of processes and checkpoints, thereby inducing a dependency culture rather than a collaborating culture.

    The intensity of knowledge in today's world is so crucial to business, that people should form knowledge networks yet actively manage themselves rather than be restricted to managed circles with controlled wisdom.

    Enterprise-class software development organizations are making a paradigm shift by embracing lean software development principles and methodologies like Scrum. Focus is now more on building a culture and discipline in the organization, providing tools, and upgrading people's skills. It is with the belief that knowledge workers know best how to innovate, solve problems, and handle issues. It is now a prerequisite that managers step out of their command-and-control shoes and start to wear the cap of facilitation and delagation. The recipe is to enable the conditions for empowerment.

    Life finds its way!
    • Gaurav Dhanda
    • Executive
    Self-management initiatives in the present global environment are a necessity for corporations in order to improve their work force skills, control costs, and provide greater opportunities for growth and rewards for employees. The Taco Bell experience is an example in which all of the above or some of the above were achieved. Lastly, the concept would be a failure due to factors such as low employee motivation/energy, age, and unwillingness of individuals to change their personal style.
    • Clement Ayo Oladejo
    • Sales Mgr., NDL, Nigeria
    Self-management seems to be a new and possibly effective business management development area in Africa and especially in Nigeria. How it may be possible in an environment of distrust and lack of accountability begs an answer. Within senior management circles it is a necessity; but among middle- and junior-level employees its workability seems remote.

    I would appreciate it if studies could be commenced on its practicability in Nigeria, bearing in mind the prevailing environmental and political factors.
    • Gokul Ranganathan
    • Business Architect, Nandaki Systems
    Self-management practice can greatly enhance workforce performance. Organizations need to initiate self-management practices irrespective of the availability of managerial talent within the hierarchy. Self-management training allows management to percolate the mission, vision, and values.

    This addresses one of the core issues of Enterprise Performance Management: "living the strategy." What it also creates is a "Mind Space" within each employee to think and act on the initiatives that he/she can take at the respective level/context for their operations, in order to align with the mission, vision, and strategy of the organization. The success of a self-management practice greatly depends on communication and training, critical to bring people to the same page of understanding.

    If organizations need to realize their strategy and win in the marketplace, they need to let go of command and control rule. A realization that self management practice doesn't mean "management-not-in" is required: a thorough change in organizational behavior and culture.
    • PL Joshi
    • Professor, University of Bahrain
    Self-management is a novel idea that challenges traditional management hierarchies. It believes in putting creativity and critical thinking in the work place and working as an effective team. This system may encourage cross-functional team spirit and achieve the work and goals more effectively, and may bring tremendous improvements in internal business processes and in the learning and growth environment of employees within an organization. It implies designing work from the bottom line, focusing on workers and customers. This may enable companies to achieve customer satisfaction and hence higher profitability.

    Under this system of management, employees have to be multi-skilled with multi-task responsibilities; therefore, business manuals will have to be well prepared and responsibilities well documented so that they can be effectively implemented. An enhanced communication link must exist. Many of the Japanese electronic and automobile companies already understand this concept and that is why they are very successful in achieving high cost control, productivity, and quality of their products and services. Another industry in which self-management features already exist is the software development industry.

    Self-management systems would require a very professional way to recruit entry-level employees. In such a system, the HR functions may also have to be modified to accept new challenges.

    Most of the managers strongly believe in a "control culture" within several medium and large organizations. They do not skip this practice so easily; therefore, a change from the traditional system of management control to self-management may not be an easy task. After all, human beings with different attitudes and management styles are involved in it. Self-management should be introduced gradually on a pilot project basis, and then having gained experience, may be applied across the organizational units.
    • Phillip Gelman
    • Principal,
    When I led wrecking crews, before we tore down a machine or a building we would pow-wow to figure out the best way to get the job done. Each man made his suggestions and we came to a consensus. The job was done willingly and well. I was the boss but rarely had to assert authority, only when I knew something could not be done.

    Trust your workers within limits. If they all understand why they are doing something, results will be good.
    • Peter Bryant
    • University of Sydney
    Even if an organization is not yet ready for self-management, it should aim to get ready. In fact, the process of getting ready may be just as important as having arrived. Paradoxically, therefore, developing self-management requires strong executive leadership. Of course the process entails risks and hurdles, as many of the earlier comments suggest, but building strong self-management capabilities will only help organizations to compete in today's fast-changing global environment. Therefore if you are not aiming to get ready for self-management, you may not be ready at all.
    • Karen Dempster
    • Managing Director, Karen Dempster & Associates Creating Change
    A trap is set sometimes at selection. Certain candidates seem outstanding, and these sometimes-quite-entrepreneurial people seem a perfect fit for the multi-tasking, responsibility and needs of a self-managed role. However, the very high tolerance of risk of some of these personalities can present a challenge. Whilst tight procedures and IT systems can control many risks, given a difficult "people-based" challenge there can be times where ad hoc/questionable decision making is undertaken. Helping these no doubt talented staff to engage with the "when" of seeking support and guidance from above is sometimes an area overlooked in training. Sometimes the more talented the person, the more this factor needs to be addressed.
    • Sandeep Sreedharan
    • Principal, Nihilent
    As a rational human being we all ask one question, some of us knowingly and some of us unknowingly: What is in it for me? The answer is a pure mix of the following factors: personality, culture, career path, and more importantly, a "walk the talk" assuredness an organization provides to its personnel. Do organizations provide these answers and create a platform? Or is it just a lip-service?

    Though self-management is a novel, path-breaking concept, and people go gung-ho about it, I agree with it. But what can be lacking is what has been mentioned before: an organization's ability to create a platform that can help deliver and sustain the self-management concept.
    • Yuvaraj Anandan
    • Program Office, B P&A, Citibank
    Yes and No.... It depends on the industry and market.

    In the case of Taco Bell, the company created associate manager roles (informal leaders). Even though you mentioned entry-level managers, these roles were senior-level roles within that particular entity. By de-centralizing some tasks, senior managers saved time/effort and could focus on strategy/revenue.

    When it comes to self-management, concepts of self vary from notions related to individuality and one's nature or character to personal interests and selfishness. Success or failure might be time-bound (till time-smart management is set in place). Also, this can have an impact(both good and bad) on customer and vendor relationships, and sometimes managing operational expenses become challenging.

    Self-management with good processes for audit/control/development might be a solution.

    I would say "balance" based on your market and industry.
    • Anonymous
    High Performance Work Teams/Self-Directed Work Teams will never be highly successful in the U.S. The case histories that have been promoted are isolated events which brought together the right people, processes, and systems with the right leadership.

    The key issue is lack of leadership, not the workers' lack of desire to do a good job. In addition, industry and government are listening to consultants and/or academicians who have never managed anything.
    • Anonymous
    The Taco bell strategy proposed can work under certain circumstances, but I don't believe it can be applied to all entry-level teams. For instance, the strategy would not work for a call center team. All call center team members start with the same skills and have no room to grow. Thus there is no motivation or a slack-hour/battlestation scenario. The promotion method is linear and strictly based on performance during daily mundane activities.

    Making such a group self-managed becomes more difficult as there are no catch-factors that will drive the entry-level workers. Thus people will have to rely instead on well-trained managers to control the retention rate and performance of the team.

    Self-management is an excellent method when a single employee can wear different hats and learn new skills. But the same cannot be applied when the entry-level positions are geared towards a single objective. Thus it cannot be played as a substitute for good managers.
    • Chandan
    • Executive, Logistics & Materials, Madura Coats
    This concept would fit in well in an organization which operates on the management by objective (MBO) motto, requiring a higher level of commitment from individuals.
    • Emmanuel Acuc
    • IT Analyst
    For the self management concept to work, the right team should have been selected from the onset. Different people function at different slots in a team: some are leaders and others are the natural mediators in a team. This helps to create direction and some form of informal structure.

    The issue of incentives is also very crucial for this to work. The team needs to benefit in some way for their effort.