Ed Gibbs in his blog posts a comment on self-managing teams that deserves some additions.
He mentions that “[he does] have fears that some stuff gets left behind by making everyone a developer [self-managing team]”.
He specifically mentions that
Most organizations just have a lot of administrative stuff that someone has to take care of to keep everything rolling along. And someone has to focus on things beyond the project at hand. In a team of developers [self-managing team] who does one-on-ones, fills out the purchase orders for a new build box, or makes sure time sheets get signed off and approved?
I would beg to differ on these statements. The point with self managing teams is not to change the process of defining a leader (which is nominated by management in non-self managing teams), the point of “self managing teams and organizations” is to do away with the need to name a leader all together, the team is it’s own manager, which in practice means that everybody is a manager, not just that everybody is a developer.
Everybody is a manager
What I mean to say with this statement is that everyone in the team has responsibility over the organizational integration of the team, not just “a manager” (named by the team or not). If you need to buy hardware the team is responsible for buying that hardware (or starting the purchasing process, depending where you work). If a room needs to be designed then the team designs that room, not management. If someone needs to go to higher management with some proposal/request, then the teams define that proposal/request but they can name one or two (or more) people that go there and represent the team.
The goal with self-managing teams is not to make everybody a developer, it is to make the team fully responsible for it’s results, and this includes tasks that would normally be assigned to a manager.
The Evaluation pitfall
There is one problem however with the current traditional “MBA/old school” style of evaluating performance in self-managing teams: MBA’s and old schoold managers forget that people are intelligent enough to evaluate themselves! In a case described in the book “Maverick!“, Ricardo Semler states that they actually asked people to name their salary. What happened? Most people actually asked for a salary lower than what management was ready to pay (in some cases they actually had to say “no, you deserve more!”). Those that asked for crazy salaries (very few) eventually left the company anyway so problem solved.
Of course a self-managing team needs to be able to self-evaluate also (I have some experience with that which I could share in another post). Management needs to take the leap of faith if they are to rip all the benefits from self-managing, self-organizing teams.
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