With the development in technology, our workspaces are experiencing a gradual shift. Today, businesses collaborate across offices and locations and devise new ways to deal with challenges. Several organizations have now started to organize their employees in autonomous work teams that provide a lot of benefits over traditional hierarchies.
In this post, let us try to understand in detail what autonomous work teams are and discuss how organizations can get started with this type of structure.
Autonomous work teams are a group of employees who self-organize to accomplish any task. Such teams are given complete autonomy or independence over the work they do in the organization including the decision-making regarding work functions and projects and the freedom to assign the members different tasks within the team.
Autonomous work teams govern and control themselves. These teams decide for themselves how they should handle everyday tasks. They are also given control over the hiring, training, and termination process for team members. They also determine the allocation of resources and rewards among themselves and implement performance management measures as well.
These work teams are generally given the responsibility of the entire work process including all the aspects of the duties of all the team members. Autonomous work teams are, in many respects, viewed as small organizations. The information flow is quite different in this type of structure. Each member is highly involved in all the decisions and issues are regularly addressed in meetings.
When done right, autonomous teams are known to be highly effective, motivated, innovative, and productive. Here are a few characteristics that set these teams apart from other types of team structures.
Autonomous teams collaborate on a common objective every day. They know their goal and are driven to support the team and do their job. Nobody waits for another team member or the manager to advise on what to do next.
Autonomous teams are innovative as they are quite comfortable with one another and capable of sharing their ideas freely. They are aware that the team is dedicated to giving its best possible together. Members benefit the team from a high engagement that leads to improved productivity.
Leadership is vital for this type of structure but no one person takes the lead. Everybody contributes to decision-making. Autonomous teams know their processes the best, so organizations tend to trust them to make informed decisions.
Autonomous work teams prioritize and value open communication. These teams readily contribute their experiences and opinions to drive the entire team forward.
Members of autonomous work teams always look for new ways to improve performance and business processes. These teams are aware that a product or service is not likely to get successful without their effort.
Autonomous teams have an advantage over traditional teams as they can quickly move forward without waiting for anybody's permission. They can instantly decide what they should do to meet specific deadlines. Such teams ensure a high development speed that enables companies to respond much quicker to market fluctuations and turn around a product much faster.
Instead of doing only what their manager says, autonomous team members tend to focus on what customers want and try to meet expectations with better features and service. Their agility also helps focus on more critical tasks with higher value and better return on investment. There is no doubt autonomous teams are agile and this means a lot to businesses in the competitive market that earn their profits by offering high-quality products and services quickly.
Not every team is ready to transition to autonomy. It is important to understand if the organization will benefit from this type of approach. Businesses with a decentralized decision-making culture and team members who are empowered to take complete responsibility for their work can consider autonomous team structure.
Here are some steps that should help you move toward this organizational approach.
The first step in adopting the autonomous work team structure is to identify the employees that seem to be a good fit for such teams and ask if they are interested.
Autonomous teams can perform their best when they understand the overall values and goals of the organization. Leaders can guide the teams on their boundaries and help them understand what results matter the most.
Organizations should clarify why an autonomous work team is ideal for a process and define the new goals and principles for the teams.
An autonomous team requires guidelines to thrive. Defining who performs what duties and how decisions are made can take your team on a path to success.
Provide training on how autonomous teams work and how the processes should adapt to the new style of team structure.
Before jumping in, give practice to the employees by setting up the process and adding autonomous features gradually. Get continuous feedback on how the team can function more efficiently and keep adding features to create a successful autonomous work team.
More and more companies are trying to involve their employees in everyday management and have started setting up at least some autonomous teams to benefit their operations and ultimately the bottom line. Some of the most popular examples of autonomous teams include Dutton Engineering, Federal Express, 3M, and AT&T. All of these companies believe they have achieved significant improvement in productivity by adopting this approach.
FedEx has created several 'super teams' which are autonomous by nature and are empowered to take decisions and decide their everyday tasks to achieve the company goals of achieving the best customer satisfaction levels. All the employees are given the authority to make decisions to contribute towards the overall performance improvement.
3M is another company that has reported huge success with autonomous work teams. This Minnesota-based company has applied the use of this structure for a long and has taken pride in the changes that have taken place to improve work conditions, products, customer service, and overall participation of employees.
Autonomous work teams are a great way to deal with the lack of productivity that drives failures of most unsuccessful businesses today. This type of structure in an organization delivers improved employee commitment, greater flexibility, improved productivity, service and quality, and reduced operating costs. In short, autonomous work teams are a driving force in today's transitioning workplace and will definitely be the future of work.