Self-directed teams

Subject: Self-directed teams
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Fri, 17 Nov 1995 16:47:39 LCL

Some time back, I responded to a question from the list
about whether or not self-directed work teams really work,
or whether they're just a copout that takes some of the
burden off managers. At the time I expressed cautious
optimism, and now I can follow up with an update.

We just had our first peer performance appraisal, which
combined the team's assessment of each person's performance
combined with feedback from our internal clients (they
write, we produce the reports). Here's the summary:

1. Everyone worked hard over the past year to make this
thing work (in part out of fear of having a supervisor
appointed), and it shows. Dialogue is much more open,
though there's unquestionably still a "this is my area so
keep out" attitude and we need to improve collaboration to
break down some of these barriers.

2. The client review reported improved overall satisfaction
with our products, but considerable skepticism over the
process itself. Some of this is just discomfort with the
untraditional approach, but some of it reflects their
recognition of the problems that still must be resolved.

3. Team peer review was surprisingly positive: everyone did
an exceptional job of noting positive points and
criticizing each other constructively, and everyone
accepted the comments with minimal defensiveness. Empathy
and mutual support made this happen.

This is definitely a continuing saga. We're at the stage
now where we have to start nailing down some of the other
functions a supervisor would provide for us (e.g., setting
directions, presenting a united voice), but we're all in
favor of continuing the team approach. Your mileage may
(probably will) vary... it really does take a commitment
from everyone on the team, and there's lots of discomfort
at first. Stay tuned for further developments!

--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: If I didn't commit it in print in one of our
reports, it don't represent FERIC's opinion.

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