How Leaders Foster Self-Managing Team Effectiveness

Ruth Wageman
2001 Organization science (Providence, R.I.)  
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more » ... effects of two kinds of leader behaviors-design choices and hands-on coaching-on the effectiveness of self-managing teams. Findings show that how leaders design their teams and the quality of their hands-on coaching both influence team selfmanagement, the quality of member relationships, and member satisfaction, but only leaders' design activities affect team task performance. Moreover, design and coaching interact, so that well-designed teams are helped more by effective coachingand undermined less by ineffective coaching-than are poorly designed teams. (Team Effectiveness; Team Leadership; Self-Managing Teams; Team Coaching) Considerable research has examined the effects of implementing self-managing teams on team performance outcomes and member satisfaction (e.g., Cohen and Ledford 1994, Cordery et al. 1991, Cummings and Griggs 1977, Goodman et al. 1988, Jackson et al. 1994, Macy et al. 1991, Wall et al. 1986). The difficulties of fostering selfmanagement teams-particularly in organizations with histories of individualistic, manager-directed work-have been well documented. Attempts to create self-management teams have often resulted in poor performance, individualistic behavior, and avoidance of the decision making necessary for effective, cooperative teamwork (Cohen and Ledford 1994, Cordery et al. 1991, Cummings and Griggs 1977, Hackman 1998). These difficulties have been attributed to deficits in the motivation and ability of managers to create the conditions that foster selfmanagement (Goliembiewski 1995, Hut and Molleman 1998), as well as to resistance from team members in taking on self-management (Balkema and Mollerman 1999, Wellins et al. 1991). Much less is known about the kinds of leader activities that surmount these difficulties 1047-7039/01/1205/0559/$05.00 1526-5455 electronic ISSN to create self-managing teams that both perform well and sustain their self-managing character over time. This paper investigates the separate and joint effects of two quite different kinds of leader activities-team design and handson coaching-on the degree to which teams become selfmanaging and on their performance effectiveness. The domain of the research is restricted to selfmanaging teams that have a designated team leader (sometimes called a manager) who is not a regular member of the team. Excluded are teams that have no authority for managing their own performance processes (that is, whose only responsibility is to follow procedures specified by others in pursuit of those others' objectives), and teams with no designated leader or whose leadership is exclusively informal. Team Self-Management and Effectiveness Four general functions need to be accomplished whenever work is performed in a purposive organization (Hackman 1987). First, a person or group must actually execute the work. Second, a person or group must monitor and manage work processes, initiating changes in pace or procedure as needed. Third, a person or group must structure the performing unit and its context, setting up the task of the unit, staffing it, and arranging for organizational resources and supports. And fourth, a person or group must specify the goals or objectives that are to be accomplished. A self-managing team, by definition, has authority and accountability for the first two functions-executing and managing the work-but within a structure and toward purposes set by others. Thus, a team's level of formal authority determines whether or not it falls within the present domain-that is, whether it is a "self-managing team." The degree to which self-managing team members actively use their authority to manage their work processes, however, varies from team to team and is a key RUTH WAGEMAN How Leaders Foster Self-Managing Team Effectiveness dependent variable in this research. Specifically, three behavioral indicators of self-management identified by Hackman (1986) are examined: (1) the degree to which team members take collective responsibility for the outcomes of their work; (2) the degree to which the team monitors its own performance, actively seeking data about how well it is doing; and (3) the degree to which the team manages its own performance, making alterations in work strategies when circumstances change or feedback indicates that a new approach may be needed. Self-management is a behavioral process, and it is entirely possible for a team to be highly self-managing but relatively ineffective, or to be manager-led and to be highly effective. Team effectiveness is therefore also assessed for each team studied. Effectiveness is defined as having three components: (1) task performance-the degree to which the team's product or service meets the needs of those who use it; (2) group process-the degree to which members interact in ways that allow the team to work increasingly well together over time; and (3) individual satisfaction-the degree to which the group experience, on balance, is more satisfying than frustrating to team members (Hackman 1990). Team Leaders' Actions The two kinds of leader activities explored in this research flow directly from how authority is partitioned for self-managing teams. Self-managing teams, as defined here, do not have the authority to set or alter their purposes, structures, or organizational contexts. One type of leader activity, therefore, is to establish those features (that is, to design the team) in a way that fosters selfmanagement and performance effectiveness. On the other hand, self-managing teams do have the authority to monitor and manage, as well as to execute, their work. A second potentially valuable leader activity, therefore, is to provide hands-on coaching that helps a team manage itself and its work well. These two kinds of leader activities are explicated in detail next.
doi:10.1287/orsc.12.5.559.10097 fatcat:xokvus2qqfakxhtjl2hp5xdhbu