Cindy Novotny

Self-Directed Work Teams – Will They Work in the Future?


Committees, teams, work groups and team circles (or whatever you want to call self-managed teams these days) are beginning to struggle within certain organizations.  What I find interesting is that if you are a company, large or small, and believe in empowerment and bottom up feedback then you already have embraced a self-directed environment.  

After reading about companies like Zappos who went all out a few years ago, I learned they told people that if they couldn’t work in this ‘Holacracy’ workplace they would have to resign. With that, about 6% of Zappo’s workforce took the severance packages that were offered and left.

While doing my research on Holacracy I found it interesting that it is an actual consulting company who created this buzzword and way of working.  You can actually become a Certified Holocracy Practioner.  

Holacracy is a new way of running an organization that removes power from a management hierarchy and distributes it across clear roles. The work can then be executed autonomously, without micromanagement. The work is more structured with Holacracy than conventional management. There is a clear set of rules, and processes for how a team breaks up its work and defines roles with clear responsibilities.

Amazing that there are so many spins on how to run a business today because of the ‘new generation.’  Well, I am not a complete believer in the hype.  I have always run a very flat organization that allows everyone to speak up, voice an opinion, be involved, take charge and work in groups to manage and solve problems.  Call me old fashioned, but what I see in and outside of my company are those people who get it and those that don’t.

Everyone loves to throw out their ideas to make something better or take an idea and run with it, but most don’t have the stamina to take it to fruition.  They love to write their report on what ‘should’ be done but then fail to implement.  In a world where everyone is more concerned with their life balance than becoming the "career lifer", it will be very hard to keep these self-directed teams going strong.  

So my message to all of you who have to lead a company is this;  you don’t need hierarchy or titles, but you sure do need people as dedicated as you are to get the job done or else you will have a lot of mind-mapping flip-charts around the office with no results.