Saturday’s edition of Dutch financial newspaper ‘Financieel Dagblad’ featured an article about how self-directed teams can help a company be successful in today’s fast changing world. The article starts off with a great example of giving people the ability to influence decisions. At Zappos, employees received an email with a very generous offer to leave the company. The reason for the offer: Zappos was introducing a new management structure based on self-directing teams, the so called ‘holacracy’. And Tony Hsieh, the CEO, wanted to make sure everyone was on-board 100%.

The action that Zappos’ CEO took is an excellent example of ensuring the presence of one of the three important cornerstones of self-directing teams: intrinsic motivation. But intrinsic motivation is not enough: self-directing teams must also have the ability to make decisions themselves and possess the means to execute those decisions.

Making software yourself

The availability of technology is one of the most important aspects for the success of self-directing teams, according to the article. It is important to have access to all the necessary information, which means an open information structure is required. Also, all employees must be able to easily communicate, share information and cooperate. The available technology must also be usable by all employees. Even better, says Saskia Nijs, is to have teams being able to make software themselves.

Allowing self-directing teams to make software themselves increases the fit between the software that supports the process and the actual business process. Since companies, and self-directing teams in particular, want to be flexible, it is of the utmost importance that the software that is created can easily be adapted. This ensures that the software will keep its perfect fit with the business process over time.

Start adopting self-directing teams

A good start for learning about self-directing teams is the book ‘Reinventing Organizations’ by Frederic Laloux et al. An excerpt of the book is available on their website. Another fantastic book about self-organizing teams is Tribes by Seth Godin. A brief overview of Tribes was given on a TED conference by Seth Godin himself. Finally, if you want more information on the organizational structure known as holacracy, check out their website.

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