Successful Self-Managing Teams

self-managing teams

If you are a team leader and the team is able to function without you micro-managing everything, you have done your job. As a leader, you should focus on designing a team that knows how to function by itself, otherwise known as a self-managing team. As a leader, you continue to coach and assist the team, but largely, the team knows how to run itself. This is the ultimate goal of a well-designed team.

So, what does a self-managing team look like? Ruth Wageman outlined the makeup of a self-managing team in Critical Success Factors for Creating Superb Self-Managing Teams. Here are seven key factors that all self-managing team need to succeed.

Clear Direction

Every member on the team should have a clear understanding of what direction the team is going in and why the team exists. Members should be able to articulate easily the team goals, objectives, and purposes. If all the members know the end goal in sight, they can more easily manage themselves to reach that point. However, when members struggle to understand the direction of the team, they find it difficult to get to that end goal on their own.

Team-Oriented Tasks

When teams are working together to accomplish a task, it should be a task that was designed for a team, not an individual. Tasks that allow members to work on parts individually and then put them together at the end are not real team tasks. Team tasks require members to work together to solve problems, complete solutions, and get the work done.

Shared Rewards

When teams share a reward (or conversely, a punishment), they are able to both encourage and police themselves. Wageman says that self-managing teams should have an 80-20 balance, with 80% of rewards being shared and based on team performance and 20% being based on individual performance. If members will be rewarded based on how the team performs, they will be more likely to encourage their members to do their work to the full potential. They will also work together more cohesively to finish the task.


Self-managing teams have the resources they need to accomplish their tasks and achieve their goals. They have the basic materials they need and don’t need to rely on others or a team leader to take care of finding everything they need for them.

Shared Authority

Together, the team makes decision on how to complete work without the major decisions falling on the team leader. The team works together to decide on basic work strategy and has the right to do so. In this way, the team is able to work through decisions together without relying on someone to guide them through that process.

Team Goals

The team’s goals should align with the organization’s objectives. Like the team’s purpose, members should be able to articulate clearly the team’s specific goals and the time frame for accomplishing those goals. When a team’s goals enhance overall performance, they align with the direction of the team and the team’s purpose.

Team Norms

The team’s norms should promote overall strategic thinking within the group. Norms help guide the behavior of the team, so it’s important that the team’s norms are helping to steer the team in the right direction. When norms promote strategic thinking over work issues, such as the external environment, resources, etc, the team can increase its overall effectiveness.


For teams to work independently and manage themselves, they must be well-designed and with clear purposes. If you build your team using these seven factors, your team is well on its way to successfully managing itself.