The New Self-Directed Work Teams
Jack D. Orsburn and Linda Moran
There have been many presumptions made over the years regarding the key factors that motivate individuals in the workplace, but in their article “The New Self-Directed Work Teams”, Jack Orsburn and Linda Moran depicted a radical method that not only motivated employees, but empowered them and resulted in vast improvements in productivity.
Structuring a self-directed work team is not an easy process and necessitates lengthy commitment of all levels of management. The transition begins with the creation of a small group of twelve to eighteen employees that are intensively trained and cross-trained in three key areas: in the technical skills needed to produce the target work product, in the administrative skills needed to handle the record keeping, budgeting, and reporting functions for the work product, and in the interpersonal skills needed to facilitate effective listening, problem solving, communication, and decision making. A complete and successful training process spans a period of two to five years before a self-directed team is fully functional and productive. This process requires commitment and dedication from management and employees to ride out the waves of frustration that result from the learning curve throughout five phases in the transition period.
The initial phase is start up, where the atmosphere will be charged with energy and excitement for a new challenge. Management has orchestrated a steering committee and created a mission statement and fully devised plan for implementation. The team members comprised of both employees and supervisors, have been designated and been briefed on the new roles they will assume and begin intensive training. Phase two is confusion and occurs after the initial excitement wears off and frustration sets in. Often it is the supervisors who have the most difficulty as the shift from their role as commander to facilitator. Phase three is...