Shifting to a Self-Directed Team Culture

The Finos unit under examination here had adopted self-directed teams roughly two years before. At this time, a flatter structure was adopted. The supervisor and assistant supervisor positions were eliminated. The employees, termed “associates,” were asked to take on more responsibilities. They were expected to monitor attendance, maintain phonecoverage, schedule training, lead projects, monitor performance and take corrective action when necessary. Each team formed its own operating methods. Management chose to view errors as growing pains.

Some of the groups in the self-directed team unit authored their own mission statement. The roles and responsibilities of both certain individuals and sub-groups were also on occasion defined and signed as a contract. This was done to mutually commit the people involved. They ideally would “buy in” via this participation.

A few other changes were also made. Each month a “Team Player Award” was given. Public forums were held where teams could showcase their successes. Frequent promotions were announced to positions such as “Specialist,” “Senior Specialist” or “Analyst.” Some employees felt management was building the hierarchy back up with more appealing titles and different roles. The group manager held “town hall” meetings quarterly to foster a dialogue that included all levels of employees. A group of managers made rounds handing out t-shirts, pens and announcements of events like a barbeque. These gestures showed the employees were greatly appreciated.

Turnover was about 25% per year. This was not unusual for this type of work. Yet, some managers had expected their appreciation methods and new team culture would reduce turnover. An HR representative said the most frequently mentioned reason for leaving was low pay. Some of these employees moved to another Finos unit in the area. It offered higher pay levels and better treatment. A department manager from this unit attributed the higher pay to the greater responsibilities and work pressures involved.

One associate said, “We initially felt like peacocks, but over time we lost this swagger.” Morale was impacted by several factors. Additional duties were assumed, while no additional compensation was given. The managers who remained pushed the associates to be proactive and learn to solve their own problems. The lack of managerial directions and answers progressively came to frustrate certain team members.

Some team building was provided. Associates were informed the teams were expected to evolve in a series of progressive steps: namely, forming, storming, norming and performing (Egolf, 2007). The associates who attended the team building sessions generally found them useful. Some associates, however, did not attend.

Under the prior system, the division of duties and lines of communication were well defined. If a problem arose, it would progressively be taken up the formal hierarchy until it was resolved. Employees were told what to do and did as they were told.

Under the new team culture, the jobs and deadlines remained, but there was little beyond this. The associates had to decide how to perform their work, how they would interact and how to resolve interpersonal conflicts. There were no longer first-line supervisors to verify the

Self-Directed Teams and Peer Discipline 35 associates’ work. This had to be handled by peers. Team members also had to decide how to deal with inappropriate behaviors by colleagues. The following experiences document important aspects of what took place.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >