Autonomy is very much part of the current business climate. According to a European survey by Allied Consultants Europe, team autonomy is a topic of discussion in 80% of organizations. There are a great many reasons for this. Businesses have to be agile and react more quickly to market developments. Plans are often out of date before they have been drawn up and put on paper, let alone included in a business plan.
Too much hierarchy slows down the process. A second reason is the huge amount of information technology available to us today. This makes it easier to share information, something successful autonomy is very dependent on. In addition, owing to the higher level of education, today’s employees are far better able than they once were to judge things for themselves, without the supervision of a manager.
In most sectors, creativity plays an increasingly important role. Hierarchy curbs free thinking, autonomy does the opposite. All this calls for a different way of working, different input from employees and so a different management approach. All the parameters are there, but autonomous teams are not the way to go for every organization.
Autonomy can offer an answer to many current issues. But before you embark on this adventure, it’s advisable to learn from the mistakes of others.
Autonomy involves more than just the people. Organizing your IT system appropriately is at least as important. The need for easily accessible and centralized information, clear working processes and a well-arranged workflow is greater here than elsewhere. In short, IT support that really promotes cooperation.
Many managers find it difficult to delegate their responsibility. But letting go does not mean abandoning. It simply means adopting a different style of leadership, clearly outlining the limits within which your staff can take charge themselves.
To be able to work autonomously, a team also has to plan the necessary staff, resources, maintenance, etc. itself. That calls for far-reaching transparency in operational management, the available budgets and personnel matters.
The trust of the Management is also an important and decisive factor. They must be convinced that autonomous teams across the entire line can lead to better results. And there must be room to learn. Mistakes will be made and interim assessments must be planned to remedy them.
Autonomous teams are a long-term project that requires a certain amount of attention. So use them only where they can provide added value. Cutting costs or reducing absenteeism are not good reasons for switching to autonomous teams. But in a healthy organization that is open to change, autonomy can boost staff motivation and improve the flexibility of your business.
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