Implementing Self Directed Teams Management Essay


The complexity and dynamic nature of the business environment and developments in technologies and markets pose pressure and challenges for organisations. This report seeks to explore the manner in which self-directed teams can be successfully implemented in Kodak. It also includes a review of current literature on rationale behind the increased usage of self-directed teams in modern projects. The information in the report is gathered through research from various sources which include journals, books, internet, articles and case studies.

Based on empirical evidence the major findings indicate that self-directed teams have become a distinctive philosophy in organisations and central to enhancing performance. The report further recommends that Kodak implements self-directed teams and develops strategies for development of leadership competencies to meet current and predicted future requirements within the organisation.


The use of self-directed teams is equated with motivated highly skilled employees who participate actively in problem solving and an increased sense of ownership (Edward, 1998). Employees on a self-directed team handle a wide array of functions and work with a minimum of direct supervision. A major strategy used by companies today to create an empowered work culture is the use of self-directed teams (SDTs) (Clifford, P.G. & Sohal, S.A). Success in today’s workplace often derives from teamwork and employee empowerment (Axelrod, 2000; Boyett & Boyett, 1998; Purser & Cabana, 1998). This democratization of work stems from globalization, increased diversity, the development of technology, and unprecedented environmental change (Heckscher & Donnellon, 1994; Hickman, 1998; Renn, 1998). Many organizations, including Cooperative Extension, turn to collaborative work to embrace and capitalize on this change (Boone, 1990; Hutchins, 1992; Patterson, 1998).

From the research done in the area of work team effectiveness reveals that there are several common characteristics that are shared by successful teams (Axelrod, 2000; Huszczo, 1996; Purser & Cabana, 1998;). Some of these shared characteristics are:

Figure 1 Maslow’s Hierarchy of NeedsClear purpose and Motivation/Commitment –Team members understand the group goal and how it fits the overall work. This also means that they identify with the objective and it aligns with their personal goals. Thus it motivates them internally. They have clear direction and understand the nature and complexity of their effort. Team members accept the group’s purpose and find it meaningful. This also the focal point on which the team members with their varied talents, attitudes, beliefs, values, and personalities converge. The variety that each member brings to the team is a main factor that greatly affects success. Group dynamics fuelled by individual differences and willingness to collaborate affect the team’s work. Success often depends on individual readiness to work with others. In the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory (1943) most of members of such teams will be mainly motivated to the highest degree called as self-actualization. It is because of this that we see an increased use of SDTs in social services sector.

Accountability/Ownership – – It is the sense of ownership of the overall results, accountability, and high standards of excellence drive successful teams. Members share responsibility for outcomes, and everyone contributes. Members of successful teams understand what needs accomplishing, and they enjoy working together. They realize individual efforts contribute to the larger organization in a meaningful way. A high level of trust results in enhanced personal and group confidence. These groups operate informally and provide psychological safety for their members. Groups with strong trust and confidence support risk taking. Open communication, including deep listening, supports civilized disagreement and constructive conflict resolution. Successful teams agree on procedures for decision making and mutually negotiate work boundaries. Effective teams openly share information. It is due to this that successful teams seem to make better decisions, are more innovative and productive, and exhibit an increased willingness to take risks (Nall, 1998).

Project Life Cycle and Key Performance Contributors:

Project Life Cycle is the divided into five stages called as Initiation, Planning, Execution, Control, and Closure. This division into clearly defined phases provides a structure that ensures that key stages are not skipped. This also means that there are key issues within each of these five phases that affect the overall performance of the project team.

1 The Initiation Phase:

“Managing projects involves managing change. Every project has a scope – the work that the project manager and team must complete to assure the customer that the deliverables meet the acceptance criteria agreed upon at the onset of the project.” (Heiser, D., Jiang, B., Journal of Education for Business, Sep/Oct. 2004, p.10). By their very nature, projects exist for a limited duration of time – they are born from an idea, developed into a finished product or service, and then terminated. (Kloppenberg & Petrick, 1999). A project life cycle provides a framework that can be used by project management to follow the progress of a project through various phases from initiation, planning, implementation, controlling and monitoring to termination. “The concept of a project life cycle is used to highlight the dynamic requirements placed on a typical project manager.” (Heiser, D., Jiang, B., Journal of Education for Business, Sep./Oct. 2004, p.10).

At the initiation stage of the project life cycle close attention needs to be paid by the project manager to certain factors as they can help in forming the scope of the project. The scope should identify the critical success factors and major sources of conflicts. This in turn should lead to clearly defined objectives and goals for the project. The factors to consider include:

Competitive environment – the project manager needs to consider the wider macro-level influences that can have an impact on the success of the project. For example, factors which can impact a project’s success include those which are political/legislation i.e. government and/or industry regulations, current or future adverse tax policies, reduced or no government grants or funding; economic i.e. rising interest rates, adverse foreign exchange rates, declining consumer spending; socio-cultural i.e. demographics (age, gender, location), lifestyle patterns or trends, culture, religion; technological i.e. current and future technology innovations, global communication and technological advances; environmental i.e. organisation’s impact on pollution levels, environmental legislation, other stakeholders interest in environmental issues.

HP faced technological challenges from its competitors when both high quality performance based laser printers and low priced dot matrix printers were introduced to the market. Also socio-cultural factors such as demographics and lifestyle changes indicated customers buying patterns were changing. The project manager had to ensure that the DeskJet printer project success would not be influenced by this competitive environment.

Clear purpose – by understanding why the team exists the members can focus on shaping a meaningful purpose and share in that belief. Through effective communication the project manager needs to provide broad but clear directions outlining the performance expectations to enable team members to clearly shape the common purpose into specific team performance goals. HP had a clear vision for the business which defined the broad objectives for the project. It called for designers, manufacturers and marketing to work together to create the new market segment for the DeskJet and then systematically realize its potential.

Team member attributes to align with roles and responsibilities – all individuals are not alike and project managers need to be cognisant of this as the success of the project is dependent on the people involved. The project manager must consider and try to understand the talents, attitudes, beliefs, values and personalities possessed by each individual as this could create potential conflict within a group or change the dynamis of the group. In HP traditionally R&D worked with manufacturing and engineering excluding marketing. With the DeskJet project all the functional areas had to coexist but due to the change in dynamics with the introduction of marketing to the team there was an initial resistance to this change but with the support of senior management the marketing function became a cohesive part of the team which performed effectively to achieve its goals.

Unified commitment and accountability – with a clear purpose and specific goal(s) teams should have a strong sense of commitment to the project and share responsibility for outcomes. The DeskJet concept evoked in the HP employees a common understanding of the overall project goal. This enabled designers, marketers and manufacturing to align their daily decisions with the objectives of the project as a whole.

Strong relationships – the cross-functionality aspect of the team builds strong relationships due to the need for collaboration between functional units and interdependency for completing tasks. HP project leaders took actions that met both short-term product requirements and longer-term strategic goals. A manufacturing-engineering group was formed within the R&D function. These engineers significantly influenced the design engineers and the three functions collaborated to meet their goals.

Communication, trust and confidence – these factors help towards conflict management, decision making, and negotiation and strengthen motivation and commitment.

Leadership – the project leaders need to inspire and motivate by creating environments that encourage creativity/innovation and build strong teamwork relationships. The style of leadership should be supportive and where necessary coach or direct.

Physical factors – successful teams depend on size, material resources and physical operating environments.

2 The Planning Phase:

The implementation of self-directed teams is not a very straight forward affair as indicated in the Rolls Royce case study (Appendix I). Such implementation requires a whole range of process to be put in place and roles to be defined in order to facilitate the new flow of work within the organisation. The actual implementation process can be long and at times difficult. However implemented correctly self-directed teams improve the overall performance of the organisation (Appendix I).

Self-directed teams also have an impact on the actual project lifecycle mainly due to the change in traditional roles. The PIMBOK will describe the planning phase as two phases “Pre-Feasibility Phase and Feasibility Phase”. The goal of this phase is to evaluate the existing proposal in terms of financial, operational and technical viability as well as against the company strategy. Another important thing that needs to be evaluated at this phase is the overlapping of the project with any other currently running projects. Through this we assess all the areas of the solution while identifying main risks and concerns. During the risk analysis you must not focus only on the technical risk because many times risks come up from places that you expect the less, like organization, team problems, partnership problems etc. Remember that everything that you do is connected to people, and people can be wrong sometimes. People can also argue and this can seriously affect your project By following these processes we arrive at the optimum solution to the problem.

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Multi-Skilled – Self-directed cross functional teams succeed above and beyond other due to their very nature. Product development groups that include only marketers or engineers are less likely to succeed than those with the complementary skills of both. As a result of the integration of viewpoints, self-managed teams offer multi-functional definitions and solutions to problems that generate innovative products or services. However, self-managed work teams also offer unique challenges. Traditional management models often will not work in these teams because of the varying functional backgrounds of the members. Leaders may not have sufficient expertise to provide appropriate technical guidance or evaluation to each team member. Instead, members have to look for technical support in their functional areas. The lack of common backgrounds means teams members cannot likely cover for one another. Thus, members must become personally responsible for adequately representing and integrating their technical contributions into the final product. Moreover, there is greater potential for conflict resulting from diverse viewpoints and varying perspectives (Heaney, 1989; Parker, 1994). Project leaders act more as coaches, facilitators, and coordinators than as supervisors because they cannot enforce technical standards for work. Team members must take greater responsibility for monitoring and managing their own technical contributions (Uhl-Bien and Graen, 1998).

Detailed Assessment – An ability to do in depth multifaceted research is the hallmark of a self-directed team. This is especially true in the social services sectors which deal with diverse set of problems. Thus Department of Health has been transforming care teams into a group of self-managed individuals, to cement Agile practices within the network. Teams are involved in key meetings; they assign work, and deadlines among themselves that varies from case to case. They also implement procedures to clear impediments to progress, facilitating, and holding the team accountable. Also as the experience of the field workers and the effected parties is taken into account more rapidly and directly the work becomes more productive then otherwise possible.

3 Organize Phase:

Organizing brings together the nonhuman resources needed to achieve the project’s objectives. To organize is to manage the procurement life cycle. It begins with need to define requirement of materials, equipment, space, and supplies. It also identifies sources of supply, ordering, reception, storage, distribution, security, and disposal activities (Larry Richman 2005).This is the most crucial phase of the project because project is in implementation stage at this point. At this stage team is already working from last two stage so no team selection will take place rather than special circumstances such as ( Departure of any candidate or special skill needed for project ) objective is also clear, innovation & commitment will affect this phase a lot in terms of following factors.

Leadership challenge at organizing phase in terms of commitment:

Time management – Assign a time frame for completing the activity. Don’t forget to factor in some down time for contingencies and unexpected delays. Also, you may have an activity that has some slack time, waiting on other activities to finish or the activity can start over a range of different dates. Therefore, activities can have two possible start dates (earliest and latest) and two possible completion dates (earliest and latest). And based on this range of dates, you will have float times within your schedule. Durations are often estimated using (PERT) Program Evaluation Review Technique. PERT calculates durations based on three estimates: Pessimistic (P), Most Likely (M) and Optimistic (O). The PERT formula is: (P + 4 M + O) / 6. Keeping project within time was a tough task (Kodak could not complete their “Factory of the future” project in planned time 18 months project could not be completed in 4.5 years).But by the self commitment of every team member project can be completed in the specified time.

Quality management – This area includes processes and activities required to ensure that the project will satisfy the needs for which it was undertaken. It consists of quality planning, quality assurance, and quality control (Larry Richman 2005). Manufacturing processes needed to be able to handle high volumes for dealer-oriented retail market for HP Customer’s specifications needed to be identified and integrated into the design process. As it is a self directed team so everybody will be responsible for quality system procedures, documents, filling records, and past trouble data application in this project.

Leadership challenge at organizing phase in terms of innovation:

Change management – Change in terms of technology. DeskJet Print head would be crucial to the printer’s success. But developing a low cost print head with a near laser quality image involved making technical advances in both the product and the production system. It could be done by innovation & new technology.

Conflict issue management -Issue can be in various forms in the team. As every individual is a human being so conflict will be anyhow in the team as in HP project case R&D engineers were not listening to the customer’s voice collected by marketing executives for change in design of printer .If you are not taking customer feedback, how we can think that the final product will meet customer requirement.

Cost management – This area includes processes and activities and that ensure the project is completed within the approved budget. It includes cost estimating, cost budgeting, and cost control (Larry Richman 2005). Example of this is (HP want DeskJet printer cost under $1000 & they launched it in 1987 in the same cost by advance planning. But for Eastman Kodak cost project was ballooned due to individual department goal. Every team was having their departmental goal rather than common goal of a project).

4 Monitoring & Control

It is often challenging to complete a project on time and according to budget. Consequently monitoring and controlling of projects is needed to ensure that the project stays within these constraints. At this stage, project performance is measured and reported with corrective actions taken to counter any deviation. Leadership is an important aspect in monitoring and controlling a project. The team needs clear directions in order to remain in line with set objectives and goals. There must be an element of control to guarantee this.

 Traditionally, control usually implies coercion and command with behavioural control mechanisms in place. Behaviour controls are frequently used to stimulate team performance and foster cooperation. Typical behaviour control mechanisms include the definition of explicit work assignments, the specification of rules and procedures, and the filing of project plans and project reports (Henderson and Lee, 1992; Pinto et al., 1993). However, self-direction in itself is  a form of control in the self-directed teams. Here, there exists a form of ‘clan control’ in which formal rules are minimal and monitoring/measures are generated collectively, and adhered to within the team.

Hence self-directed teams employ a more participative means of control, being able to determine work assignments, work methods and scheduling of activities.  Despite the fact that these teams are called ‘self-directed’, there must be a supervisory figure within the team. This figure is needed in order to formally provide information on the team and to receive information from the team when it runs into difficulties.  Leadership in the team could be in two forms: there could be an appointed manager who oversees the team or all team members could be engaged in rotational leadership. Examples of these can be seen in the implementation of self-directed teams at the RL Wolfe and the Harley Davidson motorcycle companies. At RL Wolfe, a supervisor was appointed for the self-directed team while at Harley Davidson; leadership is rotated amongst the self-directed work group members.

These ensure that team members are effective; planning, controlling and being accountable for their individual work efforts. They have high expectations of themselves and strive to accomplish their assignments under budget and ahead of schedule. The team can periodically hold ‘team meetings’ other than the project meetings in order to assess team progress and identify different barriers which are impeding team work. Team leaders should be treated as equals in these meetings. Solutions should then be proffered to overcome these barriers and improve team work in order to make sure the project succeeds. (Successful project management, Jack Gido and James Clement, 2009). It should be noted that successful project delivery is measured in terms of time, budget and its suitability for final use (Shtub et al,2005). 

At the control stage, team selection is often not important. However, in case unforeseen events do occur (such as illness or opting out of a member) replacement of team members might be necessary in order to get the team back on track. Team reinforcement is also needed in order to provide whatever is lacking in terms of resources, support or relationships with external parties in order to maintain focus and control. 

 Conflicts in projects are hardly avoidable and it could cause teams to derail from scheduled plans. This could be as a result of lack of proper communication or unguarded clashes of interests. Conflicts should be carefully managed because they could lead to creativity and increase commitment within the team if well handled. Blake and Mouton (1970), suggested five different approaches which could be taken in order to handle conflict. These are smoothing, withdrawing, forcing, compromising and collaborating.

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Also, for better monitoring, stakeholders should be involved in the various phases of the project by keeping them informed of the progress being made. This would lead to greater accountability during the project. It also enhances clarity in communication.

5 Closeout:

Project closeout is an essential stage in the project life cycle and there’s a lot of creativity involved in running a great closeout (Dobson,S.M & Leemann, T., 2010). It is important that a project is closed out properly as it offers both the organisations and teams the opportunity to learn and grow. The reason for project closure is to confirm that all the work has been completed as agreed and the customer accepts the final product. Project closure is also a time to recognize individual efforts and celebrate project success. It is at this stage that project manager should ensure that team members have a smooth transition to other projects. In relation to self-directed teams all team members have a mutual accountability towards ensuring that the project is delivered successfully.

The early stages (initiation and planning) of the project cycle are crucial to effective project handover. They are the point in the process where parameters and requirements for the project are identified, developed in the project plan to in adequate detail to manage a team, and built into an infrastructure for executing that plan (Cooke,S.H &Tate, K., 2005). Having clear objectives in place from the beginning of the project is important as closing the project successfully depends on fulfilling the customer or clients requirements. The final outcome of the project should match the initial requirements specified by the client. The team will be able to deliver this if they have clearly understood the objectives and are committed towards achieving them. According to Bowen, K.H. et al, writing in Make Projects the School for Leaders it was established that without a proper guiding vision and effective leadership projects can be prematurely terminated. In the case it is evident that the different functional areas involved in the project did not clearly understand the overall objective of the project. Each functional group had its own objectives which were not in line with the corporate objective. As a result the project was abandoned after failed attempts to incorporate and integrate the complex interests and needs of the various groups.

As the project progresses towards the end issues certain issues tend to rise. In most cases when a project has run for several years it is likely that multiple staff changes may occur. The team who initiated the project may no longer in place, thus resulting in the new team members dealing with plans, budgets and projections they did not develop. At this stage personality conflicts may also need to be addressed as specific performance issues are reviewed by the team. Finally compounding the personnel issues, key members can be reassigned to new projects, causing a loss of their perspective and increasing the work load for the remaining team members (Cooke,S.H &Tate, K., 2005).

Self-directed teams set goals themselves and they determine how best to accomplish them. Using self-directed teams creates an environment of high innovation and commitment in team members. Commitment of the project team remains high as it is vital to ensure that the project has been successfully implemented and handed over to the client. In the event that a similar project is pursued the team is able to generate innovative ideas based on the knowledge and experience gained from previous project. At this stage it is possible to know individual weaknesses and strengths and thus use this to their advantage in future projects.

Implementing Self-Directed Teams – Key Issues:

Although self-directed teams have lots of advantages, implementing them is quite challenging especially in hierarchical organisations. Another formidable challenge is getting employees and management to support the objectives of the company and obtaining their commitment. According to Kotter and Schlesinger (1979) people may resist change when they do not understand its implications and perceive that it might cost them much more than they will gain. Therefore, it is important that all relevant stakeholders are identified and involved with clear lines of communication being established from the start of the project to avoid resistance.

Wellins suggests six steps to implement self-directed teams which we recommend for Eastman Kodak. The Project Manager needs to understand the role and responsibilities that such teams will play as part of the project. In developing the “Factory of the Future” management identified the need to increase capacity for the 35mm film finishing process which involved sophisticated, high-speed, automated equipment whilst improving performance in terms of cost and quality. By introducing self-directed teams within the organisation to undertake an entire work process or segment that will deliver the finished film quality can be improved, performance will be enhanced resulting in faster product development.

Team Selection – Self-directed teams require members with a wide skill set. Consider how the team should be defined in terms of size, roles and responsibilities and the functional users tenets required. Team members set their own goals and should take advantage of each other’s strengths and cross-functional skills to work cohesively/collectively to accomplish tasks. Determine training requirements of individual candidate for project. As Eastman Kodak chooses cross functional team in the starting of project, it was a good decision to start project with different type of skill set required for project as Eastman Kodak was having cross functional teams from its five departments as Manufacturing, Engineering and Design, Quality, Maintenance, Marketing.

Communication – Communication – Eastman Kodak has no one particular leader in the “Factory-of-the-Future” project who will be responsible for all communication regarding the progress of the project and any requirements for the project internally within the team and the organization as well externally i.e. other stakeholders such as shareholders, customers, suppliers). By clearly communicating the organisation’s vision and values to the team the project leader empowers the team to be engaged and committed to the objectives. So to better facilitate effective communication there should be one person (this can be the project manager or project leader) who is responsible for conveying all deliverables (performance expectations) to the team thus enabling the team members to set their own specific goals based on the agreed upon common purpose of the project. This in turn builds commitment, mutual accountability, trust and respect within the team leading to higher performance and alleviates any possible confusion or conflict within members whilst minimizing risk for all stakeholders.

Organisational Restructuring – In terms of organisation design we are passionate believers in flexibility rather than stringency. Different structures suit different times and different business priorities and drivers. Eastman Kodak should start redesigning their process and procedures according to the needs of the self-directed teams in terms of training for instantaneous decision making (e.g. crisis management), advanced problem solving and resolving conflicts technique. Self-directed team members should collaborate and design their own job procedures, roles and responsibilities to determine their work processes to achieve their project goal(s). Consider organisational structure as it can influence the culture and impact on team’s effectiveness. Self-directed teams are effective by virtue of their high performance and autonomy; this may not be construed as a positive factor by other functional units within the organisation and resistance could result. Higher management should be supportive of the team but not in an invasive manner. Self-directed teams should be able to make decisions collectively within the group to work towards their goal without involving management. Problem solving and conflict resolution should be managed within the group but with the broader support of management where needed.

The Self Directed Work Team is perhaps the most powerful organizational concept since the Roman Legions. They motivate, coordinate, solve problems, and make decision better than individuals. This performance comes at a price: decisions are slow, work teams require extensive training and months to mature. However, the benefits far outweigh the difficulties and frustrations.

Appendix- I

Self directed teams at Rolls-Royce Gas Turbines


Rolls-Royce, a FTSE 100 company, is one of the best-known engineering firms in the world. This case study concerns the implementation of self directed team work in factories in the Gas Turbine Operations division. ‘Turbines’ is one of the Supply Chain Units in Gas Turbine Operations. It employs 2500 people and the information for this case was drawn from two factories, the Turbine Blade Facility (TBF) circa 200 employees, and the Precision Machining Facility (PMF) circa 150 employees, both in Derby, East Midlands. Approximately two-thirds of this workforce is machine operators known as team members (Rolls-Royce’s preferred term) with the remainder occupying manufacturing engineering, engineering, technical support, supervisors and management.

The self directed team initiative in Gas Turbine Operations has been broader in scope and ambition and, when considering its development and implementation, it is possible to draw some important implications on high performance working.

The business imperative

Rolls-Royce Gas Turbine Operations division designs, procures and manufactures complex precision engineering components. Although there are a number of basic ‘product lines’, value is delivered through having the capability to meet the demands of ‘multi-line/multi-product and multi-process’ production. The division cannot compete on cost alone in what is increasingly becoming an international market for engineering components. Delivering complex products requires the active engagement of a workforce who are skilled in the job and the knowledge and skills they have acquired. According to Hedley Hazell, the Turbines Executive Vice-President, “We need well-informed and well-trained team members who have the ability and the authority to make decisions. They must be confident in making decisions without referring to a large supervisory support structure which then becomes an overhead.” Self directed teams, where decisions are devolved to an empowered workforce, have evident attractions in this business context.

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In the late 1990s the Company took the view that it would need to improve productivity by 30% to justify large-scale investment in UK manufacturing. Two related initiatives have contributed significantly to this: modern working practices and self directed teams. The first concerns the introduction of modern working practices, such as an all-inclusive salary (ending an endemic overtime culture), more flexible working and significant changes to the reward package. As Margaret Gildea, Executive Vice-President, Human Resources, puts it: “The real secret with a change like this is to have a holistic underlying philosophy which has a real commitment from the senior management. It can’t be achieved through piece-meal initiatives.”

Self directed teams – the principles

Self directed teams are not an easy option. The HR team in the Gas Turbines Operations division stress that a whole range of interventions need to be co-ordinated if they are to be sustainable in the long run.

There has been an ongoing discussion amongst the Operations management and Human Resources professionals on the most appropriate model for self directed teams. As was noted above, the emphasis has been on a holistic approach in which a transfer in empowerment is accompanied by the development of a new organisational relationship system – embracing remuneration and performance management for example. An investigation of the relevant literature, undertaken by an in-house specialist Sean Pratt, HR Business Partner, led to the identification of a number of themes for successful team leadership. Key to the success of high performance team working is the way employees are led. The common themes that emerged include:

Setting the team a business context to give it a rationale for achieving targets.

Ensuring leaders communicate effectively about the targets they aspire to, their degree of success in meeting such targets, and what they need to close gaps. This should be a positive model that supports achievement and builds confidence in high performance.

Ensuring teams are capable – here coaching is critical as it builds the teams’ confidence.

Leaders need to help their teams learn from experience be able to facilitate ownership and self-direction (decision-making). Leaders need to learn when to direct teams and when to leave them alone to resolve issues for themselves.

These four leadership activities contribute to a team member’s sense of empowerment, but in addition a leader must help teams by breaking down barriers that the team can’t deal with themselves. A leader has to step in and help unblock things for them, particularly across organisational and functional boundaries.

Finally, as with all models associated with leadership, the leader needs to be a role model and challenge the behaviours required of team members, as well as addressing poor team behaviour.

Self directed teams – the practice


In the current arrangements, typically team members work in groups of six which are centered on a ‘cell’. The cell contains the machinery needed to do the engineering processing – for example a team will take cast turbine blades, grind them and remove surplus material, coat and air-cool them to produce a near-finished high quality pressure turbine blade. The cell contains prominent displays of the various charts and control documents needed to manage and report on performance, as well as a small breakout area.

The emphasis on self-management means there is no team leader as such. Team members are each expected to take on a champion role which involves responsibility for improving operations or resolving problems. Self directed team working requires all members of the team to gain new skills. Skill acquisition feeds the sense of greater job satisfaction. Skills are acquired through a variety of means; much is done through coaching, on the job training, team workshops and appointing champions in the team for specific roles. Particularly important champion roles are for ‘delivery’ (against targets) and ‘non-conformity’ (dealing with defects). Other champion responsibilities include: machine calibration, cost, holiday champion, health and safety champion and training. The intention is for everyone to become a champion and acquire new skills. Sometimes roles can be simple, but, offer growth for the future – for example, holiday champion roles develop planning capabilities in the team which can be deployed in other roles.

The factory operates on round-the-clock shift working and information must be transmitted effectively at shift changeovers. Shift working means it is hard to make arrangements for full factory meetings though there is a regular short Wednesday town-hall style meeting. A critical part of the job of those in technical support roles and of the next layer of supervisory management is to ensure that all teams are aware of any changes that could affect output. In an industry where demand can vary significantly over short lead times, a key management and supervisory task is to ensure the teams know the priorities on different products and that they fully understand all the reasons behind changes in demand.

To provide a wider perspective on markets, competitors, likely demands and macro influences on Rolls-Royce, all employees are invited every six months to attend a ‘Dialogue Session’ led by a senior manager where the future outlook is discussed and the rationale behind company decisions explained. For a company where products’ life cycles are measured in decades, understanding and managing the future are keys to success. Many team members have undertaken a modern apprenticeship and Rolls-Royce has an extensive on and off the job training regime which ensures that skills are kept right up to date and at the cutting edge of new technology.

Team members find that their enhanced roles and responsibilities lead to greater job satisfaction. “Under the old methods they’d come down and tell you what to do. Also you can understand the bigger picture and get more variety in your job – previously you could be doing the same stuff all week.” However, the new methods of working demand a more proactive commitment and team members observed that a small minority of people were less interested and were initially reluctant to come forward.

In some respects, however, the main challenge is for management and supervisory staff, who must trust team members to solve any operational problems and give them the time and space to do so, even when a more direct intervention could produce short-term immediate results.

The challenge of change


As teams become more confident, demand for learning new skills will grow. An Assembly and Manufacturing Framework has been put in place to support this challenge. The framework taps into a global network to identify solutions for team member learning needs, both technical and self-managing. The framework can also gather best practices from local activity. Greater confidence and capability through learning should feed every team’s potential in order to compete to the best of its ability, and open up other opportunities in the future

It can be seen that the implementation of self directed team working on the holistic pattern outlined above can be regarded as a significant and demanding change management process. Multiple stakeholders are involved. It takes time to capture the commitment of the workforce and understanding that such a change is irreversible ; they must be prepared to accept more responsibility if the business is to survive. Rolls-Royce report that the trade unions and their shop-floor representatives have been supportive throughout.

A particular challenge has arisen at the lower levels of management and the technical support roles (Business Improvement, Supply Chain and Quality, for example). Inevitably people have been concerned about loss of status and have needed guidance and support to undertake their roles in the new context. Workshops were held with supervisors at the launch of self directed teams, but with hindsight more should have been done to reassure supervisors that the plan was to enrich their jobs using the time freed up by the transfer of work. Over time, teams and support areas have all moved up the skill chain, but more could have been done to make that intention more explicit in the early days to address worries.

When asked to reflect on the change process over the six-year period, the following observations were offered by the HR team. First the term ‘self directed teams’ was initially seen as jargon and may have acted as a barrier to understanding – in retrospect “high-performance team working” may have been a better title for the change involved. Secondly, although a lot of work was done to secure the understanding and commitment of first level managers, more was needed. Thirdly, some of the supporting material could have been better deployed – for example, some team profiling instruments which were intended to diagnose gaps in team capability were seen as scoring or assessment rather than development tools.

Results and benefits


According to Margaret Gildea, the results must be considered in terms of the impact on the business. Productivity is improving year on year and has done so since the start of the self directed team’s initiative. Other complex changes in the business have taken place over the same period and it is therefore almost impossible (and of little value) to try to extract and isolate the effect of a single component, like self-managed teams. The effect on morale is very positive based on feedback from Dialogue Sessions and anecdotal evidence, but difficult to measure in isolation to any level of precision.

However it is evident that Rolls-Royce are committed to extending and developing this style of working. In their view: “It’s a simple idea – give teams clear targets, the tools and training to solve problems and improve, coach and guide them. Prepare to be amazed at the power of what they can do.”

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