Self-steering teams | Self-organizing | 5 key conditions
Self-steering teams and agile working are more important than ever. Key factors to consider:

Agile working with self-steering teams: in practice

Many organizations are working on making their structure, teams, and employees more agile. They have to be agile to adapt more quickly to new and growing trends, such as globalization, internet of things, automation, and disruptive business models. The shorter life cycles of services and products are another reason to become more agile. The world and technology keep developing faster and faster. To be able to react, you need self-steering (or self-organizing) teams and an agile organization.

However, success with self-steering teams or scrum teams often lags behind expectations. Do you recognize the following practical difficulties and challenges?

  • How can you ensure that existing teams deliver results immediately by transitioning into pro-active, self-steering teams?
  • How can you apply the philosophy of self-steering teams while making your organization agile at the same time?
  • How do you prevent or overcome roadblocks like lack of clarity, resources, and leadership?
  • Which decisions can teams make themselves so that your organization can react to changes adequately and in a timely fashion?
  • How can you ensure that your employees possess the right competencies to capitalize on changes quickly?

Are you facing one or more of these challenges, and do you want to take steps in implementing self-steering teams in your organization? Feel free to contact Passionned Group, specialists in self-steering teams and intelligent organizations. We’d love to help you.

Why self-steering?

The importance of agile organizations with self-steering teams has become self-evident. Just look at companies like airbnb, Uber Zappos, Schuberg Philis, Coolblue, etc. These organizations became (disruptive) market leaders in just a few years. Agile working has to be implemented in every facet of the organization for it to be successful, causing a large amount of agile implementations to fail.

Organizations have to become more agile wherever employees can capitalize on decisions, ideas, and solutions at the earliest opportunity. That happens in the teams that work directly with customers, in the primary process. That way, ideas and developments that pop up can be supported immediately. Newcomers or lean startups automatically work in small, multi-disciplinary teams. They have, by definition, a lead on the established order.

Important trends that make self-steering teams essential

  • Important trends for self-steering teamsDevices, machines, and people are connected by the internet of things. This increases the rate of innovations. The amount of data being generated is growing exponentially.
  • Thanks to globalization, more and more parties are getting access to the same market. Competition is increasing, and with it the need to make quick course-corrections.
  • Automation has become an integral part of society. Drones and robots are doing the work of people, and increasingly, completely independently. Complex actions can be performed remotely.
  • All this makes disruption the order of the day. Every organization should consider in what way they can disrupt the market while offering substantial improvements for the market and their customers.
  • By innovating with new business models, your organization can take the lead in areas they’ve fallen behind. Many organizations are hard at work on this. Those who fall behind will stay behind.

Implementing self-steering teams

In our holistic approach towards self-steering teams, the organization’s attitude towards its people and teams is paramount:

  • The organization has to be given direction. The desire to work with self-steering and agility has to be embedded in the company’s values. It’s crucial to define what self-steering means for your organization. That has to be defined for the work philosophy (process-oriented, customer-focused, data-driven, etc.) and the structure (responsibilities, leadership, etc.)
  • Your organization’s strategy, goals, and KPIs have to be clear for every team level. They have to be able to translate them into the actions of the teams themselves.
  • The methods of leadership and management will have to be defined very clearly. What are they driving? Goals and frameworks? Do they support and coach or do they still steer hierarchically? At the same time, it has to be clear where the teams can choose their own direction. This aspect also comes with its own required instruments and resources.
  • Self-steering teams have to have quick access to relevant insights and information. They need support from teams who can quickly offer them new technological opportunities. For example, Big Data, Data Science, or BI self-service. The wants and needs of the team are the most important aspect here. It’s essential to support the teams with data-driven support teams.
  • Within the team, it’s important to consider both the individual competencies as well as the group and behavioral competencies. The key isn’t a fixed mindset of competencies, but a growth mindset, so that team members can coach each other and improve. Give extra careful consideration to competencies like self-leadership, feedback, reflection, co-operation, etc.
  • Company culture, and that of the team, are important factors for success. Are teams free to make mistakes? Can they experiment? To what extent does the team climate match the organization and management style? Safety and trust are important conditions safeguard the progress and the contents of the growth process as a team.

Every team is different. That’s why it’s important to follow and map the team’s growth process. What stage of development are they in as a group? What kind of team do we need now? What kind of coach or leader would fit at this time? It’s crucial to develop a realistic time table to learn and develop. If the team itself can guide this process, it usually results in greater intrinsic motivation and a higher chance of success.

The 5 most important conditions for self-steering

Google has done interesting research into effective (self-steering) teams. Over two years, they performed thorough research into more than 180 Google teams. They wanted to answer the question: “what makes a team effective?” Initially, they thought the answer would consist of a mix between the best people from various disciplines. However, their research highlighted different aspects, such as clear organization, team dynamics, culture, and specific group competencies, where successful self-steering teams distinguish themselves from less successful teams. The following 5 aspects were most important:

  1. Safety: is there a culture where people feel safe to take risks? This proved to be far and away the most important success factors for successful and effective self-steering teams.
  2. Reliability: can team members count on each other when they’re under a lot of pressure to deliver a certain quality in a certain amount of time?
  3. Clarity and structure: are the goals, tasks, roles, and plans clear to everyone within the team?
  4. The meaning of your work: is there room to work on things that are important to the individual?
  5. The impact of your work: do the team members believe that their work matters?

A good mix of these five elements fulfill the most important conditions for self-steering.

From self-steering team to self-steering organization

Organizations used to be able to work from the concept of the intelligent organization, where leading teams could course-correct or teams could supplement each other. Now, this concept has to be embedded deep into the organization’s DNA, on the team and individual level. So that a self-steering organization can come into being. This teams translating the following components into teams:

  1. A sharp and future-proof strategy that’s recognizable and workable for every team: all-round vision & strategy.
  2. Insights and information available on a team level that can follow team dynamics: Analytics & BI.
  3. Agile and quick decision-making processes that make teams resilient and decisive: agile working.
  4. Continuous improvement and learning take place on the team level. The organization will implement new changes and innovations carefully and quickly.

By operationalizing these factors on every team level, the success of self-steering teams increases exponentially. Skipping one of these pillars leads to a stalling engine.

The benefits of our approach to self-steering teams

✓ An agile organization with agile teams, embedded into the company’s DNA.
✓ Clear, agile roadmaps to guide the transition into self-steering teams.
✓ Teams aimed at increasing added value in the form of continuous improvement and innovation.
✓ Leaders and managers know their own role and can grow into this.
✓ A transition that fits within your culture and situation instead of a “one size fits all” approach.
✓ Exponential team development tuned to (technological) developments.
✓ Substantially increased motivation and employee satisfaction.

Make your organization self-steering?

Feel free to contact us for a conversation with one of our specialists in self-steering. They’d love to tell you about the possibilities of self-steering teams in your organization.

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Daan van Beek, Managing Director

DAAN VAN BEEK MSc

Managing Director

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