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Leading Self-Directed Work Teams

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Leading Self-Directed Work Teams

A Guide to Developing New Team Leadership Skills


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

If you want teams to work, you have to relinquish enough authority to let them direct themselves. Are you up for it?

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Editorial Rating



  • Applicable


Kimball Fisher provides a revised, updated look at the techniques for successfully leading self-directed work teams (SDWTs). He draws on basic principles described in his earlier book of the same name. SDWTs are effective and growing in popularity. Fisher focuses on how leaders must adapt to make them work. He emphasizes the need to truly empower and support workers. He underscores the importance of making the team adaptable to the work itself, rather than clinging to a particular structure. Fisher combines principles with examples and how-to tips that you can apply in your own organization. He provides good summaries of each chapter’s highlights. getAbstract recommends this well-organized, clearly written book. While some of its contents are similar to recent books on creating teams, empowering employees and using a better management style, it is an excellent recap and a good guide for anyone new to team-building methods.


The Keys to Team Success

In the last 10 years, many companies have set up self-directed work teams. The vast majority are successful and typically provide dramatic improvements in productivity and product quality. Only a minority of companies abandoned their team-building efforts. A comparison of these successes and failures among several hundred companies shows what works and what doesn’t. Some of the keys to success include:

  • Training - You can’t effectively empower employees who don’t have the know-how to do management work and thus aren’t prepared. Without the proper training, good information systems, or other support, the effort to empower will fail.
  • Power - Give teams the power to act. You can’t claim you are creating teams while you are still using the traditional, management-dominated style of running your company. If you do, your teams eventually will revert to the traditional work practices.
  • Purpose - Think of your teams as a means to an end and not an end in themselves. Emphasize the team’s purpose to achieve good results, rather than the team’s structure or the work processes.
  • Direction - Remember that "self-directed" doesn’...

About the Author

Kimball Fisher,  co-founder of the Fisher Group, has worked with many companies implementing high-performance management practices across North America, Western Europe, Asia, and Africa. These include Amoco, Apple Computers, Chevron, Corning, Hewlett Packard, Monsanto, Motorola, NBC, Shell, and Weyerhauser. He speaks at conferences on teams, leadership, and organization design. He wrote the first edition of this book six years ago.

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