One Minute Manager

by Ken Blanchard

Self-directed work teams function in ways that only managers have done in the past.

Replacing the Old Hierarchy

In our book, Empowerment Takes More Than a Minute, John Carlos, Alan Randolph and I contend that the first two key steps for empowering people are: sharing information with everyone and creating autonomy through boundaries. The third key step involves developing self-directed teams that can eventually replace the old hierarchy.

What's wrong with the old hierarchy when it comes to empowerment? In the past, information was passed down the hierarchy to the people doing all the work (i.e., making, selling and servicing the product and the like). When problems occurred, these people were expected to communicate their concerns back up the hierarchy to the decision makers. Then, once a problem was solved, the solution was passed down the hierarchy.

Today, in the time it takes for this process to occur, your customer will be gone. An empowered organization is one that gives the people closest to the problem the authority to solve it. An organization that gives importance to self-directed work teams has numerous flexible and relatively permanent work teams whose important relationships are horizontal (i.e., related to customers, suppliers and internal colleagues).

It no longer works to have people segmented into functions that only control part of an organizational process. Each team should consist of employees who are responsible for an entire process, product or customer relationship. They should plan, perform and manage the work from start to finish. While a group may have a manager or "coach," everyone should share the responsibilities equally.

For example, Blanchard Training and Development is starting to use self-directed work teams that focus on customers. In the past, a salesperson developed a relationship with a customer and then had to fight across departmental fiefdoms to get the customer served properly. Accounting fought to hold on to their policies even though it might not have made sense concerning the customer being served. Product development and shipping wanted to protect their ways of doing business, as well.

In the future, my company's customers will be handled by a cross-functional team, which will include a salesperson, a trainer/consultant, a member of our accounting department, someone from shipping and the like. The team will be the sensing arm and problem-solving resource of our company in regard to our customers.

Team members will address deficiencies in our company's customer service. When a problem or need arises, the team will immediately gather the necessary information and begin to fix the problem. They will be held accountable for how they handle customer concerns. Team members will focus on the customer, not on traditional functional areas or the old hierarchy.

Self-directed work teams function in ways that only managers have done in the past (i.e., assessing information, then acting in a responsible way that keeps everyone informed). For teams to become self-directed and empowered, they must learn to:
Make decisions as a team.
Resolve conflict.
Share leadership.
Manage themselves responsibly.
Achieve more with less.

It's important to note that teams don't become self-directed and empowered overnight. They must learn to function as a team rather than as individuals. High-performance individuals brought together from various functional areas don't guarantee a high-performance team. That's why when we help an organization become empowered, we teach everyone how to create a high-performance team, putting them through a process that helps them obtain their goal.

Just as boundaries permit autonomy to develop, understanding the stages of group development, and the kind of leadership needed during each stage, permits teams to function effectively. Empowerment takes more than a minute because it's a journey, not just an announced destination.

About the author
Ken Blanchard is co-author of the best-selling One Minute Manager series of books. He has written and co-authored 11 other books. His latest book is Everyone's a Coach, co-authored with Don Shula.

© 1996 by Blanchard Management Report, Blanchard Training and Development Inc., Attn.: Bob Nelson, Publisher, 125 State Place, Escondido, CA 92029.

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