Strategy Planning: The Emergence Of Strategic Self-Directed Teams

The World Wide Web

Early in the 1990’s, the “web” was fully released to the world. It was fundamentally a collection of linked hypertext documents, indexed and accessible to a vast number of networked computers. For many, the internet ushered in the “information age” a new way of working and thinking.

Recognizing Expertise and Autonomy

Perception of employees completely changed: information age workers are seen as ‘thinkers’ rather than ‘doers’. There is an expectation that individuals be ready to take responsibility for planning, executing and solving their own problems. New thinking and new ideas became the product of the trust awarded to these people. The traditional role of the Manager transitioned from being a supervisor of people, to a conductor of human capital. Someone who was responsible for the successful delivery of a strategic objective and there to create an environment where the team could succeed, clearing the path for their work teams and maintaining team survival.

People Perception

Management therefore had to alter its perception of its people. Rather than being viewed as post-industrial resources, it encouraged employees to be ambitious, innovative and capable of self-motivation and self-control. Key to this transition was a change in perception about people in the workplace and their role in business strategy: who they were, what they were capable of and how they work together.

What is a Self-Directed Team?

Self-directed teams (SDTs) are groups of the highly skilled, information age people. Typically, a cross-functional group, each individual having a specific area of specialization needed to complete a complex strategic objective. They offer complementary skills focused around work processes that together complete an entire piece of strategic output. This close-knit team depends on the expertise of the teammates to accomplish their prescribed tasks. Teams are awarded substantial autonomy for the execution of strategic tasks, together the team plan, coordinate and execute the strategic objective with little or no direct technical supervision.

Successful SDT’s

Team members need autonomy and therefore accountability, this allows them to respond more quickly to the needs and changes of customers and stakeholders. SDT’s are most successful when the environment in which they work, and the tools and technology available, support and coordinate the team. StrategyBlocks is a tool to ensure SDT’s and individual team members have clear visibility inside the team and, more importantly, a direct connection to the strategic vision and mission of the organization enterprise-wide. It encourages accountability, collaboration, communication and the ability to monitor not only delivery progress, but the expected outcome of the strategic activity and any related risks.

Next month I’ll talk about the 00’s and learning organizations.