New Roles in Team Leadership
What happens to former supervisors when an organization starts using self-managed work teams?
After 27 years with the company--the last 12 as a supervisor--Tom suddenly felt hollow and sour about his job.
He had just come from a meeting with the production and human resource managers. They had explained in an upbeat way that supervisors weren't appropriate or necessary in supporting the new "self-managed work teams." Instead supervisors such as Tom would become coaches, whatever that meant, and were to relate to the work teams in more supportive ways.
All too often, enthusiasts of organizational transformation have enlisted the support of production workers (with some success), and have left supervisors such as Tom hanging by their fingernails. Many of the displaced managers have been promised continued employment with new job titles. Some have been given some sort of training in "Theory Y" skills. But few have adequately understood the tasks and responsibilities of their new jobs as administrators, coaches, and advisors.
This creates frustrated and discouraged ex-supervisors. But another consequence is far more serious: work teams are hindered in reaching their full potential, and, in the worst cases, fail altogether.
In many industries, self-managed work team applications have shown that the work of those who immediately support the teams can be defined by three roles: administrator, coach, and advisor. These are seldom specific organizational positions. Instead, they are "hats" that anyone in direct support of the teams may wear on different occasions.
To understand the roles, we first must agree on definitions of "self-managed work teams" and their internal leadership roles. …