Self-managing teams have many advantages: increased quality and productivity, better working life for employees, less absenteeism, and lower turnover. There are some disadvantages, however.
Self-managing teams involve members with different skills and experiences, coming together to solve problems and perform work. However, when the employees in this team are afraid to speak up against the tide, allowing one or more member to direct the decisions, the team is engaging in groupthink.
Self-managing teams tend to create internal pressures towards conformity that interfere with proper analysis and may ultimately lead to poor decisions. Classic groupthink symptoms include:
- Pressure placed on a member who argues against the group's shared beliefs.
- Members' self-censorship of their own thoughts when they deviate from group consensus.
- An illusion of the group's invulnerability to failure.
- A shared illusion of unanimity.
- Emergence of "mind guards" who screen outside information that doesn't conform to group consensus.
- Collective efforts to rationalize decisions.
- Stereotyped views of competing leaders as weak or incompetent.
- Unquestioned belief in the group's morality, ignoring ethical or moral consequences of decisions.
The collective thinking that develops within self-managing teams can, however, be made beneficial. Teamthink can help groups make decisions effectively and improve team performance. In teamthink, members of the team manage their internal dialog, use mental imagery to visualize success, and manage the team's common beliefs. Dominant beliefs and assumptions are openly tested. Constructive team dialog helps the team tap the knowledge and expertise of each member. The most successful groups share a common vision, but care should be taken not to let the vision become a source of pressure towards conformity.
Teamwork works at all levels of the company. The challenge for creating teamthink is to balance a focus on cohesiveness and the team with a focus and value placed on each individual. With training, firms can gain a better understanding of the way teams think and boost the effectiveness of their self-managing teams and the company as a whole.