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Tuesday, 18 November 2014 00:00

SELF MANAGED WORK TEAM (SMWT) – Implementation and Reflection (Part-3)

Written by  Alexander K
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Alexander Kutappan is a seasoned HR professional. He is an MSW and an MBA. During his 15 years plus experience in the Industry, Alex specialised on Self Managed Work Teams. He dealt with this subject and contributed to its’ success in Elgi Equipments Limited and Dr.Reddy’s Laboratories.  In this series of articles on the Self Managed Work Teams, Alex is presenting the fundamentals about the SMWTs and sharing his experience about making these teams a success.



SELF MANAGED WORK TEAM (SMWT)– Implementation and Reflection (Part-3)




Phased implementation


After designing Self-Managed Work Team (SMWT) pillars, these pillars need to be implemented in a phased manner depending on the maturity of the teams and readiness of the organization. Broadly implementation of Self-Managed Work Teams (SMWTs) can be divided into Preparatory, Implementation and Sustenance phases.


Preparatory Phase:

·         Designing Self-Managed Work Teams’ (SMWTs’) Pillars is the most important stage, wherein Top management team needs to be involved in finalizing them.


·         Designing the Teams, Defining Members / STAR selection process, Shift Assembly Meeting process, Designing of Team Score card, Review mechanism, Rewards and recognition process, Training etc. will be worked out by the middle management that needs to be duly approved by the Top Management.

Implementation Phase:

It is advisable to implement it in a pilot area and to horizontally deploy it across the organization, because the learning from each organization is unique. Top management needs to motivate Self-Managed Work Teams (SMWTs) constantly and objectively by way of reviewing them periodically.

Sustenance Phase:

Once implemented across the organization the link should be made in such a way that Self-Managed Work Teams (SMWTs) way of working sustains by itself through Reviews, Rewards, Performance pay, Career growth etc.


Pros and Cons of Self-Managed Work Teams (SMWTs)



·         Self-Managed Work Teams (SMWTs) facilitates motivated, flexible, learning, participative work force who contribute not only to Productivity, Quality, Delivery of products but also in solving day to day problems and making improvements in Products and Processes.



·         Self-Managed Work Teams (SMWTs) implementation often leads to high expectation from the management that every problem in the organization would be solved only by these teams. Top management needs to be realistic.

·         Work force often has high expectation as they are promised and pampered by the management as though they are the only one who contributes to the organization. This leads unending dissatisfaction. These teams need to be treated respectfully and when required sternly, but fairly.



Challenges in implementation


At times top management decides to implement Self-Managed Work Teams (SMWTs) as it looks ‘attractive’ and ‘novel’ but often expect instant results and lose sight of focus after a year or two.

For Middle management Self-Managed Work Teams (SMWTs) implementation becomes one more initiative to be implemented. They miss human element involved in the process. Implementation happens whether they are convinced of benefits from Self-Managed Work Teams (SMWTs) or not as it is pushed by the Top management.

Supervisory cadre need to have paradigm shift in their role, Supervisors to Mentors. They need to work hard in preparatory phase and act as mentors in implementation phase and need to give way for the team leaders to take up their role. Often ego massage is required.

In green field it is relatively easy to implement than in brown field, where they are accustomed to work in a traditional manner. Convincing unions takes time but works.

Self-Managed Work Teams (SMWTs) are not the solution for all problems in an organization.


Stories to Cherish


“I used to spend my entire time in shop floor, but today Self-Managed Work Teams (SMWTs) are taking care of daily production, I’m called only if there is a problem. I spend hardly 10% of my time focusing on routine activities; I’m able to focus on improvement activities”. Supervisor from ATS – ELGI, Coimbatore

“With the help of Self-Managed Work Teams (SMWTs), last 18 months we have made products without Safety or Quality incidents” – Area Head – CTO VI, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd., Vizag

“Daily operations are entirely taken care by these teams. Seniors have grown into managerial levels in other functions. Organization structure is lean with only three layers in the Operations.” – Plant Head – FTO 6, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd., Himachal.


Stories to Learn

In an organization, where Self-Managed Work Teams (SMWTs) are implemented for more than 5 years, today literally there is no focus on Team way of working but everybody focuses on it for Performance pay and Career growth, as it was promised to the workforce. I’m not sure, whether these teams serve the real purpose for which they were created.

In another process industry, top management wanted to implement Self-Managed Work Teams (SMWTs) to address their on-going struggle with unions. Though they never mentioned about it, everybody in the organization knew about it, including new team members. Even after couple of years of implementation, forming unions is always on the minds of team members and middle management is always thinking of ways and means to avoid forming of unions by workmen. Struggle goes on without understanding the root-cause of their problems.


Some of the lessons I have learned in implementing Self-Managed Work Teams (SMWTs) are summarized below:

Not every organization needs or is ready to implement Self-Managed Work Teams (SMWTs). When we force fit, it leaves bad taste in the mouth for everyone. Hence, considerable time needs to be spent before deciding to implement.

If it is decided to implement, entire organization needs to participate in Preparatory phase. Everyone’s buy in is critical to the entire process. Often HR department initiates the process with the help of consultants and it is always considered as a HR Baby. It is bound to fail! Production team should own up the implementation and HR team should support dedicatedly in all phases, if you want it to succeed.

If Preparatory phase is adequate, implementation phase needs to be taken one step at a time. Need to restrain from seeking immediate results, that too by speedingup the process of implementation. Before implementing it across the organization, it needs to be implemented in a pilot area to learn the lesson and do course correction as needed. Instead of spending more time in making reports about Self-Managed Work Teams (SMWTs), HR team and Supervisors / mentors should spend more time with employees who go through group dynamics to help them overcome their struggle.

To ensure Sustenance of the initiative, carefully devised Rewards Program, On-going Learning, Performance Pay, Career Growth, Management Reviews and it should be part of Performance measures of all concerned.


Read 3114 times Last modified on Thursday, 04 December 2014 16:28

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