David Farrell Responds:
define a "PIT" as an ad hoc team of relatively short
duration formed to capitalize on group knowledge to
improve business or production processes. Frequently led
by the process "owner," it develops process improvement
recommendations, usually for approval by the existing
A "natural team" is composed of members of an
existing work unit, often-not always-led by the unit
manager or supervisor, requiring no significant change in
organizational structure, but requiring the willingness
and ability to lead collaboratively.
The key differentiator in "self-directed teams" is
the substantial on-going delegation of supervisory roles
to group members, significantly altering the manager's or
supervisor's responsibility, or even their very
Culture: If the culture's values, beliefs and
behaviors are not aligned with the changes you seek, it
is axiomatic that success requires that the organization
either change the culture or change the
Fear: Senior management fears loss of
control; organized labor fears erosion of their power
base or impact on matters reserved for collective
bargaining; supervision fears job security, ability to
cope with new roles; and work force fears lack of clear
direction; to name a few.
Inadequate Sponsorship: Success requires
sponsorship equal to the challenge, beginning at the top
and cascading throughout the organization. Identify voids
in sponsorship at middle levels and develop a plan to
Inadequate Skills: Significant new
competencies will be required throughout the
organization. Even those who embrace the objectives will
need help in developing the skills necessary to achieve
Labor-Management Relationships: All too
often, these relationships are characterized by a contest
to determine how to split up the pie, as distinguished
from a collaborative effort to create a larger
Organizations demonstrating high levels of achievement in
the journey toward natural and self-directed teams have
attributed their success to anticipating and thorough
planning to address their obstacles, and to the
• Using team charters
with every team-developed collaboratively, identifying
objectives, organization, clear roles and
responsibilities, ground rules, etc.
• Applying what they
learned about the value of facilitation while working
with process improvement teams to all teams.
• Using the facilitator
role as a transitional strategy for supervisors whose
role will be changed or eliminated and to ease the team
transition to increased autonomy.
• Developing and implementing alternative
career paths for those whose position becomes
• Proceeding gradually, adding new
responsibilities over time as competencies mature.
• Taking advantage of differing
individual strengths as new roles are assigned to team
• Paying attention to measurement and
posting team progress charts on a regular basis.
• Employing creative approaches to
recognition of successful teams.
• Periodic self-assessment, using the
teams themselves as focus groups.
DAVID FARRELL is a senior at Cap
Gemini Ernst & Young. He has assisted organizations
of all types and sizes in the design and implementation
of improvement strategies and processes throughout the
world. He is the author of numerous articles ranging from
"Quality Function Deployment" to "The Human Side of
Quality." His current focus is on the management of
change and ISO initiatives.