Do teams need managers

Self managed teams 

An article on self managed teams caught my attention.  I've known quiet a few local authority workers who would find the idea of a self managed team very attractive and a lot of managers who would consider it ridiculous so I read on. 

The headline Self Managed Team described an innovatory approach being adopted in a district nursing service. The aim was to give the district nurses the opportunity to follow through on their professional instincts and not limit them selves to the purely health issues of their patients but tackle social care needs. This would involve giving district nurses the discretion to work with social workers in as flexible way as they saw fit. What struck me immediately was the assumption that managers were preventing this from happening. So in this definition of self management, professionals ( district nurses) were responsible for how they used their time. 

Self managing your work time is of course not the same as being manager less. So this wasn't quite the radical, teams don 't need managers approach I original thought. Presumable a team that managed themselves would take collective responsibility for case allocation. And if they can allocate cases amongst themselves they can agree a duty rota and annual leave cover. 

Professional supervision would be required. Would this be more of a mentoring role? Would team members be able to choice their own mentor thus emphasising the difference from a supervisor?


Would team performance targets still apply? Presumably they would if the rest of the organisation is operating a performance management regime.  What about achieving efficiency targets and  putting forward budget saving proposals? Well who better than those who will have to deliver. What would happen if a team member had a poor attendance record putting added pressure on those who have to cover their work? What if one of the team was not a team player and the others didn't think they did their fair share, any thing from making the drinks to covering for colleagues? In the absence of a manager who would sort out serious problems like complaints about homophobic bullying , racist remarks or sexist behaviour? Well probably someone from HR that's what tends to happen any way. 


So does a self managed team still need a manager? Social workers may some times think they could do their job  perfectly well with out a manager but would you trust yourself and more importantly all your team mates not to take advantage of the situation? In any case it will never happen because senior managers want clear accountability and any way they need someone to manage! 


Blair McPherson former Director ,author and blogger 


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