Self-Directed Work Teams Key Terms / Education / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Self-directed work teams are showing up in major companies globally. The shift from a top-down hierarchical organization design headed ...

Self-directed work teams are showing up in major companies globally. The shift from a top-down hierarchical organization design headed by a supervisor or manager has transformed into the process of team-building, which creates a collaborative group of workers empowered to design and implement a product, project or service. This approach relies heavily on the supervisor functioning in a coaching role and training the work team to complete cross-functional tasks, much like skunkworks temporary teams. Self-directed work teams are receiving a lot of support and increasing the productivity and profitability of many organizations.


Skunkworks is a temporary work team assigned to complete a product, project or service. Typically, this type of team is used to test the process of a self-directed team before full implementation.

Cross-functional tasks

This term is more commonly referred to as job rotation or cross-training and it's the ability to perform all job-related tasks associated within the self-directed work team. Each member is trained to complete every job associated with the project, product or service.

Team building

This is the process of establishing a team of workers to accomplish the project designated for self-directed work product, service or project. The traditional roles of supervisor and subordinate is dismantled and a collaborative team substitutes the step-by-step approach in producing the merchandise or service.

Work Teams

A work team is the central part of self-directed work. This group of employees redesigns the process in which a project, product or service is produced. This collaborative group makes decisions that align with the company's mission statement and support of the organizational resources.


This is a crucial factor in determining the success of self-directed work teams. When upper management authorizes the work team and gives proper training to accomplish the task with ongoing coaching, the outcome is empowered employees dedicated to achieving the company's desired outcome.

Organization design

Traditional organization design is a step-by-step process in which an employee, under direct supervision, performs a task and is compensated. Self-directed work teams change that dynamic of the work process and offer a peer-to-peer collaborative approach to accomplishing the same task with cost-effective methods.

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