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Chapter 24. The Self-Directed Team > The Team with No Permanent Leader - Pg. 314

The Self-Directed Team 314 Actually, leaderless teams have existed successfully in various forms for centuries. For example, although most orchestras, marching bands and dance bands have conductors, there are many groups of musicians who play together as teams without formal leaders, such as string quartets and jazz combos. Research projects are usually performed by teams without formal leadership. Each member knows what has to be done and works to do it. Team Terms In self-directed teams , there are no formal or permanent leaders. Members may work collaboratively on projects or, if appropriate, select an associate to lead a specific project. All members can serve as temporary leaders when and if needed. Structure of the Team Self-directed teams are not structured much differently from leader-led teams--with the obvious exception that there is no leader. Much depends on the function of the team in the organization. In some teams every member per- forms the same type of work. For example, a claims processing team in an insurance company is made up of claims clerks, each of whom handles one or more aspects of the process. They have similar backgrounds and do similar, but not identical work. The accident prevention team in the same insurance company consists of members with different backgrounds: a mechanical engineer, an electrical engineer, a medical technician, a human re- sources specialist, and others. Each deals with a different phase of the work, but all work together to achieve the goal of reducing accidents. If either type of team is converted from a traditional work group or a team with a leader to a self- directed team, the structure remains much the same. The job description for each member would not change. Each member knows what to do and how to do it. Any difference in structure would be in the means of collaboration. In a leader-led team, assignments would be meted out by the leader. In the self-directed team, a system to distribute assignments must be developed by the team. This can be done at periodic planning meetings. Performance standards must be agreed upon, and as there is no leader to check performance, a means of self-evaluation (discussed later in this chapter) must be created. Clarifying the Team's Mission As noted earlier in this book, a team's mission should be fully understood and accepted by the team. Whether the team is leader-led or self-directed, the mission should be established collaboratively. It's not good team practice to have the leader dictate the mission to the members. However, due to his or her position, the leader has great influence in the manner in which the mission statement is worded and how it is understood by the members.