Several theories have been developed that prescribe the team development of self-managing work teams (SMWTs). Some of these have led to models with successive linear developmental phases. However, both the theory and the empirical data show little support for these models. Based on an extensive review of team development literature, we propose, instead of linear phases, describing team development in three general team processes. These processes, internal relations, task management, and external relations and improvement, were empirically explored in a longitudinal field-study of more than 150 blue-collar and white-collar SMWTs in a Volvo plant in Sweden. The three processes were found to be consistent over time and appeared to relate to one-year-later objective SMWT performance measures for product quality, the incidence of sick-leave and long-term sick-leave. Based on these findings, a result-oriented team development approach is proposed, in which the achieved results determine the processes followed to develop SMWTs further. Also, managers and HR practitioners are encouraged to monitor the three ongoing team processes and to relate these to the desired team performance. Such an analysis should be the starting point of a dialogue between manager and team to improve the functioning and performance of SMWTs.

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ERIM Article Series (EAS)
International Journal of Human Resource Management
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Kuipers, B., & Stoker, J. (2009). Development and performance of self-managing work teams: A theoretical and empirical examination. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 20(2), 399–419. doi:10.1080/09585190802670797