Self-organization in companies: 3 essential tips how to succeed

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Self-organizing workforces are the favored future model because they are better suited to the rapidly evolving and increasingly unpredictable demands of the future than the command-controlling of the old style.

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Anne M. Schüller's Profile anne-m-schueller_portrait-mit-hutAnne M. Schüller is a management thinker, keynote speaker, business coach and multiple award-winning bestselling author. She has repeatedly been named Top Voice by the business network LinkedIn.


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In essence, self-organization changes the distribution of power

For Company, who have introduced new forms of collaboration, are circulating different terminology, such as: agile organizations, collegially led companies, democratic companies, decentralized organizations, networking organizations, self-organized companies. Although there are some differences, the core of all changes in the distribution of power.

Instead of shifting decisions "upwards", as is customary in line organizations, they are now autonomously cut down where they occur. The parallel introduction of agile working methods ensures a high level of flexibility and accelerated working methods. The leadership only gives the rough direction. And it creates a framework that makes self-organization possible.

Self-motivation as a central driver

Self-motivation - and not external determination - is the central driver. For this purpose, the employees jointly define their goals and the necessary means and ways and assume responsibility for the results achieved.

Not stipulations from above, but collegially created agreements on the manner of cooperation determine the procedure. This is done in a world of values ​​based on trust, cheerfulness, transparency, reliability and commitment. Also discipline and consequence belong to it.

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Essential elements of self-organized companies

In self-organized companies, project markets are set up so that everyone can drive their own way where their talents bring the most benefits. As a result, one experiences self-efficacy and attains meaning. Very quickly there is a technical, human and motivational strengthening of the individual.

As if freed from shackles, a tremendous amount of energy is released. Other welcome side effects: An understanding of the overall context in the company is growing, entrepreneurial thinking is stimulated, the knowledge horizon and the expertise are expanded.

Decide and implement improvements in the team

Improvement ideas that affect your own area are discussed, decided and implemented in a team, so there is no need for a blessing from above. Interdisciplinary ideas do not go to the boss, but directly to the respective team - or into a central bank of ideas, which is accessible to all. Like on a shelf, ideas for viewing, trying out and further developing are offered there.

Managers can rely on it: Self-organizing units create structures and practices that serve the purpose of the business and produce exceptional results.

This requires an environment that abolishes regulations, reacts to mistakes smartly, allows trust and creates freedom. Guard rails instead of handcuffs, recommendations instead of statutes and courage to try are the foreign exchange. All this makes a company flexible and adaptable.

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Even self-organization needs framework conditions

Yes, self-organization also exists in classic companies, but only on the backstage stages. Such self-organization arises autogenously, so out of itself, to handle all this sensibly, which makes an official organization by regulations difficult or even impossible. The expressly desired self-organization brings this from the shadow culture to the front stage and allows it officially.

Not all employees will succeed in the leap into self-organization right away. In this case, stepping stones are better placed to allow a gentle sliding into the new freedom of design. For this, boundaries are needed as an orientation to create a sense of security.

Self-determination: Freedom can lead to uncertainty

How can that look? In one case, employees were free to decide autonomously on the amount of their training budget. This offer was only used very cautiously.

After having given example budgets per year and staff along with a few practical rules, the scope was actually exhausted. The freedom to have a quasi-unlimited budget initially led to uncertainty, which fortunately could be eliminated.

Plucking, so it goes in the right direction

In order to steer in the right direction, you can also put smart nudges beyond directives. This approach has become known as Nudging by the Nobel Prize for Economics Richard H. Thaler. Here is an example: There are companies, as the cost of creating and controlling travel expense accounts practically as much as the travel itself. How to get this done?

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  1. Combine travel policies. Sophia von Rundstedt, managing director of the outplacement provider of Rundstedt, says: In the past, that was seven pages with us and no one understood that. The only thing left is a page.
  2. To formulate a few guidelines, such as this: Each makes only meaningful expenses.
  3. Delete control. Instead, make the travel expenses of each individual transparent on the intranet. So everyone can see who's exaggerating.

The collective works as a corrective. Very gorgeous, even. Transparency is the key. Anonymity, secrecy, mistrust and knowledge of dunking, on the other hand, create a poisoned corporate culture with all its evil and expensive consequences.

Structures, so that one can act self-organized

Systems research has long known that self-organization creates order out of its own momentum. In addition, the desire for a good result manifests itself, which is evolutionarily anchored in the genes of humans.

According to this, structures are to be created which make it possible for the employees to act fully independently without supervision from above and to succeed on their own responsibility. Such structures also contain behavioral boundaries, which, like the outline of a soccer field, define the rough framework of interaction.

Bonus instead of overtime compensation

Here's another example: So far, a company has been paying heavily for overtime to cope with the continual delivery delays. One day, it decided that the company no longer pays overtime. Point. If improved delivery performance targets are met, a Team Bonus will be paid instead.

From now on, employees not only returned home punctually, representing an increase in productivity of 20 percent, but delivery reliability also increased significantly. As the? The framework changed. Further specifications were not made for the employees. These have organized themselves to create the common goals.

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