To be sure, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to constituting such teams. Every organisation has its own personalised model to decide which department and employees are eligible for self-driven teams or SDTs

In what can be seen as a revamp of the overall operating models in India Inc, companies are increasingly shifting towards self-managed or self-driven teams (SMTs/SDTs). Though not a new concept, companies are now relying more on such teams after tasting success.

UTI AMC, Team Computers and MSN Laboratories are three examples.

SMTs epitomise a collaborative work structure in which individuals collectively steer projects and tasks without hierarchical micromanagement. Empowered to make decisions and solve challenges independently, these teams cultivate a sense of ownership, accountability and creativity.

Till now, the question of organisations completely changing structures with SMTs has not been a discussion until hybrid and remote teams came in, said Sonica Aron, Founder and Managing Partner of HR consultancy firm Marching Sheep.

“Post-COVID, many organisations implemented self-managed teams to reduce administrative layers, drive productivity and empower employees,” she said.

To be sure, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to constituting such teams. Every organisation has its own personalised model to decide which department and employees are eligible for SDTs.

Different approaches

SDTs at IT firm Team Computers cover diverse domains, including software development, data analytics, cloud computing, cybersecurity and IT infrastructure solutions. Additionally, they collaborate with other departments to drive cross-functional initiatives.

Its software development teams alone have delivered complex software solutions within tight timelines and contributed to a 35 percent increase in the number of successful software deployments compared to the previous year.

In addition, the project teams have completed a major IT infrastructure upgrade for a banking sector client two months ahead of schedule, leading to a 25 percent increase in client satisfaction.

“Over the last three years, our focus on self-driven/managed teams has played a pivotal role in our consistent growth rate of about 35 percent CAGR. This success reinforces our belief in the effectiveness of this approach, and we are committed to further nurturing and expanding self-driven teams,” said Ranjan Chopra, MD & CEO of Team Computers.

On the other hand, pharmaceutical major MSN Laboratories has a three-tier programme to recruit and constitute SDTs – Technical Training, Probation, and Officer. There is a ‘Continuous Learning process’ starting from basic functional concepts of the pharmaceutical industry, behavioural aspects, business communication, and physical and mental fitness, followed by on-the-job training to build technical expertise through OEM, SOP and machine operation training.

However, the programme is currently meant only for employees recruited from rural parts of Hyderabad. By hiring from these places, the firm intends to contribute to economic growth and uplifting the standard of living, head of HR Padmanabhan S said.

In terms of numbers, the company has hired over 110 SDT members and
plans to cross 1,000 members by the end of FY24.

Diminishing role of managers?

However, industry experts say such teams highlight the need for managers more than ever as they get more time on hand to strategise the larger picture of scaling up SDTs to the next level.

Nevertheless, the approach to management will indeed change.

“Most of the managers are now managing teams from different age groups and backgrounds, and, hence, a neutral leadership style is expected. Empowerment and team trust are critical and that will lead to better deliverables from the team members,” said Indranil Choudhury, President & Head of HR, UTI AMC.

At UTI AMC, SDT-managed projects include those heavier on customer service, employee engagement, and focus on digital systems to enhance customer experience and make technology projects swifter to reduce TAT (turnaround time) and increase efficiency.

Organisations also save money on hiring and training, and retention costs of supervisors or managers and can instead reallocate those funds to other areas of the business, Choudhury said.

It’s not always easy to drive growth via SMTs. For an emerging organisation, where some basic things might still be working in progress, like the vision, mission, values, HR policies and processes, it might be early to experiment with SMTs.

“SMTs require maturity in terms of team members knowing their common goals, ways of working, the tenets of organisational culture, the behavioural or competency framework for success. In such cases, team members might struggle to get things done in the absence of a single point of contact, a problem solver, a decision maker or a manager,” said Aron of Marching Sheep.

In a nutshell, she said the managerial role changes from day-to-day operational monitoring to enabling contribution.


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