The Power of Self-Management

by Daphne van Beek

January 22, 2021

Self-management is a principle that we believe is the fundamental requirement for empowering both people and organizational success in today’s unprecedented times, as well as in our future economy. Self-management is a hot topic at the moment and often pops up in discussions – but what is self-management? And, where do you start once you’ve decided to go down this road? We see self-management as the value of letting teams operate like micro-organizations that are autonomous and self-reliant.

Today, there’s a huge repository of research that confirms the positive effects of allowing teams to be self-managed, with minimal or no interference from the management. Autonomous teams help organizations respond faster and nimbly to the dynamic changes of today’s markets. Having busted through the proverbial bureaucratic red tape, these teams can cut to the chase and solve problems as and when they emerge.

Building the muscle

Many organizations and their leaders make the mistake of focusing too acutely on the end goal – a matured, self-managed team that functions completely autonomously. However, it’s not something that can be achieved overnight, and the leadership needs to allow newly self-managed teams to gradually grow in their maturity.

To begin with, there are a number of things that teams, as well as the leadership, need to unlearn. Trust needs to be established, clarity on roles and responsibilities should be created, and teams need to figure out how to make their own decisions, solve problems and resolve conflicts by themselves. In other words, self-management is a muscle that needs to be developed slowly and consistently – there are no shortcuts here.

Changing the way managers solve problems

Organizations just getting started with the self-management principle believe it’s important for their managers to “let go” of all control – a notion that cannot just confuse middle management but also the newly self-managed teams. For, when a problem strikes, both team members and managers alike, are used to expecting the latter to take charge and resolve the issue.

However, there’s no place for such top-down management in self-managed organizations. So, managers, as well as their teams, need to learn how to take control of the issue – together.  Earlier, problems may have been solved by managers, irrespective of whether they were directly involved in them or experienced the consequences themselves.

Strengthen the self-management foundations with trust

Managers need to be shown how they can trust their teams to arrive at the solutions themselves and establish boundaries to create psychological safety for newly self-managed teams. The teams, on the other hand, need to be given the confidence that they can, in fact, resolve their own issues.

The trust, psychological safety, and confidence are among the foundational concepts of a self-managed organization, and once it’s firmly in place, teams will be able to increasingly resolve their own issues while managers facilitate without actually getting their hands dirty.


Trust is the cornerstone of our philosophy. Read more about the Semco Style principle Trust, and the related pillars in our Eco-System. The practices will guide you on how to work on the level of trust and psychological safety in your teams and establish the foundation for self-managed teams.


This article is written by:

Daphne van Beek

Daphne van Beek

SSI Global | Marketing & Country Partners

Daphne has an extensive background in marketing and brand positioning. Over the last 10 years, she developed and successfully executed internal- and external marketing campaigns for companies including Microsoft, HP, Rabobank, and KPN. She strongly believes that work should and can be done differently. Within Semco Style Institute, it’s her main purpose to spread this mission on a global level. To grow the worldwide community, and to reshape the way work is done. Daphne takes care of the global brand positioning, and international expansion and she supports Country Partners with successful go-to-market strategies.


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