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Self-organised teams are the cornerstone of agile project management. They are comprised of qualified people who work together towards a common goal, without a traditional hierarchical structure. This means that lots of managers are facing new kinds of challenges.

Building an organisation around self-organising teams can be one of these challenges. Managers are faced with the task of learning how to manage and empower teams in order to ensure that they are able work productively and are aligned with their company’s goals. In this blog post, I will explain what tasks managers have to tackle when building a project organisation with self-organising teams, how this shifts the focus of managerial tasks and how developing competence in a targeted manner can help to ensure the basis for long-term corporate success.

Frameworks for managing self-organised teams

Set clear goals and expectations

Research by the Harvard Business Review has shown that teams that are clear about their goals perform better than those that are not. Managers should frequently communicate these goals and expectations and ensure that team members understand their role in achieving them.

Create a culture of trust and respect

Self-organised teams cannot work effectively unless the team members trust and respect one another. Managers should heavily contribute to creating a culture that promotes open communication, teamwork and constructive feedback. According to a study published in the Journal of Business and Psychology, there is a positive relationship between trust and team effectiveness and respectful communication is essential for maintaining solidarity within teams.

Encourage autonomy and self-management

Research by McKinsey & Company has shown that teams with a high degree of autonomy and self-management perform better than those that have no autonomy and self-management. Managers should therefore empower their teams to make decisions and take responsibility for their work. This does not mean no longer making decisions. But what it does mean, above all, is making decisions together with the team members and learning to delegate operational decisions in particular to the part of the company that is directly affected by them.

Promote learning and development

In modern organisations, managers are tasked with promoting learning and development in their self-organised teams more than they ever have been before. According to a study published in the International Journal of Human Resource Management, learning and development opportunities have a positive impact on employees’ satisfaction with their jobs and on their commitment. This means it is about giving individuals and teams the opportunity to learn new skills, share knowledge and develop professionally. In an environment with self-organised teams, human resources development as well as organisational development are essential parts of managerial work, as these strengthen the bond between employees and their company and form the basis for the future viability of the company.

Promote diversity and inclusion

According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, teams that are diverse and inclusive are more innovative and able to perform at a higher level than those that are not. Managers should promote every form of diversity and create an environment in which differences are valued and respected. Putting together interdisciplinary teams therefore entails new requirements for staffing and recruiting, which, depending on the context, can be highly individual and can change over time. Being able to deal with this and recognising the opportunities it entails is increasingly becoming an aspect of management that is critical to success.

Building managerial skills with a growth mindset

When managers are coached while building an organisation with self-organising teams, it is important to enhance their competencies in a way that supports the teams’ autonomy and ability to self-organise. This requires that managers learn to create a culture of trust, respect and teamwork in which team members feel empowered to make decisions and take responsibility for their work. The ability to give constructive feedback and the ability to recognise tools that strengthen communication in the team are a couple examples of things that help in this context.

Furthermore, adopting growth mindset is essential for being able to lead by example.

The phrase ‘growth mindset’ describes the belief that through effort and practice, skills and intelligence can grow and improve over time. This refers both to individuals’ own abilities and to those of others or entire teams. Instead of thinking, ‘She is not good at that’, you could say, ‘She is not good at that yet, but she can get better with practice (and targeted support).’ A growth mindset therefore helps us to see challenges as opportunities to learn and grow.

Managers with a growth mindset understand that making mistakes is a natural part of learning. They accept challenges and believe that hard work and effort can lead to improvement. They also see the value in learning from others as well as in getting help when it is needed and are able to confer this thought model to teams and individuals in their companies.

A growth mindset is important because it helps you overcome obstacles and realise your full potential. It enables you to develop new skills, face challenges with confidence and believe in your ability to learn and grow. This means you can achieve amazing things if you put in the effort and never give up.


Setting clear goals and expectations, creating a culture of trust and respect, promoting autonomy and self-management, promoting learning and development, and promoting diversity and inclusion are essential to building successful organisations with self-organised teams.

With effective coaching, managers can learn how to use a growth mindset to help build a culture of teamwork and innovation for self-organising teams, and in doing so, to drive corporate success forward.

You will find more exciting blog posts from the adesso world in our latest blog posts.


  • The New Science of Building Great Teams by Alex "Sandy" Pentland, Harvard Business Review, April 2012
  • Trust and team performance: A meta-analysis of main effects, moderators, and covariates by K. S. Dirks and D. L. Ferrin, Journal of Business and Psychology, 2002
  • Why agility pays by Aaron De Smet, Michael Lurie, and Andrew St. George, McKinsey Quarterly, August 2018
  • Investigating the effects of learning and development on employee commitment and turnover intentions by Y. K. Teh and H. Y. Sun, International Journal of Human Resource Management, 2015
  • Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter by David Rock and Heidi Grant, Harvard Business Review, November 2016
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by, Dr. Carol Dweck
Picture Henrik Stapel

Author Henrik Stapel

Henrik Stapel works as a Scrum Master and Agile Coach in the Competence Centre Agility. His consulting and coaching focus is on the transfer of knowledge about agile principles, methods and frameworks as well as the promotion of self-organisation.

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