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Self-managed Teams vs. Cross-functional Teams Research Paper


According to Gitman and McDaniel (2009), organizations work well when employees form functional teams. These scholars say that it is important to make people work as a group. Human being by nature needs constant motivation and a reminder of the aim that should be achieved after a specified period.

The top management may not be able to maintain a constant presence within the firm that would help ensure that employees remain motivated. For this reason, it is important to ensure that another way of maintaining this motivation is found.

These scholars say that the best way of doing this is to ensure that employees are in a position to motivate themselves. This can only be possible if these employees are made to work as a team. Employees should be allowed to form small manageable teams focused on achieving specific objectives within the firm.

Plunkett, Attner and Allen (2008) say that a number of teams can be formed within an organization. The most common form of teams in a firm comprises the cross-functional teams and self-managed teams (Parker, 2003). Other forms of teams that may exist within an organization include virtual teams, functional teams, and problem solving teams.

All these teams are defined based on the reason for their development, the way they operate, and their management structure.

Cross-functional teams and self-managed teams share a number of factors. For instance, both teams mainly focus on knowledge and skill sharing, teamwork and increased commitment towards tasks within the organization. The scholars also acknowledge that these two types of teams have a number of differences.

Cross-functional teams

According to Parker (2003), cross-functional teams within an organization are important, and their relevance in motivating employees should not be ignored. According to this scholar, cross-functional teams are formed when members from different departments within an organization come together to achieve a specific goal.

These members may come from marketing department, production unit, finance department, customer care, or any other unit within an organization. The main aim of these individuals to come together is to share knowledge and skills from their departments that would make them perform better in their respective departments.

According to Parker (2003), cross-functional groups work in unidirectional manner when compared to self-managed groups. Team members in this group come together with the focus of obtaining general success of the organization other than specific objective.

The team members will be aiming at finding the best ways in which they can share information from their various departments to make operations of other members from other departments better (Plunkett, Attner & Allen, 2008). Based on its definition, two to twenty team members can form Cross-functional teams.

However, the optimal number of members in such a group should be eight or nine members. This is the right number that is easily manageable and able to share skills and information for the betterment of the organization.

Self-managed teams

Plunkett, Attner, and Allen (2008) talk about self-managed teams and how they are important in an organization. These scholars appreciate the fact that in an organizational setting, it is important to have people work in teams. Working as a team does not only improve morale of employees, but also help in making employees understand each other.

Some employees take long before they can socialize with their workmates. Other employees may take longer than normal to socialize with workmates. People work well when in a team of people they understand well (Plunkett, Attner & Allen, 2008). It is not possible for the management to wait for the time new employees will get to socialize with others.

This process can be sped up by making employees form teams tasked with a specific project. This forces employees to come together as a unit in order to realize the intended goals. In such a scenario, the involved team members will have no choice but to get to know each other better.

When dealing with employees who are skilled in their area of duties, it is best when they form self-managed teams (Denhardt, Aristigueta & Denhardt, 2002). For instance, when the group consists of engineers or architects, it is important to allow them to run their groups without direct interference from the top management.

This will help avoid cases where the team is stopped from undertaking tasks that can transform the firm positively. The management would be briefed occasionally on the progress of the firm. This is how self-managed teams work.

Importance of teams within an organization

According to Denhardt, Aristigueta and Denhardt (2002), business world has become increasingly competitive, and firms must come up with ways through which they can manage this competition. The scholars say that in any organization, employees are the most important asset that can help a firm to achieve its intended objectives.

When the top management set goals and objectives that should be achieved after a given period of time, the employees will be responsible for the implementation of strategies. The employees will work together in order to realize the goals through by following the set goals and objectives. The employees must have good management in order to be able to work appropriately to achieve the intended goals.

In managing employees, it is important to ensure that they work in teams. This applies to both the profit and nonprofit making organizations. According to Parker (2003), employees always work best when they are in teams. They feel that they are supported, and that their effort plays a role in ensuring the general success of a firm.

When organized into small teams, employees feel that they are kept away from the watchful eyes of their superiors. This creates an environment of creativity among employees. However, these scholars say that it is important to specify the type of teams formed in the organization. The way a self-managed team will operate within an organization is different from the way cross-functional team will be run.

Each of the groups has different approaches of undertaking duties that may be assigned to them (Denhardt, Aristigueta & Denhardt, 2002). The management should be able to understand the needs of the firm at a particular time. The needs and condition of a firm will determine whether self-managed teams or cross-functional teams are necessary.

When dealing with highly skilled labor assigned to undertake a given project, the team should be considered as self-managed. This is because the involved team members have the right skills and expertise and are trusted to make the right decision. On the other hand, cross-functional teams would be needed in cases where departments need to share information in order to achieve specific objectives.

Comparing leadership structure in cross-functional teams and self-managed teams

According to Lussier and Achua (2010), one of the main difference between self-managed teams and cross-functional teams is their management structure. As the name suggests, self-managed teams work more independently without any form of direct interference from the top management unit of an organization. On the other hand, the top management unit of a firm always monitors cross-functional teams closely.

This is because of the difference in composition of the two teams. Cross-functional teams can consist of any member of different departments irrespective of their skills or experience in their fields. They come together to achieve an overall goal of the organization. On the other hand, self-managed teams involve members who are highly skilled and experienced in their various fields. Self-managed teams can be formed under two contexts.

The management can either decide to bring together skilled labor in one line of expertise such as engineers or architectures to undertake a specific task. This is common when a firm is dealing with an issue within that particular area where these team members have the needed skills.

Alternatively, self-managed teams can also be formed when skilled and experienced employees are drawn from various departments to deal with an issue that affects the firm from various departments. This would involve bringing lawyers, marketers, accountants, engineers, and architectures to address an issue concerning the overall management of the firm (Lussier & Achua, 2010).

The difference between the self-managed team from cross-functional teams is that the top management closely manages cross-functional teams while the self-managed teams work with minimal supervision. It is therefore; clear that, although self-managed and cross-functional teams share a number of factors, a number of factors that make them different.


Denhardt, R. B., Aristigueta, M. P., & Denhardt, J. V. (2002). Managing human behavior in public & nonprofit organizations. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Gitman, L. J., & McDaniel, C. D. (2009). The future of business: The essentials. Mason: South-Western Cenage Learning.

Lussier, R. N., & Achua, C. F. (2010). Leadership: Theory, application, skill development. Australia: SouthWestern Cengage Learning.

Parker, G. M. (2003). Cross-functional teams: Working with allies, enemies, and other strangers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Plunkett, W. R., Attner, R. F., & Allen, G. (2008). Management: Meeting and exceeding customer expectations. Australia: Thomson South-Western.

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"Self-managed Teams vs. Cross-functional Teams." IvyPanda, 8 July 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/self-managed-teams-vs-cross-functional-teams/.

1. IvyPanda. "Self-managed Teams vs. Cross-functional Teams." July 8, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/self-managed-teams-vs-cross-functional-teams/.


IvyPanda. "Self-managed Teams vs. Cross-functional Teams." July 8, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/self-managed-teams-vs-cross-functional-teams/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Self-managed Teams vs. Cross-functional Teams." July 8, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/self-managed-teams-vs-cross-functional-teams/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Self-managed Teams vs. Cross-functional Teams'. 8 July.

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