Freedom by Restraint: Improving Autonomous Team Performance with Boundaries

What is the antidote to extreme scarcity in the labor market? Or the rising wave of burn-out in the workforce, especially among young people? How should we deal with the more demanding (and less loyal) customer and an ever-present risk of unexpected market disruption from more agile startups?

The answer is autonomous teams. By empowering people at the lowest level, stimulating innovation, and establishing a clear purpose for work through the creation of autonomous teams, we can successfully respond to these issues. Yet, many experiments in this area fail. Why? 

According to Philosopher and Professor Beate Rössler, "autonomy always takes place in relation to others." However, we mistakenly believe it means we can decide everything ourselves without taking others into account, or that, unless we can decide everything ourselves, we're not truly autonomous.

Applying these insights to an organizational perspective, we see that experiments often fall short of their goals because:

  • Teams want too much mandate too quickly, without realizing what kind of ownership that comes with it.
  • Management is too quick to take its hands off decision-making without establishing a clear vision on which to guide the decision-making process. 
  • There is insufficient alignment between different teams, which causes uncoordinated innovation in all directions. 
  • There is insufficient trust, which causes the teams to be driven by input instead of output or outcome.
  • Results are disappointing, a feeling of chaos and anarchy prevails, and there is no targeted teamwork.

But what does work? How do autonomous teams flourish in the relationship with the organization?

During this workshop you will explore two common misconceptions about the concept of autonomy and why we often cannot achieve it. And we'll put the theory of setting boundaries into practice to improve autonomous team performance.

Riët Broekhuizen

Riët is an enthusiastic agile and transformation consultant. She is goal- and result-oriented and is convinced that an agile mind-set is the basis of successful entrepreneurship. In order to grow to this mind-set within organizations, she believes in a differentiated approach of: teaching & training & coaching.  She is sharp in her challenges and interventions to trigger you to reflect on yourself to grow faster.

Riët has extensive experience in developing and giving tailor-made workshops and training in the field of Leadership, Mind-Set and Behavior.


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