Self-Forming Teams in the Post-Job Economy

The Holidays afford us time to read things we might not otherwise.  Harold Jarche’s blog is one for me. Harold’s article on teamwork in the “post-job economy” is thought-provoking. Harold reminds us first of all that the economy is rapidly moving “beyond jobs.” I think many of us have been sensing this for some time, but we haven’t put our feeling to words.

Read about the post-job economy here for starters:

Now here is what Jarche has to say about teams and hierarchies in the “post-jobs economy”: “I have said many times that teamwork is overrated. It can be a smoke screen for office bullies to coerce fellow workers. The economic stick often hangs over the team: be a team player or lose your job, is the implication in many workplaces. One of my main concerns with teams is that people are placed on them by those holding hierarchical power and are then told to work together (or else). However, there are usually power plays internal to the team so that being a team player really means doing what the leader says. For example, I know many people who work in call centres and I have heard how their teams are often quite dysfunctional. Teamwork too often just means towing the party line.”

I love his last line: “Teamwork too often just means towing the party line.” So true in economic development in my experience where local leaders proclaim we need to get everyone on the same page and work as a team. It’s true that teamwork and a shared vision and plan are needed. But often it’s just code for “get with the power brokers’ party line!”

The point of Jarche’s article is that often teams are rooted in power hierarchies in organizations (and I would add in communities). He goes on to say that there is an alternative to hierarchy-based teams, which is the self-forming team. He says self-forming teams are based upon distributed power and not centralized power. Jarche concludes that we need to get used to the idea of distributed power in self-forming teams because that is the new work model for the future and not jobs as we’ve known them for the past 100 years! He’s right.

Bottom line: Economic development must evolve its concept of jobs, work, power, and organization. We need to learn to work within self-forming teams and give birth to self-forming work teams in businesses and industry sectors.

Maybe an idea to noodle for Ashtabula County…

Read Jarche’s self-forming teams here:

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