When Autonomy Helps Team Performance — and When It Doesn’t - Deepstash

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Autonomy And Team Performance: An Overview

Autonomy And Team Performance: An Overview

From GitHub to Google, companies are increasingly adopting policies that allow teams substantial autonomy over both who they work with and what they work on. This can help employees to feel greater levels of ownership over their work, thus boosting creativity and innovation.

It’s easy to take autonomy too far. In a new study, the authors found that teams that were allowed to choose both the composition of their groups and the ideas they worked on actually performed substantially worse than those who were only allowed to choose either teammates or ideas (but not both).

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What Managers Need To Do

The question managers should ask themselves is not whether they should give teams autonomy, but what kind of autonomy they should give them.

Instead of becoming obsessed with autonomy above all else, managers should take a more nuanced approach and think critically about which areas will benefit from autonomy — and which will not.

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The Two Strategies

Two strategies to help managers leverage autonomy on their teams more effectively:

  1. The question to ask is not whether you should give teams autonomy, but what kind of autonomy you should give them. Autonomy is neither all-good nor all-bad.
  2. Introducing an element of randomness into how teams are assigned may improve performance in some contexts.

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