The word “empowerment” is the new favorite word used in the business press. It is as if “empowering” your employees is the only thing you need to do to be successful, profitable, and have adoring employees. If this were only true.
Much closer to reality is that most utterances of “empowerment” are subtle platitudes meant to appease shareholder, analysts, HR, and the very employees who are purported to be empowered.
Let’s pore over this concept and uncover a couple of reasons why this simple concept of giving employees within a firm the latitude to use their expertise to improve the company is so frequently thwarted.
The company will be out of control
This plays into the fear that the quality gurus have warned us about for 3 decades. It goes something like “you must follow the process precisely unless we want to return to the days of poor (enter your fear here). This sounds logical until you take into account that the processes may not have been written by the very experts who have been doing the job successfully for a decade.
A better idea is to “empower” these experts to use their professional discretion, within certain guidelines, to do their job effectively and efficiently.
Management cannot always know best
Akin to point one is that certain cultures have determined that only the official “leaders” of the organization have the authority or even ability to know what is right and best. This has happened through the centuries in the church–Galileo jailed for daring say the Earth is not the center of the Universe–and schools where students quickly understand that some teachers prefer students who share their opinion and grade accordingly.
A well-run organization uses its leaders to set the direction (strategy), and employs middle management and its best employees to figure out the best ways to get there (planning*). The finer the level of detail required, the deeper into the organization the planning process should operate. A manager of a dozen modern knowledge workers cannot hope to create effective and efficient processes for their department. Each of these knowledge workers know more than any dozen or more workers in Frederick Taylor’s time.
* This is why the phrase “strategic planning” is an oxymoron.
Let’s dispense with the rage or craze of the empowerment buzzword and get back to what the best companies and organizations have done for millennia. Provide goals and allow the experts charged with achieving them to develop processes and work-arounds, within acceptable guidelines, to create success.
Copyright 2016 Doug Ringer
Doug’s Blog is a frequent memo that is always powerful and to the point. It focuses on innovative ideas to help organizations create Profitable Habits(TM) that improve profitability.
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Originally posted 2016-05-03 18:39:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter