Empowerment (1)

Empowerment is the creation of an organizational culture in which all employees use as much of their ability as possible, in a unified and synergistic way, so as to produce the results required by internal and external customers and stakeholders. In order to clarify the notion of empowerment we need to draw a distinction between what has to be done and how it is to be achieved.

What has to be done is determined in consultation with the stakeholders and customers, who may be internal or external. This is done by clarifying exactly what outputs are required, how those outputs are to be measured, and what targets or standards are acceptable.

How best to achieve these outputs should be left to the experts, who we define as ‘the people doing the job’. As the old saying suggests, If you want to know the road up a mountain, ask the man who walks it every day.

If outputs, measures and targets are clarified at all levels of the organization, if each individual and the team to which she/he belongs knows exactly what is expected, then, and only then, is everyone empowered. Empowerment exists because the targets and standards form parameters within which people can exercise authority, make decisions, solve problems, communicate, utilise resources and generally implement solutions.

This is exactly the way organizations are run at the upper management levels. Similar systems, including systems of measurement, should be created with the same degree of empowerment for workers and workforce teams, for those who are in the front lines dealing with customers, for those who are adding value in the manufacturing plant. Doing so will create an environment in which the energy released from unlocking human potential can be harnessed and focused.

The result will be increased productivity and quality of working life.

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