Times are changing and management/decision making must change with it. This means that decisions quite often must be made immediately and at the point of contact with the customer. Don’t you get upset when you negotiate an agreement with someone on the phone or over the inter-net and then they say, “Please wait for my supervisor”, and then you start over with someone anew. Or when you negotiate on an automobile and then the salesperson says, “Wait, I have to run it by my manager?”
One of the best-managed clients that I had was a manufacturing company in southern Minnesota named Zytec. They authorized every employee to spend up to $1,000 dollars to improve their work processes or satisfy a customer without approval. It was tremendously successful. When the CEO was asked one day by a fellow executive from another company if he wasn’t worried about the cost of such a program, he responded, “No, my front line workers are more careful about spending the company’s money than my managers are.”
Empowering the people is the necessary requirement to make decisions in real time at the opportune moment. That involves sharing the vision of the desired future state of the organization, its direction, strategy, and goals. The people must be trusted as the CEO of Zytec did. Management must listen sincerely to the people and provide information for decision-making. The need to delegate opportunities and authority, not just work. The idea is to solve problems and not blame people when things go wrong. When things go right, give the people a pat on the back and help them feel rewarded. The trick is to encourage people without creating havoc. Needless to say, mutual trust and respect must be developed.
Creating the opportunity for empowered-employees is one thing, getting results is another thing. It has been said, “Opportunity knocks, but you have to answer the door.” The employees must take advantage of the opportunity and make the decisions. They have to listen to the customers, internal and external, and listen to the data from the work process. This often means gathering the data on themselves on their own work. They have to use their brain and have faith in themselves. They have to do what they believe is right.
The organization has the responsibility to create a work environment, which helps foster the ability and desire of employees to act in empowered ways. The work organization has the responsibility to remove barriers that limit the ability of the staff to make decisions on their own. Empowerment then needs to come from the individual.
Empowerment can be defined as the process of an individual to take action and control work and decision-making in autonomous ways. This results in more customer satisfaction and less wasted time and effort within the organization. Who wouldn’t want that?