“A Japanese worker produces, on average, twenty seven improvement ideas
a year. A US worker produces one idea every thirty seven years” -
Empowerment can be summed up by this reflection:
An empowered organisation is characterised by:
- a strong sense of direction and purpose, shared by all staff;
- well understood values and beliefs, explicitly or implicitly stated,
that form the basis for management behaviour;
- a focus on customers, processes and improvement techniques, so that
people can concentrate on adding value and pleasing customers;
- pro-activity, learning, problem solving and innovation at all levels;
- a high degree of trust in each other, in management, and in other functions
- people who are highly motivated, and who possess a great sense of self-worth
- managers who listen, encourage, develop and help their people.
The difference between delight and disappointment can be very fine.
A woman rang a department store to ask the weight of a
parcel requiring collection, because she was pregnant. The person dealing
with the enquiry immediately offered to have the parcel delivered ................... resulting
in a delighted customer.
Clearly evidence of an empowered employee.
- coach their people to develop their capability;
- practice good communication, both downwards, upwards and across the
organisation structure, and listen to the concerns and aspirations of the
- are conscious of their own behaviour and the need for consistency of
words and actions;
- practice the principles of continuous improvement, coaching and encouraging
their staff to do likewise;
- actively seek improvements to efficiency and effectiveness and respond
positively and quickly to proposals from their staff;
- break down barriers that obstruct people’s commitment, involvement and
pride in their work;
- bring the organisations’ vision to life by relating it directly to people’s
- provide feedback, encouragement and recognition.
Empowerment in an organisation can be assessed typically by an Employee
Attitude Survey relating employee perception against some pre-defined characteristics
of an empowered organisation.
How will you know if you are succeeding in your efforts to introduce
Here are some indicators of success & failure:
- Perception that everyone is working more effectively, is better focused,
and adding more value;
- Changes are perceived to be to the benefit of customers;
- All elements of the change process are seen as a part of the whole;
- Growing confidence/commitment - people wanting to get involved;
- Common focus on the customer;
- Common, shared desire for change.
- Perception of working harder/longer hours, or no evidence that anything
- Changes are perceived as cost cutting;
- Apparently directionless change or change lacking in cohesion - a series
- Insecurity/uncertainty - people distancing themselves;
- No reduction in internal rivalry, turf wars, or parochialism;
- Changes being imposed top-down.
Empowerment: “You can’t give it, people have to want it”