I am currently in the process of reading Your Place at the Table by Allan Cox. It consists of a series of short essays, which discuss the concept of Authenticity. In one of these essays Allan Cox defines empowerment, as “I love you for what I am when I am with you.”
In my weekly tip of the week on Wednesday we posed the question are your cross-functional teams empowered to change? Empowerment is the key to successful process improvement. This follow-up blog takes that idea a step further. At this point I am not concerned with what we label it (TLS Continuum, Lean, Six Sigma) but the key to a successful process improvement effort is how empowered is the various components of the organization.
So let me repeat the question. Are your cross-functional teams empowered to change the organization? Are you entering into process improvement efforts for show or are you dedicated to change the organization around to improve the processes and better meet the needs of the customer? Here is the difference. If you are in process improvement for show, the teams do their due diligence and when the final report gets presented to management, with the suggested changes, the report gets lost on someone’s shelf. Management says we can’t do that because that is no something we do here. The direct effect is that the members of the cross-functional team does not love you for what I am when I am with you. They feel degraded and miniscule. They begin to acquire the attitude of why bother; we are not of any importance. The result is a half-hearted effort to be part of future improvement efforts. The sense of empowerment is lost and the organization suffers in the long run.
If you are in the cross-functional team to make a difference we have a different scenario. As in the first scenario we have an active cross-functional team working to resolve a customer’s dissatisfaction with the delivery of your product or service. You have identified the problem and delivered your findings to the management of the organization. Management in turn takes immediate steps to implement the solutions the team has recommended. The problem is resolved and the customer is satisfied with the delivery of your products or services. The side affect of the process is that the members of the team feel that the organization respects their efforts. They feel that the organization appreciates their presence within the organization. They feel empowered to suggest further suggestions to problems as they might arise. They acquire the feeling that they love themselves for what they are when they are part of your organization.
There is another aspect to this discussion. You and I constantly hear the comment that our organization human capital assets are no longer engaged. Dale Carnegie Institute in a recent survey states that Among the 1,500 employees, only 29% are fully engaged and 26% are disengaged. Almost half (45%) are partially engaged. One of the downsides of today’s organizational structure is that the environment that we work our human capital assets are driven to showing up for work for the paycheck. They are not engaged with the organization. But if we add the power of engagement to the equation so that we have both engagement and empowerment the organization becomes more productive. This increased productivity ultimately leads to higher return on investments.
As organizational managers our first responsibility is to facilitate how we get our human capital assets to love our organizations based on how they feel when they are in our workplaces. Are they just a number or are they truly an integral part of the organization. Do our managers treat them as valuable assets or do they think of them as just a fly on the wall to be ignored? It is your choice whether you have engaged, empowered employees or continue just for the sake of operating.