Empowerment is the process of entrusting resources to others and creating the conditions for them to act. It is the principle instrument of management in the human capital economy. Empowerment around organizational purpose is managing, based on expectations and accountability to produce results that pertain to purpose. To delegate and not empower makes little sense. No leverage flows from such a transaction and leaders might just do the work themselves. To empower another person without the motivational alignment of that person is at least naïve.
Every failed working relationship has been the result of incongruent motives and expectations. The only way that a common perception of motives and expectations can be expressed, across organizational and sub-culture levels, is through purpose coupled to relevant output. Purposeful empowerment must become an organizational norm if purposeful and coordinated action is the goal. If some relevant purpose doesn’t frame the act of empowerment, the function and/or the person in question are probably not needed.
Delegation as expressed in hierarchy, constrains the effort of leaders even though it is intended to do the opposite. This is a kind of tension between management as hierarchy vs. management as achievement. The achievement of purposeful empowerment will inevitably flatten organizational structures and mitigate the negative effects of bureaucratic hierarchy. Oppressive bureaucracy and irrelevant functions simply cannot survive the discipline and rigor of the culture of empowerment based on purpose. Issues of protection of turf, narrow self-interest and out of control specialties will be minimized and interdependent, or collaborative behaviors will be nourished.
The rule of empowerment around purpose is a kind of universal organizational remedy. To achieve it requires a great deal of effort and consistency on the part of leaders and managers. As in the case of individuals’ responses to defining output, those will resist it with embedded interests in the status quo. A good place to start is to begin to redesign the meaning of quality performance, and the standard for this redefinition will be outcomes or output related to purpose.
Traditional organizational assumptions surface as key determinants in establishing new perceptions of accountability and performance. These aspects of new institutional knowledge vs. status quo answers to questions such as: What is the meaning of quality performance and achievement?, and How do traditional organizational structures relate to lateral, multidisciplinary or team-net ones?
There is not doubt. For the future, the role of leaders will be that of helping to change the traditional culture and facilitating the development of new knowledge.
Copyright 2001 QBS, Inc.