Organizations can often be described as the “principle of moderation”. Sometimes there is too much management, which creates a stifling effect or a feeling of micromanaging. In other cases, there is complete autonomy, which leads to dysfunction and a lack of control.
Leaders struggle with the ever-changing swinging of the pendulum to find a happy compromise. Even when that middle is found, there is still something wrong with nobody commenting on the team and there seems to be a minimal hierarchy. How can something so good feel bad
The problem is the throat in the hourglass to communicate. Better yet, it is the rock that obstructs that throttle and stifles the flow of communications. In other words, the problem is you.
Happy to get your attention Organizations must understand the basic definition of empowerment. Empowerment is defined as “the power or power given to someone to do something.” Note that this definition relates to the creation of the work. The definition does not say “the authority to do something, but must go through top management first”. Companies struggle with this every day. In some cases, the team may lack the ability to make informed decisions due to a lack of experience or a lack of training.
It is not uncommon to delegate a task and then perform some kind of check and balance somewhere in the process to ensure accuracy. However, there is a fine line to walk when everything requires a signature or permission.
Consider the following phrases:
“We are just waiting for it to be approved. “
“We cannot hold the meeting without them.”
“Nothing can happen without them.”
In fairness to the leaders, I’m sure they have good intentions and it’s not like they’re sitting in a chair eating Doritos. However, if you have ever made these phrases, you may have a rock problem.
Certainly, there are decisions that must require a certain level of authority. For example, it might be wise to look at large capital expenditures or limit decision-making to specific individuals. It can be a little embarrassing for all equipment operators to decide when to purchase a new front loader or for all project managers to sign off on a new program. However, there is no shortage of decisions that create this bottleneck. For example, consider the following areas where bottlenecks often occur:
Meeting Planning – In many cases, it is felt that the meeting cannot take place without a quorum or, most importantly, the presence of the Operations Manager or President. While this sounds great in theory, how many meetings are there late due to the busy operations manager and president? Instead, meetings punctuate their dates, leading to bigger issues in the long run.
Accurate consent – There is a difference between keeping someone informed and asking for their consent. For example, how many small details of projects require someone to agree to? Does this amount of subtlety feel like the right level of management or does it feel more like a lot of “covering your ass” procedures?
Levels of Consent – As noted above, we will likely want to limit important decisions to the appropriate decision-makers. On the other hand, does the company have adequate levels of authority when it comes to changes to orders, offers, purchase orders, etc.? Some organizations will have field commander limits on their purchase orders, yet will require them to be in charge of multi-million dollar projects. This is like sending a young adult to college but asking them to call home every night to make sure they aren’t doing anything wrong.
This does not mean that this is wrong, but the next question should be this: Does this work and do we require one person to be individually responsible for everything? Likewise, when these processes are assigned, what is the overall schedule that is created? Do the process steps require two or three additional clicks, increasing the effort by 20% to 30% without any added value?
Rights of the decision or findings
As shown, some organizations are reluctant to waive their decision-making rights due to their lack of experience. There are steps in the process that are put in place because, at the point of origin, they provide a certain level of comfort to driving by not making wrong decisions. This makes sense in the short term and is an excellent temporary measure to prevent disasters.
However, on closer examination, will the company be better served by addressing the core issue – talent development – with a more concerted educational and training solution?
Lee is a benchmark for new colleagues learning the company’s systems. However, wouldn’t it be better for the company to measure the results of the process rather than the endorsements?
If the company has a steady process and the managers are responsible for following these processes, the outcome must be the most important component. For example, consider conducting quality control for something like concrete or asphalt. Tests are performed on selected samples of a mixture or batch created according to a recipe or mix design. It would be impractical and unprofitable if every ton or cubic yard was tested prior to placement. The same can be said for managers and supervisors, who must get approval for every action.
Successful organizations have found that there is the right balance between accountability, responsibility, and empowerment. For companies to grow profitably, leaders know that they must implement a capable team whose actions rely on decentralizing decisions and removing rocks.