Project management for employee empowerment? Solam veritatem.

Empowerment is a buzz term that we hear a lot about in leadership. It has been defined as “the giving or delegation of power or authority; authorisation; the giving of an ability or permission”.

Empowerment is based on the belief that employees have the ability – and want to take on more responsibility. It gives employees greater authority and responsibility to take care of the needs of the customer. To this end, employees are provided with the means for making influential decisions.

Everyone within an organisation should be involved in meeting customer expectations and improving the quality of services and goods they provide.  Empowered employees understand their role in supporting this very vision by tending to the customers’ needs.

A company can define its own empowerment strategy among the following and many more initiatives:

1. Top management commitment. This includes developing an organisational definition of empowerment that includes well defined boundaries and management training.

2. Keepimg the customers’ needs at the very centre of the strategy. When employees are empowered to make decisions that help the customer, they contribute to the strategy and business objectives.

3. Handing over of the decision making power to front line employees. Delegation may be something as simple as allowing an employee to make service recovery decisions.

4. Training employees to take on these new customer focused responsibilities. This may include customer service, problem solving, negotiation and conflict resolution skills.

5. Giving access to information and data that can be used in their decision making process. This information might include feedback from customer satisfaction surveys or customer comment cards that can help make informed, customer-focused decisions.

6. Placing trust and confidence in employees to make the right decision. A manager that second-guesses an employee’s decisions can impact an employee’s confidence in their decision making ability.

7. Authority and decision making responsibility comes with specific expectations and boundaries. An employee may be empowered to correct a situation for a customer up to a certain amount.

8. Providing mentors. Mentors should have successfully done something that the employee can learn from. For example, if an employee is learning to be empowered to perform service recovery, their mentor should be someone who has learned the critical thinking skills to assess different situations and come to reasonable conclusions.

9. Positive support through coaching and role play to successfully negotiate more decision making scenarios. We all make mistakes when we first begin making decisions so it is important to provide good coaching and positive reinforcement.

10. Compensation and performance expectations are aligned around customer needs. This encourages employees to make the right decisions.

11. Assess social styles to match employee competencies with job responsibilities. Using an effective assessment tool like DISC or Myers Briggs can help identify employee strengths.

12. Employees are provided the appropriate tools and equipment to do their job. Some employees are very vocal about their needs but others will work with aging equipment and never speak up. Assessing changing technology and equipment should be part of an organization’s strategy for empowered employees.

13. Have a plan to implement an empowerment environment. Implementation should be mapped out and a timeline for all aspects should be written so all understand the timing and process of implementation.

Lastly, organizations with strong empowerment models show that productivity and customer satisfaction improves within an empowered culture.

Taking the above into consideration in a Project Management context, and more specifically the various models of Project Management applied in our day and age, RINCE2 and Agile are two approaches that can be looked into. This is because the right model must be applied to the correspondingly right context, without which the project is set on the path of doom right from its very outset.

That said, it usually is a combination of various approaches that will suit a project, the organisation it is being implemented in and various other parameters that must be taken into consideration whilst defining the specific measures of a given approach; they can go from the definition of the project itself.  the period of project implementation, its cost, its complexity but to name them .

This comparison will be presented independently but under the analysis framework.

There are many a guidelines set forth in terms of project management. These vary greatly depending mainly on the complexity of the project. As a result, the guidelines can be summarized into four main stages of a project’s progress:
– initiation,
– planning ,
– execution and control, and
– close out and evaluation. .

2.1.            Project initiation: This stage includes every step undertaken to seek out the best service providers who present their cases to argue their ability to compete the project. The winner of this call to tender then gathers the client’s requirements. It includes negotiations to amend the requirements when deemed necessary in the best interest of the project. And then, when everyone has agreed to all the terms and conditions, both parties sign an agreement.2.2.            Planning phase: Planning is critical for success. Take a wrong decision in this stage, and you’ll feel the repercussions right to the very end, and even in the project’s afterlife. Therefore, the management must look at all possible outcomes of every possible step and be prepared to act in consequence. The project plans address the project scope, timing, and budget. Once all of that is established, the schedule is developed, and resources allocated. Its a bit like applying the right formula to a given mathematical problem and then following it through. If anything goes wrong or is overlooked, the project will run end up uncontrollably running into a wall.

2.3.            Execution and control: After deciding what should be done, it is now time to do it. The simpler the project, the closer the link between execution and control. When you do something, it is important to report to all parties concerned that it is being done or has been accomplished. The management team, in most cases, tasked with oversight, has to tick off those boxes, hence the combination of execution and control. The simpler forms of control may be time related – but it is for the top management to implement the right control measures. Some independent control bodies are generally required for intermediate control and final validation.

2.4.            Closeout and evaluation: Achieve all the steps that had been decided upon in a timely and satisfactory manner, and it is time to closeout the project. With deliverables being in line with client’s requirements, the next step is acceptance and completion of payment. Immediately after closeout is the right time for the team to evaluate the project and how things can possibly be improved in future projects. Even if the project weren’t directly affected, such an evaluation can help the various stakeholders tighten their grasp on things in the future.

PRINCE2 approach

Prince2, from its very name denotes that there was a previous version. The initial version concentrated developing a system to provide a framework to manage IT projects. In 1996, an upgrade brought about a broader scope, and Prince2 became a methodology standard to manage more than just IT projects. In the 21 years of is existence, it has been affected by numerous updates and changes to accommodate business projects and environments.

It is based on the following principles:

i.            Continue with business justification

ii.           Learn from experience

iii.          Define roles and responsibilities

iv.          Manage by stages

v.           Manage exceptionally

vi.           Focus on the product

vii.          Adapt the approach to the project environment

So if you base your approach on the above principles, you are managing your project as per Prince2, which can encapsulate the necessary project governance needed to steer the project to success. Prince2 can include Agile Project Management as long as it is adapted, which is the 7th of the above principles.

3.1.            Project initiation: All projects go through this stage. The person who had the brainchild brings together people to collaborate with, and the team thus created forms the project management board, which in turn draws the project brief that contains the objectives, the significance of the project to the business, and determines whether it is worthwhile and viable.

The initiation is the role of the project board and its roles are described. In Prince2 methodology. The board then oversees and controls the project; the latter includes making decisions as to achieve accountability targets, whereby the final decision is that of the project manager.

3.2.            Project planning: In Prince2, initiation leads to planning. The brief prepared previously is developed into a business case that covers all possible eventualities. Thus, identiying the project control measures and strategies, establishing quality related issues, and the entire project plan is specified.

To make it effective, a plan should bring together the product of all teams working under the board to achieve the objectives outlined by the plan. A time schedule and the resources available guide this stage of the project.

This step in a PRINCE2 project defines three important aspects:
the reporting and control arrangement ,
the time and costs budgets, and
the risks through review of the daily log and reviews.
This step falls under the Project Manager’s responsibility, and depending on the structure and the complexity of the project, the project manager hands it over to his supervisor for review who then submits it for the Project Board’s approvals

3.3.            Execution and control: Execution involves every team member regardless of function. In PRINCE2, it requires for various elements of the plan and the control systems to work hand in hand towards goal attainment. Some of the control measures define:

the framework and scope of adherence to the plan,

the time schedule for the activities, and

the effective and efficient use of resources.

It is now that the Board will monitor the issues, dependencies, and risk and effective management within the context of occurrence.

The execution and control processes run concurrently, and mean that four aspects become critical;

i.  Who is doing what and when.

ii. What could potentially affect work and a contingency plan to mitigate the risk, the effects, or to alleviate them.

iii. For effective execution of a PRINCE2 project, the project manager should establish deliverables from one team to another.

iv. For effective execution of a PRINCE2 project, communication is core. A communication plan is critical and should be followed effectively.

The successful delivery of the project on time and within the set costs is the objective of every project execution process. However, this might depend on the product description guidelines contained in the project plan in PRINCE2.

The execution and control process according to PRINCE2 is further divided into four different stages;

3.3.1. Directing a project: The project board activities in the execution and control phase of project management are to oversee the project as described. This role is played through decision making by the various board members for the objective of meeting accountability targets.

3.3.2.Controlling a stage: One of the principles of PRINCE2 project management approach is stage-by-stage model of the execution process. Based on this principle, it is essential for the effective controlling of a stage for the realization of the stage deliverable. The controlling process of stage is basically to determine how the fundamental work packages of the stage are authorized and completed (David & Roland, 2006). It is the responsibility of the project manager to control a stage and manage each sub-process and foresee its progress for the execution and delivery of the stage. In doing so, progress reports and exceptions should be submitted to the project board. The critical processes involved in controlling a stage include authorization of work packages, progress assessment, identification and analyzing of issues, and determination of stage status.

3.3.3.Management of product delivery: In complex projects, under the project manager are team leaders who directly foresee the execution of various work packages.  This process determines how the project manager links with the team leaders. It provides formal requirements for the execution, delivery, and acceptance of the tasks in the project. The objectives in this process are;

i.            Authorization and agreement mechanism for work before it is allocated

ii.            To create a common platform for team leaders, team members, and suppliers to ensure that each is aware of the  expected deliverables

iii.            Ensure products are delivered within specifications

iv.            To appraise progress to the project manager for effective management

3.3.4.Management of stage boundaries: This determines what should happen at the end of the stage. After stage controlling, management of boundaries specifies what happens next. In addition, this process allows for measurement of the project progress as outlined in the project plan. In case a stage has moved outside the tolerance levels, then this process provides an opportunity to determine what to do next.

3.4.            Closeout and evaluation: After the project objectives are achieved, PRINCE2 provides a formal process through which the project should be brought to a close. However, majority project overlook this vital process. The closeout and evaluation process requires reallocation of the personnel and other resources that were used in the project. Evaluation is all about reviewing the project and audit of every stage. The closeout process should also identify any next-in-line project that the business should consider.

Agile approach

Agile project management approach was established in 1995 through collaborative effort between APMG- International and the Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) Consortium. The approach was developed for handling agile projects mainly in the complex corporate niche. Agile approach is built on the principle of human interaction management and founded on a process of human collaboration. The approach is used in software, website, technology, and in the creative and marketing industry. In agile approach, the project is perceived as a series of relatively small activities conceived and undertaken to manage as per the situation in an adaptive manner, contrary to having a per-planned process.

Agile project management approach has three distinguishing features;

i.            It is consistent since it involves frequent testing of the project under development

ii.            It is the only approach that actively involves the client in the project management process

iii.            The only generally limiting aspect is that it requires the client to be available and have sufficient time to participate

Agile is guided by eight principles which are;

i.            Function on the business objectives

ii.            Timely delivery of the project deliverables

iii.            Collaborative approach

iv.            None quality compromising approach

v.            Continuous and clear communication

vi.            Iterative development

vii.            Founding be incremental

  1. Demonstrative control

4.1.            Initiation stage: The most widespread  agile methodology is scrum and it is presented in this case.

The initiation state of scrum involves two major activities;

– determining the roles for the personnel resources and

– determining the number of sprints required for the project.

The scrum team is made up of:

– the product owner,

– the scrum master, and

– the development team.

This team is self-organizing and cross-functional and more importantly, does not depend on other deliverables.

Thanks to the cross-functional nature of a scrum team, it is competent and must not rely on anyone beyond itself. Thus, they optimise flexibility, creativity and productivity.

The structural and functional model ensures that the deliverable is designed and built as per feedback. The size of the development team is also determined in this process. A scrum team should be the smallest possible to be able to carry out a significant work per sprint.

4.2.            Planning phase: Planning in scrum aims to minimise the number of unforeseen meetings. Events are time-boxed and delivery must be punctual. Scrum planning takes place at sprint planning by the whole team and aims to answer these questions;

i.            What is the increment deliverable to the realised from the upcoming sprint?

ii.            How will the work resulting to the increment be achieved?

4.2.1.In-sprint deliverable: This process involves forecasting functionalities within a sprint. It is guided by the owner through sprint-based decisions and leads to completion by means of a sprint goal. The input includes the backlog, the last tranche, the team’s capability in sprint, and past performance. After forecasting, it is time to set a sprint goal, which is to be achieved by overcoming the backlog and is used as a guide and answers the why as regards the increment.

4.2.2. Getting the work done: This is your ops team which gets the hands dirty and sees to it that the increment will be marked “done” in the end. First, a system is designed so as to evaluate the amount of work required to convert backlog into product. It is meant to be enough for the sprint at hand. The plan is decomposed into daily units and the development team self-organizes to undertake the plan. Adjustments can be made with the owner’s consent. To address specialised needs, an external expert is called upon to intervene.

4.3.            Execution and control: Execution in agile starts with a daily scrum. Here, set daily work units towards the realisation of the sprint goal are set. It is comprised of backlogs selected for that specific day. It’s a 15 minutes time-boxed event wherein the team synchronises activities to create a 24 hour plan.

Here, the team inspects what was done previously and forecasts the achievable for the next scrum. It is considered best practice to hold daily scums at the same venue as ensured by the scrum master, and carried out by the team members.

Possible items for daily scrum are:

  • What was done yesterday?
  • What is to be done today?
  • Any possible impediments

The objective is to help team members understand and establish their contribution towards achieving the goal. At the end of the day, the team meets to review  backlogs.

4.3.1.Sprint review: After a sprite, a review is held with the purpose of inspecting the increment and adapt the product backlog is need be. During this review meeting, team members and stakeholders collaborate on what was done in the sprint and any changes to the product backlog. In addition, the attendees collaborate on how to optimize the value of the product. The sprint review meeting is an informal meeting and the presentations are intended to provide feedback and boost collaboration between the various stakeholders. For the case of month-long sprint, there is a monthly 4-nour meeting held to review the sprint.

4.4.            Closeout and evaluation: Closeout in agile project management approach and scrum in particular may mean the end of a sprint or termination of the project. Given the project in scrum methodology is carried out in sprints, closeout is in commonly in the form of sprints. Scrum closeout is done in the form of sprint retrospective. Sprint retrospective is an opportunity for the scrum team to inspect its status and plan on how to improve for the next sprint. This process happens after sprint review and before the next sprint planning and its length is normally dependent on the length of the previous sprint.

If the product achieves the desired level of “done,” then the sprint review summarizes the project and lays down any improvement aspects for any future agile projects.

Conclusion

From the above comparison it is quite clear that PRINCE2 and Agile are both significantly different approaches in spite of having a similar approach towards goal achievement: initiation, planning, execution and control, and closeout and evaluation.

Yet, a closer look will reveal a fundamental difference in the methodologies; whereas PRINCE2 views the project goal as its yardstick of project completion and achievement, Agile divides and subdivides the project into bite sized piece-meals and consumes them on a daily basis.

PRINCE2 is a singular, progressive process with concurrently running execution and control aimed at achieving the set goals; Agile, on the other hand, executes in a time bound manner and whilst being sandwiched by two slices of control. We also realise that PRINCE2 centralises the control and requires the Project owner to maintain a tighter leash on the course of each of the steps, whereby the proverbial buck keeps coming back to the Project owner. Agile might seem similar, as it runs in shorter cycles, tends to give more liberty to the implementing team,so that if the expected goals are not met, the deviation from the intermediate goal will mostly be negligible and allow for corrective measures in the following sprint(s). This allows for specialist knowledge to be used whilst implementing measures, which is not always the case with PRINCE2. For an organisation to promote empowerment through a new project, I would have a tendency to turn towards Agile rather than PRINCE2 which is a much better approach where processes have been etched in stone and deviation from them is not only cumbersome by also time and effort intensive.

Salaries, perks and benefits.

In an article for itbusiness.ca, Empey (2015), points out how a company offers a benefit is “committed towards it’s employees’ “employee work-life balance”.  This company goes beyond offering this app as a perk to embellish it’s workforce’s life and attitude towards work rather than being bogged down by household chores on a daily basis; the company actually gets it’s employees’ engagement by placing it’s trust in their hands by making them shareholders. As such, if the company makes profit, everyone benefits from that work, and the consequential benefits reaped therefrom.

Garcia (2015) in her writeup for the Chicgo Tribune, on the other hand, points out political efforts to weaken the unions and potentially put a referendum to the people of Illinois along the following lines: “”should The paradox in this situatiobusiness employees be forced to join a union or pay dues as a condition of employment?”

n would turn into a conundrum if companies like the example stated in the previous section were to establish throughout the State and were sufficiently empowered to make the State richer. On the other hand, one cannot ignore the possibility of companies with short-term benefit in mind initially estabish office in the State to make a quick buck at the expense of the State and leave the people to pay off the losses incurred in the process. Why unions are required in the first place is another subsidiary question, without having to refer to the mastter as the proverbial can of worms, that we shall return to on another occasion. And yet, companies of the private sector, whose principal benefit it is to make profit, which acts as the oxygen that they require to run, are leaving the State of Ilinois so that they can reduce one of the overheads, namely salaries paid to the workforce. In these tough times of economic turmoil, which greed has brought about in most economies of the world, one feels that if these companies must survive, it is only by moving to safer waters, until the storm is through and the dust settles thereafter. This could potentially take a number of years: a fact, which no one even wants to start thinking about. What cannot be denied in any case, is that whilst empowering local authorites, the move by Governor Rauner of Illinois could lead to legal questions being raised as to the authority and jurisdiction of the laws that are already in place. That said, one must not forget that other States have found ways to institute this law without violating any other law, so Illinois, if it does go through with the passing and execution of this law, be it only in pockets, will be the twenty-sicth out of the fifty, according to Robert (2015).

Whilst Illinois is faced with it’s own issues, companies based in California seem to making newer and more innovative inroads into empowering their employees. In so doing, Harrell remodelling seems to have achieved it’s goal of achieving a 100% Employee Stock Ownership Plan, which was initiated at the beginning of this millenium.

On the 7th of May 2015, Paton of Business Day Live reported that the US Department of Trade and Industry had changed it’s scoring system whereby “broad-based empowerment and employee share ownership schemes will no longer count as much as individual share ownership on the black economic empowerment (BEE) scorecard.” According to the understanding of some legal experts and counsellors, this “turnaround”, to coin a term, will negatively affect many a scheme that organisations initiated following the release of the previous version of the scorecard. Others, however, opine that the newly introduced measure will not have any adverse effect on the companies because the scoring was already done as per the new measurements in the past.

Alexander(2015), in his writings on the www.hrmagazine.co.uk page, has shared a three-step approach to initiate what he terms as an “employee campaign”, and points out that the three pillars of his suggested approach: purpose, empowerment and meaningful reward can only hold together with the “cement” of communication.

Taking that view another step further, Leidwinger (2015) encourages companies to “promote strong securitx practices through employee empowerment”. This, says the author, can be achieved by “switching the focus from preventing security breaches to educating employees and empowering them” as part of her series entitled “Five Important Truths about Digital Workspaces in a Dangerous World”

Inasmuch as empowerment is concerned, it must be noted that such measures introduced with any amount of ulterior motives, which are not clearly communicated to the staff can backfire. And we all know what Murphy said in his law: “if anything can go wrong, it will.” But then again, I ask myself, if the result is wrong because the modus operandi was wrong, then, because negative times negative is positive, is the result right, or because two wrongs don’t make a right, the result is still wrong? Either way, it is fundamental, when communicating the objectives of an employee empowerment initiative within an organisation, no matter how big or small, it is right to be open to the point of transparency about everything. Another thing that is right is that if promises are made whilst bringing about change, and transparency is maintained during the change, then in respect of empowered employees, such promises must be kept.

Reference:

B. Alexander,(2015),”Employees: look after them, and they’ll look after everything else “,HR magazine, MA Business and Leisure Limited, Dinton, UK, available at  http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/hro/features/1151294/employees-look-after-them-and-theyll-look-after-everything-else accessed on 02.6.2015

M. Empey,(2015),”How Influitive uses IT resources to powerfully boost employee engagement”,itbusiness.ca, available at http://www.itbusiness.ca/blog/how-influitive-uses-it-resources-to-powerfully-boost-employee-engagement/55382 accessed on 25.5.2015

M.Garcia,(2015),”Gov. Rauner wants Illinois to have right-to-work zones, which unions decry“,Chivago Tribune, available at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-bruce-rauner-union-right-to-work-met-20150208-story.html#page=1, accessed on 26.05.2015.

S.Leidwinger,(2015),”Truth #5 Embracing Employee Empowerment Can Promote Strong Security Practices”,CIO Media, IDG Enterprise, Connecticut, USA, available at http://www.cio.com/article/2919022/security0/truth-5-embracing-employee-empowerment-can-promote-strong-security-practices.html accessed on 02.6.2015

C.Paton,(2015),”BEE Code change shocks Industry“,Business Day BDLive, Times Media (Pty) Ltd., Johannesburg, South Africa, available at http://www.bdlive.co.za/business/trade/2015/05/07/bee-code-change-shocks-industry accessed on 02.6.2015

A. Robert,(2015),”Policy experts line up in debate over right-to-work zones in Illinois“,Legal Newsline Legal Journal, available at http://www.commfidence.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=248&action=edit&message=10 accessed on 26.5.2015

 

 

Is change management more about change of management?

Employee empowerment starts with being an exemplary leader. An exemplary leader let’s go of the control that came with his/her position in the management: the power to decide; and relinquishing the power to decide into the very hands of one’s “subordinates” is called delegating, whereas no delegating in most cases, in our day and age, leads to change of management.

Smothering the decision-making power by closely guarding it, will reveal the insecurities of the manager, who has all to gain by becoming a good leader, but how many managers really do believe in that? How many potential leaders lose their potential by wanting to “do things right, rather than doing the right thing”, in the unforgettable words of Drucker (2001).

So we have seen that change management, employee empowerment, organisational communication, branding and reputation, leadership and much, much more are a lot more interdependent than it would seem on the surface. What’s more, one just has to add the electronic communication facet to it all, and today’s manager’s seat feels much more like a fighter pilot’s seat in the middle of war, in enemy territory than much else!

Childers (2015) cited the well known adage, “the more things change, the more they remain the same”, in her article before going on to concede to the simple fact that realising the truth of that statement is “not a happy thought for a board of directors or an association looking to change (…) management firm.”  The author then goes on to szggest three aspects of change management that are fundamental, she says, to the change being potentially, and decisively positive. The three points are:

– Begin at the beginning;

– Work the details;

– Red flags and Deal breakers. (Ibid)

That said, those are aspects that one must bear in mind whilst looking to change the management. But what should one do to avoid things from slipping down to such depths and from having to take such drastic actions at a substantial expense to all parties involved, without the guarantee that the devil you don’t yet know is better or worse than the one you are so eager to get rid of!

Take a look at this article about Namibian Railways and you will find that this novel idea of employee empowerment seems to start on the wrong foot. The unions seem to be protecting the employees’ (and their own interests) by ensuring that they remain employed by the organisation, whereas the employer is trying to turn them into independent/free lancing service providers who will not be on their payroll and allow them to invest the funds elsewhere.

Shirking responsibility or ensuring ones own subsistence is by far not the way to exemplify oneself as a leader. Without leadership, change management will also be faced with resistance and if views are diametrically opposed, negotiations become that much more difficult. Is a mediator required? The question is: are all concerned parties prepared to selflessly mediate in the best interest of the people they employ and represent? If the answer is yes, at the very risk of the management having to hand over the reins of power to their employees of today, or the representing unions being made extinct due to the adoption of their members of the entrepreneurial solution put forward by TransNamib, then the need for mediation will itself become extinct.

In this article, Dwyer (2015), submits six preconditions which will contribute to the success of a change (programme/ process).  He enumerates them as follows:

– The management and the workforce must accept that change is required and that it should be correctly managed, communicated and all the stakeholding parties must be involved by empathic persuasion rather than coercion.

– Being aware that the change they will undergo is going to affect them. The author points out “Never forget the greatest motivational tool is to be able to respond to the question, “What’s in it for ME?”  For most individuals, motivation is about achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, advancement and personal growth.” and encourages, “the change message address the motivational opportunities.”

– The change message must be announced from the very early stages of the decision being taken and then be repeated very often for all of it’s parts to sink-in.

– Honesty and project management techniques are two of the pillars that the success of any change depends on.

– The change leadership must not only have all the qualities to satisfy the above, but must also be motivated themselves to make sure that they carry out to the end what they set out to do initially and to make sure that all that was promised during the course of the change be duly given.

And when it comes to “Employee Empowerment Zones” as Rauner, the Governor of the American State of Illinois put it, he is not really far from what TransNamib was suggesting for their workforce.  No matter how one goes about it, where it goets suggested, and what name one gives it, the most fundamental objective of such proposals remains to “save money” – from going to the workforce, and redirecting it into the pockets of the handful of decision-making stakeholders.

In all cases of change, there is resistance. In some cases, say in a country like Luxembourg, it will be easier to implement at the national level by breaking it down into local subsections and making the change look like a privilege. I know what you are thinking: I remember my parents doing that with my siblings and me! If you are a parent, you know that you did have to resort to it at some point…with more or less success. In a city like London, or in Illinois or even in Namibia, it might seem a tad more difficult to say the least.

Here’s an example of resistance in change mamagement: Greenwich Time report that “even Town Hall cannot fight Town Hall” as it exposes the difficulties the paper-driven administration is having as it tries to carve a more technological, less paper-driven and decidedly what seems to be like a disgruntling process.

Now there were two approaches in implementing such change: you either force it down the throat of those who will have to undergo change and face the music when their time comes, or you take the project management approach and let the various processes take their course, whilst explaining why the change is good and answering the questions with patience and self-control. Thus, you also dilute the disgruntlement over a longer period by letting new habits replace old ones and dissolving the rumble caused by change resisters into the grind of “positive communication”. What is positive communication, you might ask? That will be answered a little further below.

Whilst industrial giants like Airbus and HP are busy putting themselves through a change at the management level, “Prowers Medical Center tackled a variety of items related to patient care and expansion” (Frost, 2015), it also underwent a huge change programme in 2014, but the CEO of the organisation put employee empowerment, being inspired from the book The Florence Prescription by Joe Tye as “the number one” achievement. The author of the book visited the hospital during the course of the change, and shared his knowledge as to the purpose of the hospital, each employee’s role and how they could take it’s ownership.

From this example to empowerment, it takes only a small jump, I thnk. With that in mind, Kurane (2015), suggests a mneumonic technique to remember the 5 ways he prescibes for empowering employees – or anyone for that matter. In my opinion, empowering is like peeling an orange: there is an ideal place, and it depends on what you want to achieve. For a bare minimum effort, or as a newbie, you will start anywhere and get the fruit out; the more experienced practitioner of the art will challenge himself – or herself, and share the collected/ analysed data. The author’s five-point empowerment mantra is, “Purpose, Ownership, Wins, Entrust and Recognition” (Ibid). Look at it carefully, and you will quickly find POWER in the formula.

Purpose: The purpose of change is usually clear to those who are in it’s favour, but it is invariably missed by those who resist it. Rather than confronting them with the reasons that brought about change, it is easier to get their buy-in by advocating it’s benefits. In doing most things, the involved parties can be persuaded and inspired to join if they know “what’s in it for them” rather than what they can bring to the effort. They know best what they can bring; they also know that unless they get something in ecvhange of their efforts, the extent of their participation will, at most,  be minimalistic. Buy in of all parties can be achieved by proper, positive communication. Positive communication, at any level, I have found, requires:

– active listening,

– positive language,

– concise language,

– specific message,

– empathetic attitude,

– taking of responsibility,, and

– being helpful.

In sum, change, when brought about, must be properly managed with communicational processes that do not reflect the same attitude that caused it to come about.  As governments have to govern well at the risk of seeing their adversaries being voted into power, managements have to manage well at the risk of being confronted with change. Communication is as important to avoid change as it is during or even after change take place; internal communication can be compared to the spine that holds the segments of an orange together, whereas the peel can be seen as the external communication of an organisation.

Reference:

Childers.A.,(2015),”Hiring New Management”, The Cooperator – The Co-op & Condo Monthly, Yale Robbins, Inc, New York, USA, available at http://cooperator.com/articles/2878/1/Hiring-New-Management/Page1.html accessed on 30.1.2015

Drucker.P.,(2001),”The Essential Drucker”,PerfectBound, Harper-Collims Publications, USA available at https://familiapinto.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/drucker-peter-f1-the-essential-drucker.pdf accessed on 30.1.2015

Dwyer,K,(2015),”6 steps to managing change in your business”,Mortgage Broker News.ca – Key Media Pty Ltd, available at http://www.mortgagebrokernews.ca/news/6-steps-to-managing-change-in-your-business-187576.aspx accessed on 30.1.2015

Frost,C.,(2015),”PMC moves forward”, Lamar Ledger, Colorado, USA available at http://www.lamarledger.com/ci_27277447/pmc-moves-forward accessed on 4.2.2015

Kurane, D.,(2015),”Five ways to empower your employees”,Standard Group, India available at http://zeenews.india.com/news/education/five-ways-to-empower-your-employees_1533859.html

 

 

Organisational Communication – past, current and future

The World Bank had a 5-year Program between 2006 and 2011 called the CommGAP (Communication for Governance and Accountability Program).  It was aimed at providing government officials the required assistance to enable them to build “public spheres” on the one hand, and to use communication in governance reform programs. Now, what are public spheres, you might ask, and rightly so!. Well, it is the application of communication approaches by amplifying citizen voice, promotion free, independent and plural media systems in a bid to help governments communicate better with their citizens.  Personally, I find that to be a rather tall order, especially when the communication has to be initiated by the authorities. We all know how much political leaders love to hear the sound of their own voice and it only takes enough patience – if you can muster it – to sit through one televised debate session between two or more politicians of different – not necessarily opposed parties – to understand that no matter how much money the UK’s Department for International Development was going to inject into this program, this initiative would not be able to cover more than a fraction of the world’s countries, all of which require such initiatives on an individual level and for those individual initiatives to be monitored, guided and assisted by this one.  In the 37 events which were organised through this program, seven events (19%) were held outside the United States, and 78% were held in Washington. With such close attention being paid to centralising the decision making process, there evidently is a disconnect between the preachings and the practices – even though the silver lining around that cloud could be the fact that the organisations involved were active in other countries – but were mainly headquartered in the USA or the western world – as if to say, “if you want our money to learn to communicate better amongst yourselves, then you either have to be connected with one of us, for reasons of credibility, or have to come and sell yourselves to us on our turf.” Put in simpler words and loosely translated from Luxembourgish: “What a farmer does not know, he shall not eat.” In the unforgettable sagacious words of Hope (n.d.) “A bank is a place that will lend you money if you prove that you don’t need it.” and Frost (n.d.) “A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain.” And this holds true for all financial institutions which fall under the definition of “a bank”.

CommGAP may well have been a commendable initiative which deserved it’s share of applaud for the noble objectives set forth when it all started, but banks being run by humans, they do reflect their mindset and their approach as well as their prerogatives and priorities. The usual excuse is, “we live in a capitalist society” or “in our day and age, there is no such thing as a “free” anything”. My question is: who is to be held responsible for that? There could only be one answer to that: the west – Europe and everywhere the European has gone: to the American continent, the African continent, the Australian continent. In other words, greed has been spread by the greedy, capitalist initiator and spread by the industrial revolution in the name of progress and civilisation.

Part of civilisation is communication: and progress in communication has taken us to the point of preferring to speak to each other face-to-face via devices such as smartphones, tablets and screens of some sort or the other. I do not advocate the abandoning of all progress, but knowing that you can make the best of the presence of the other in the present moment than to try to catch hold of them through trnasparent screen walls of your own making. What is more, these walls are getting thinner and their sound proofing exponentially better with every passing generation! So much so, that the resulting silence is increasingly deafening and people have to resort to “invade your privacy” in order to know more about you.

Mandeya (2015) advocates working “inside-out” in a bid to project a vibrant image of your brand as he submits that “t is the internal audience that gives that unique expression of who you are as an organisation” (Ibid). He even points out that “Communication is the lifeline of an organisation (…) poor communication affects an organisation’s operations and hinders it from achieving its goals.”

It is therefore increasingly important, in our day and age, when communication is the basis of a (physical or moral) person’s existence, and that it is increasingly difficult for smaller organisations and the vast majority amongst us to control, not only is it important to make conscious efforts aimed at projecting our brand in a positive light, but also to prevent giving lieu to any dependency whereby the above-mentioned brand may be in danger of being soiled with an indellible stain of disrepute.

Let’s all resolve to make a conscious effort towards ensuring and maintaining that our own brand and that of those who are closest to us remain as pure, immaculate and clean as the proverbial “driven snow”.  And unlike most other resolutions made in the beginning of previous years, do something tangible everyday to consciously see to it that our brand (name) avoids disrepute like a triple glazed window prevents us from being affected by the bitterness bite of a cold wind.

Reference:

R. Mandeya,(2015),”The Power of Branding the Human Capital”, Zimbabwe Independent, available at http://www.theindependent.co.zw/2015/01/09/power-branding-human-capital/ accessed on 15.1.2015

 

 

 

Regulating employee empowerment … really !?!

Of late, employee empowerment is being used more and more as some sort of a synonym of labour law. The Democrats in USA have introduced a bill to have labour rights constitutionally recognised. On a completely different front, someone once told me, “if you feel that you are losing an argument, start correcting the grammar of your adversary”. One author has added “explaining terminology” to that approach.  Whilst the authors of the articles New Bill Defines Labour Rights as Civil Rights, Congressman Wants to Make Unionisation a Civil Right does inform the reader by reporting political events taking place in a bid to “give labour law additional heft” (Ellison, 2014), the terminology seems to be taking a whole new meaning in it’s political context as compared to the more widely known, albeit rather hazy notions, no thanks to such fads as events of this ilk bring to the forth.

Eidlin (2014) on the other hand, has taken on a more measured approach in his bid to explain the pros and cons of the so-called “Employee Empowerment Bill”. He points out that “the problem is two-fold” in that “legal strategies (…) displace the conflict between workers and employers from an organising context where workers play a leading role and build their own power to a legal one where workers must rely on experts to fight for them.” and goes on to demonstrate “it’s inability to prevent employers’ from interfering with workers’ decision to unionise” but rather “reinforce the very dynamics that have allowed employers to turn labour law in their (own) favour”.

Employee empowerment, in my view, occurs within the organisation and is the result of the management and workforce communicating effectively and working together. This collaboration between the two traditional adversaries unquestionably favours a marked improvement in the efficiency and efficacy of the organisation’s operations, which in turn has a positive impact on the organisation’s ROI and profit.

That said, to improve communication, one has to audit it first to know what is good and should be kept and what is not, and should be improved. Such subtle changes can also bring about a marked improvement in the operations on the one hand, thereby (and almost automatically) weeding out the ineffective processes of the organisation. However, it must also be said that one of the prerequisites of employee empowerment is a mutual goodwill on behalf of both parties: the management and the workforce. The use of force or wielding power or holding the other in contempt is by far the worst manner in which to seek the organisation’s progress. Quite to the contrary, such short-sighted behaviour will very probably lead to it’s downfall by way of falling profits and the resulting “human resource streamlining” that is the management’s usual response.

When Risher (2014) wrote his article It’s Time to Focus on Empowerment and Recognition, he recognises that “engagement and satisfaction are not the same (…) Satisfied is not the same as satisfaction.” The author then explains that each researcher has a different take on what engagement is. Now engagement is directly proportional to empowerment, which entails employees knowing what’s expected, what they can expect, that they are working on something important and related to their employer’s mission, and that their work effort is valued.”

In one of the economic giants of the future and talent and population giants of today, India voted it’s most admired organisations based on “two criteria in particular: corporate governance and social impact.” (Ganesan, 2014)

In communicating with it’s workforce, the management can broadcast these and messages , and from time to time multicast or unicast them by recognising efforts of a site, a department, a team or even an individual.

My years of experience have taught me that communication requires from both all involved stakeholders to talk to each other rather than talking at or about each other. If all efforts have failed, then legal and legislative experts have also to realise that just like communication or financial experts can not come up with the best laws, legal experts cannot be at the source of the best adapted communicational or financial solutions. To get workforce and management communicating with each other; as in most other cases in society, regulating generally leads to people seeking (and often, finding) loopholes. It might do your statistical ego a world of good but may not reflect the whole picture. Employee empowerment, employee engagement, employee satisfaction and employee recognition should be left in the hands of individual organisations to overcome as best they come to terms with each other, whilst recognising that each one of the parties needs the other to exist. And to conclude let me quote the unforgettable words attributed to one of the forefathers of modern America, Abraham Lincoln: “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time”, which, in my view,  goes hand-in-hand with “We all make choices, but in the end, our choices make us.” (Ken Levine). 

Enough said!

Reference:

B. Eidlin (2014), “Latest Pro-Labour Reform Proposal Might Actually Undermine Labour”, Truthout, available at http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/25284-latest-pro-labor-reform-proposal-might-actually-undermine-labor, seen on 6.8.2014

K. Ellison (2014) in B. Vail (2014), “New Bill Defines Labour Rights as Civil rights, In These Times, Institute for Public Affairs, Chicago, USA

S. Ganesan (2014), “ITC, L&T, HUL: India’s most admired companies”,  PTI,  available at http://zeenews.india.com/business/news/companies/itc-landt-hul-indias-most-admired-companies_105568.html viewed on 22.8.2014

K. Levine (n.d.), available from http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/350677.Ken_Levine viewed on 24.8.2014

 

Of Mantras and Tactics within the organisation

Most people complain about the rather morose economic situation that we seem to be living in. It is apparent from what Frizell (2014) of Time Magazine has to say  that previous, mostly, micromanagerial practices have not been able to resolve these issues. Instead they have only contributed to the deepening of the rift between the “haves” and the “have nots”.

One might be tempted to argue that it has raised the levels of entrepreneurship in the world, but that is far from the truth when one realises that bankruptcies have risen almost proportionally with the creation of entrepreneurial organisations across the world. That, in turn, undoubtedly has it’s adverse effects on the individuals, society and economy alike.

Pat Owings (2014) in the article Empowering versus Victimising Your Employees underlines the necessity of getting to know your employees and giving them the opportunity to show that they are just as sincere as any other person.

The other day, I heard a speech given about the cultural differences between Parisians and Berliner based on their respective subterranean public transport systems. From the manner in which the speaker delivered his speech, he seemed to suggest that their behaviours were induced by the systems. The Parisian system funnelled their commuters into buying tickets and checked them almost every step of the way, making sure that they would find creative ways in which they would circumvent having to buy a valid ticket.

Berliners, on the other hand, allow  their commuters to freely access their preferred means of transport by empowering them and and carry out random checks.

The result: 10% of Parisian commuters find creative ways in which they freeload the RATP metro system whereas only 3% of the commuters don’t buy their BVG tickets metro.

So what do we learn from it? Simply that if employers allow their employees a little bit of leeway in terms of letting them initiate a thought process, it will end up serving the entire organisation’s cause  in the longer run.  What needs to be said here is that the initiative should not be given to them on one day and taken away the next. Just like the 10% of public transports commuters in Paris and the 3% in Berlin, there will always be those who will try to draw personal benefit from such initiatives and any others that the management will enforce. My question is: why does the management then concentrate on the minorities and ignore the majorities? Why ignore the bigger, better fruits rather than looking to save the peanuts?

Owing (2014) suggests:

– considering the team members’ and even co-workers’ personalities;

– being appreciative of our peers’ and subordinates’ work;

– having realistic expectations;

– encouraging independent decision-making;

– encouraging team work rather than mutual competition.

Shankar, Chief People Officer at Mindtree, in Goswami Bhattacharya’s article (2014) points out, “We want our employees to know that we trust them. We believe that our employees are sensible and responsible enough not to misuse the power given to them.”

The trust mentioned by Shankar can be implemented by means of the Owing’s suggestions above. This brings with itself the sense of responsibility amongst all co-workers, who regard each other with respect – not for their position, but for their collaborative action in ensuring that the organisation takes on an elevated path whereby it’s operational efficiency and efficacy both get a much required boost in today’s rather inactive economic mood that seems to have prevailed long enough.

It is high time profit making through employee empowerment came to the fore and replaced micromanagerial practices in the economic world of today. Especially with all the disasters that those practices of yesteryear have exposed us to.

Of employee empowerment and excellence in service to the customer

What is good customer service? How do you excel’ What do you do to excel? So why does anyone need empowered employees for that? Who will cover the expenses? Is there a way to evaluate those extra efforts objectively?

All of the above are obvious questions that a customer service enthusiast, advocate or guru will get asked at any event. Let’s dive head first into the subject matter and see what comes out of it. We’ll do that by taking each of the above questions, one at a time. If you have any further questions, do write them to me in the comments section below. On to the questions then:

What is good customer service ?

Customer service is a self explanatory term. It entails all the service that a customer receives. Given that a person becomes a customer when s/he agrees to engage in the purchase of good(s) or service(s) of a company. Once that contrat of purchase comes into legal existence by the signature of both parties being apposed on it, the company, in most countries around the globe, become liable to provide that customer with support to make sure that:

1. s/he is able to make the best use of the product they have just acquired;

2. s/he is satisfied with the product and knows enough to independently get the best out of the product for his/her benefit.

3. the service will be such that the customer will want to not only speak well about the product, and through it,  about the company.

Whether the support is provided by having a technician go on site, or by telephone, e-mail or chat is only secondary. What is required of the employee providing support is to constantly think that the person at the receiving end could be him/her, and then to provide the quality of service that s/he would expect to receive. If that quality of service coincides with or exceeds what the company claims to provide at the time of purchase, then that  employee fulfils his/her role as a good customer support provider.

How do you excel ?

As mentioned above, the most basic, first and foremost condition is for the customer support employee to take ownership of the case by putting him/herself in the shoes of the customer and aligning their behaviour with those expectations at least; by being courteous by assertive. A person providing support or customer service reflects what the company thinks of and therefore interacts with it’s customers. That person has to give the impression of knowing what s/he “is on about” even if half of it is only jargon at first, but then they also have to explain what that jargon means.

In short and in pictorial form, the fundamental qualities can be drawn from anywhere in literature which describes the basic needs of a human:

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

 

Figure 1. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.           Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs.png

When you satisfy the above needs, you are doing a good job of providing good service to the customers. On the other hand, one look at the above figure, and one tends to think that a customer support employee would only fulfil the needs in the top three segments if at all. But let’s broaden the scope of customer service providing employees and consider any employee in any field who does not sell the product but is in direct contact with the customer as a service providing employee and we start seeing things in a different light altogether: a nurse, a waiter, a receptionist, a technician, a mechanic, a delivery man, onboard personnel of various means of transport are but few examples of people whom we do not think of as customer support providers, but think again!  Their’s is also the degree of dedication that is required by an employee to serv(ic)e the customer requiring the service in question.

What do you do to excel?

What is required to excel in the customer support arena? Quick (re)actions, knowledge base, proactive approach when it comes to receiving the issues and making the service providing process as seamless as possible.

One does excel at providing customer service because one has thought out the process well in advance, and what that brings with itself is the ability to think up new possible situations which might crop up, and ways in which the company can then be prepared to handle that customer in providing him/her with the best possible service in a bid to win his/her loyalty to the brand, and therefore the company. Something that the company must not cringe to do at this time is to invest in the means: the investment in providing for yet unknown situations in customer service should be similar to the level of it’s investment in a contingency plan with the only exception that a contingency plan is meant to be flashed out only in dire situations and in circumstances which put the very life of the company in danger, whereas the customer service readiness plan is a proof of proactive thinking and readiness to acquire the loyalty of a customer to the brand in order to further the company’s life. A similar approach serving diametrically opposite ends of the survival spectrum!

But why not get loyalty to the company? Because the company has already a relation of loyalty towards it’s employees. What the customer wants is a name by which to identify the people working in and things provided by a given company, collectively. Since the company and the employees have a pact between themselves on the one hand, and the customer’s relation with the company is primarily thanks to it’s products, it is but natural that the company and it’s employees be identified by the name of the product(s), i.e. the brand. Thereby giving rise to, I am (un)happy with the Gillette®s, Blackberry®, or British Airways®.

So excelling at customer service providing entails acquiring the loyalty of the customer towards your brand by inventing new ways in which the company can satisfy him/her? Yes, but since the competitors will keep at your toes, the only way in which the customer service provider can stand a head above the rest of the crowd is by acquiring the kudos and by constantly innovating to come up with new ways in which they can differentiate themselves from the rest of the crowd.

But, you might well say, where are you differentiating yourself from the others who have told us this? True, I hadn’t thought of that… or had I?

Actually, I had. So how do I differentiate myself from others? I think I made it clear in the very first paragraph of this writing, and at the expense of quoting myself, “If you have any further questions, do write them to me in the comments section below.” Only I did not tell you what I would do with your questions, Well, I’ll research answers and get back to you, of course. Unless of course, you are able to research answers until you either resolve the issue or come to a wall where I will then research a way of helping you… and it will be free of cost for the first shot. Now is that satisfactory? And if you are satisfied, you can also put your comment below and say that you are happy with the service or information or help or support or guidance you got and if you paid money in the process, whether it was worth every juicy penny of it.

So why does anyone need empowered employees for that ?

Empowered employees are the ones who will really take ownership of each case as their own. Take away the empowerment from the employee and you take away the ownership of the work provided, which will adversely affect the quality of work that the employee shall provide.  What is important in this case is for the employer to lead by example and then expect what he wants rather than enforcing micro-measures for each step of each way so that the employee has only to “read the instructions and follow them to the letter”. Take away that sense of initiative from the employee and you might as well replace the employee with a robot, which will be more precise in it’s actions but will not judge the utility of an action.

To overcome that issue, the company has one of two choices: 

–  either have a robot or a computer which will function quasi humanely.

– empowered employees who will take the initiative and overcome all issues on the spot in a bid to satisfy every customer who calls in with an issue.

Going half way between the two possibilities given above will definitely not bring in the best of both worlds; chances are greater that the company will reap the worst of both worlds instead. The truth of the matter remains that when managers are not sincere in what they promise, whether the recipient of that word is a customer or a subordinate, the result is usually the same; the company loses credibility. It is the weakest link that will cause the chain to break, and if that link is an important one, then the disconnect will be felt even more violently and probably lead to unrepairable damage. Empowerment of a subordinate requires power to be relinquished by the one who holds it, and often wields it. It’s first and foremost component is faith, trust, belief, confidence. It is far from “laisser-faire” and has a lot to do with guidance. I know that I have always endeavoured to work in a manner such that my position becomes obsolete within the framework of the organisation that I serve. If I only made sure that the company never let’s go of me, then I am not working in their best interest but my own, and generally two interests in one mind do conflict sooner or later. Empowerment is rather like a firearm; it is not considered to be in the right hands until the recipient knows how, when, why and where to use it – else it is not empowerment, it is just power and that can have a very negative outcome. But once the empowerment initiative begins, the employees then have to manage the vessel on their own without any interference from anyone. If anyone does interfere at any time, the process starts from scratch and costs the company a lot more.

By empowering employees, the company gives them the means to take and use all means and measures required to resolve a case. If a customer service employee is empowered, s/he will make the experience a unique one for that person and increase the chance of that customer’s loyalty not only towards the product, the brand but also towards the company.

Who will cover the expenses ?

Initially, the company does bear the cost of investing in the initiative of bringing about the change within it’s structure and framework and as we know, any change or shift from status quo results in rising eyebrows and questioning looks, Skeptics of any change will not stop at anything to prove it all wrong. That brings with itself the prospect of added efforts being made and added resources being invested to acquire their buy-in.

But the costs generally are quickly recuperated as absenteeism generally diminishes amongst peers, which also renders the introduction of repressive measures to combat undue absenteeism by the management. The introduction of change within the organisation may well lead to a spike in the turnover rate but tends to quickly stabilise and remains constant and usually lower than previous records.  The safety level increases and the compensations decrease which also has an impact on the legal costs which can be quantified by the accounts department in due course.

As such, in the longer run, the cost factor of  the empowerment initiative shall generate it’s own means of functioning and might even be shared with those who have brought the added bonuses to the company: the employees; however, in most cases, that, in today’s world may well be considered utopian at least.

What would be appreciated is for recognition to be given where it is due and for

Is there a way to evaluate the results of such measures ?

But of course. Beside the financial benefits enumerated above, there are a few more aspects which have been covered, such as reduced turnover and therefore reduced induction training hours which can be converted into advanced training hours for the empowered employees. Higher income due to a higher rates of satisfied customers. Knowledge base created with the help of customer support employees and their interlocutors within the company and beyond.

Other advantages can be motivated and committed employees who work cohesively in a close knit, independent team of leaders who resolve issues in the best interest of the customer and the company, leaving their line managers to indulge in the company’s strategic development.

Reference:

C. Elliot, (2014), “The High Cost of Great Customer Service”, Newsfactor Business Report, USA Today, available at http://business.newsfactor.com/story.xhtml?story_id=10300BSB77G4 accessed on 20th March 2014

 

Of increased earnings and empowering employees

MacDonald and Macknight (2012:122), present that, “Workers co-operatives’ organisational structure can be argued not only to bring increased productivity, employee empowerment, trust and loyalty, but also to produce a more equal income distribution than the comparable investor-owned firms, and a less conflict-prone industrial relations environment.” They also conclude the chapter by stating that the above is based on measurements using a “CoopIndex tool which provides a transformative approach to co-operative performance. Linking organisational effectiveness to co-operative principles and values, it enables worker co-operative to balance their social and economic goals without compromising them in research, diagnosis and intervention.”

Pitting the above against the generally accepted corporate practices and the prevailing two-classed social set up with it’s investors on the one side and the proletariate on the other, one has come to observe that, the latter tends to present a better success rate in the bigger countries across the world. Most small countries somehow, generally get pushed in to giving in to the pressures exerted by their bigger neighbours in the name of “co-operation”.

One has to recognise that the aggressiveness of an ‘investor-owned firm’ (Ibid), is generally absent in co-operative workers’ environments. One then does tend to ask oneself the question: why is that so? Why is there less apparent aggressiveness in co-operative workers organisations than in conventional, commercial, investor-owned organisations? Is it just the marketing and communication techniques which project them as such? Is it possible that they might consider one as an individual initiative and want to make the best of what comes at them whilst realising that the more they invest of themselves the more profit they will make whereas, in the co-operative model, there is more self-satisfaction and some comfort in realising that the quantities add up to make a bulk and that the involved parties or stakeholders take comfort in the false feeling of abundance generated until the point when the cake (or profit) has to be shared, which then turns out to be only a fraction of what it really is?

We know that most people working in investor-owned organisations do tend to pursue the “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) mantra to the letter. How about the stakeholders of the co-operative model? Well, in most cases, according to studies carried out previously, the emphasis is equally laid on the WIIFM and WIIFT aspects of providing service.

O’Neill (2013) in Holmes (2013) points out that “investments in hardware as well as a nuanced internal training processes” leads to ” a better exploitation of sales opportunities” (Ibid). Holmes also cites an example of how  “sales teams can use Web Analytics to gather important information than can ultimately inform effective search engine marketing strategies that generate more inbound leads.” If the sales teams are trained in reading the data generated by various search engine optimsation (SEO) techniques. With that, the sales team are then considered to be empowered to take the data available to them and come up with strategies aimed at converting potential leads into effective clients.

Whilst applying the WIIFM and WIIFT filters to what Holmes has to say, if the sales and marketing teams work hand-in-hand, they will be able to get a better understanding of the consumer behaviour, which can be better achieved by means of the WIIFT approach. Whereas with the WIIFM approach, they might acquire knowledge on their own, but not sharing it will end up being tantamount to the organisation’s growth.

The above application can be adapted to all walks of an organisation’s life and will provide us with similar answers. It thus becomes important for all leaders to not only preach but practice WIIFT in their team, organisation and beyond to ensure that they achieve success.

Churchill (1947) “It is wonderful what great strides can be made when there is a resolute purpose behind them.”

References:

L. Conrad (2006),”If Earnings Slip in 2007, Training Budgets Will Take the Hit”,Mains Street Community Banking and Finance, available at http://ehis.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liv.ac.uk/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=4&sid=5350f9c7-fe62-4754-984e-53747844b5cd%40sessionmgr115&hid=105 accessed in May 2013

C. Holmes (2013), “Growth coaching must balance technology with employee empowerment” available at http://www.chetholmes.com/tips-and-advice/?p=29 accessed in January 2014.

D. McDonald and E. Macknight, (2012), “The Co-operative Model in Practice: International Perspectives”, CETS, Aberdeen, Scotland, available at http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=OKETjQp3SUAC&pg=PA122&dq=increased+earnings+and+employee+empowerment&hl=en&sa=X&ei=oU8oUYePF6HW0QXrsYD4Bg&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=increased%20earnings%20and%20employee%20empowerment&f=false accessed in February 2013

P. O’Neill (2013) “Understanding how customers buy will better inform your sales and marketing system” in C. Holmes (2013), “Growth coaching must balance technology with employee empowerment” available at http://www.chetholmes.com/tips-and-advice/?p=29 accessed in January 2014.

Considering Employee Empowerment and some practices

During the past week, whilst I was speaking to an acquaintance, we agreed that some middle-managers would rather protect their own position and take their subordinates’ ideas and the credit meant for them as their own while other middle managers prefer to turn their back on the ideas and live in a world of their own, detached from the reality of day-to-day operational life, as they emit more and more notes to regulate any “liberty” that the workers may be tempted to exploit as unscrupulous criminals do with loopholes.

Elbo (2011) said,”Even Steve Jobs, management maverick and incurable tyrant knew that the best and time-tested strategy is none other than regularly securing the best possible ideas from workers than follow the dictates of a corporate hierarchy.”

And yet, there are not many corporate giants of this world who believe more in the dictate than betting on the ideas that employees, with their grass-roots knowledge for their employer’s benefit.

Thamizhmanii and Hasan (2010:207) state,The decision taken by an  individual was a decision taken by the organization. This empowerment will bring happiness to the customers.” What the top management must bear in mind is that whilst they are busy signing the contracts with clients is that it is their employees who are in daily contact with them; as such, they are singularly dependant on them to provide the client base with the service that was promised. This implies that the employees have to be aware of the service that the contract has been signed for, and they should implicitly consider the necessary training to be provided within those costs.

Knowing from the very outset that no operation ever will be completely free of blemishes, for reasons which are beyond human control, it is for the middle management to be prepared for such situations and be ready to implement the processes aimed at preferably detecting mishaps and preventing them or if they do occur, to reducing their repercussions to a strict minimum.

The authors also mention,”An employee empowerment is necessary for the effective functioning of the

skill of [the] employee. Each employee in a team should be given a chance to act (…) to achieve their goal or targets.” (Thamizhmanii and Hasan, 2010:209)

As such we are faced with three levels of employees within an most organisations: the decision making top management, the policy implementing middle management and the executing force at the grass-roots. It is also known that a company will only succeed if the decisions taken by the top are clearly communicated to throughout the organisation as fast as possible. This implicitly considers that all information must be made available to all parties involved and susceptible of being involved in the execution of the deal must be informed and sufficiently train to face the reality of the field work.

If certain middle managers are unscrupulous and work with the singular aim of protecting their position, then lest they also have the support of someone in the top management, sooner or later, they will end up on the ejection seat.and the button be pushed. Why is this? Rather simple: if a middle manager is more interested in keeping his/her position rather than delegating responsibilities to subordinates for fear of empowering them and seeing them supersede him/her., then the department will eventually end up suffering due to too much responsibility ending up on the manager’s plate and insufficient information flow within the department. The situation can be compared to eating a huge chunk of badly cooked meat ending up on the manager’s plate with insufficient sauce to accompany it.

In a study carried out with regard to the effects of employee empowerment on job satisfaction amongst employees who are in contact with clients as compared to those who are not. One of the results of that study points out, “The results of the study support that the effect of empowerment on job satisfaction is stronger for customer-contact employee groups than for non-customer-contact employees.” (Lee et al, 2011:9) and as a result they follow the recommendation of Hansen, Sandvik and Selnes, 2003 as follows, “Consequently, service firms need to properly empower employees who actually deliver customer services and often represent their organization.”

The questions then arise are along the lines of the following:: “How does one empower employees?” Even though the answer to such queries have been discussed more often than most middle managers would want to or have the time to read, one tends to ask oneself: “Are these people so deeply engrossed in their quasi non-existent responsibilities or have they busied themselves with aiming for higher office so much that they have forgotten where the best interests of their organisation lie?

Spreitzer (2008:61) presents the results of her study as follows: “When people feel empowered at work, positive individual outcomes are likely to occur.”

In recent years, strikes have become legion in France and Belgium as growing dissatisfaction amongst the grass-root-level workforces has led to growing and widespread discontent elsewhere within and beyond the national borders on the one hand, but also a marked decrease in productivity than the economy can handle in an increasingly brittle economy and the growing conscience that the Euro is overvalued (as are the US Dollar and the Pound Sterling).

Bergmann et al (2000:21) in a seperate study of their own point out that “Satisfaction with advancement and growth, salary, and organisational policies” as well as “employee empowerment” are “positively related to organisational commitment.” The authors go on to confirm what has been put to question with regard to the lack of conscience on behalf of middle managers as they state, “The only human resource component that did not exhibit a significant relationship with commitment was supervisory satisfaction.” (Idem)

With all of the above studies spread over a decade, which point out in a single direction: employee empowerment promotes organisational commitment, improved productivity and professional association commitment to some extent.

Middle managers, in most cases, seem to be most interested in personal promotion and concentrate on positive financial performance so much so that they forget their leadership role with regard to the workforces’ organisational commitment, which actually  leads to better profitability over an appreciably  longer term than supervisors and middle managers can muster in their combined efforts to rise amongst managerial echelons.

Reference:

Bergmann.T.J., Lester.S.W., DeMeuse.K.P., Grahn.J.L., (2000), Integrating The Three Domains Of Employee Commitment: An Exploratory Study, The Journal of Applied Business Research, The Clute Institute, available at http://journals.cluteonline.com/index.php/JABR/article/view/2050/2239 accessed in November 2011

Elbo,R.A.,(2011), The Importance of Employee Empowerment, Business World Online, available at http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=23&title=The-importance-of-employee-empowerment&id=41430 accessed in November 2011

Lee.G., Kim.B.C., Perdue.R., Magnini.V., (2011), Time-Verying Effects of Empowerment on Job Satisfaction for Customer-Contact versus Non-Customer-Contact Employee Groups, Scholarworks at UMassAmherst, 16th Graduate Students Research Conference, available at http://scholarworks.umass.edu/gradconf_hospitality/2011/Presentation/55/ accessed in November 2011

Spreitzer.G.,(2008), Taking Stock: A Review of More than Twenty Years of Research on Empowerment at Work” in The SAGE Handbook of Organisational Behaviour:Volume 1, Ed. Barling.J, and Cooper,C.L., Sage Publications, London, available at  http://goo.gl/2I2sN accessed in November 2011

Thamizhmanii.S.,Hasanm.S.,(2010), A review on an employee empowerment in TQM practice, Journal of Achievements in Materials and Manufacturing Engineering, Vol. 39(2), pp 204-210, International OCSCO Word Press, available at http://www.journalamme.org/papers_vol39_2/3928.pdf accessed in November 2011

Adapting employee empowerment to evolving technologies and changing times.

Peacock (2011) has provided us with the following chart which presents us with a view that aims to provide  ”enterprise architects with a better understanding of how to manage their investments over time.” The author then goes on to state, “By recognising how best to integrate and manage empowered technologies, enterprise architects can take ownership of their innovation management process and can enjoy becoming empowered themselves.” .

Forrester_Empoweredtech.png

Oliverio, Pasewark and White (2007:26) state that “empowerment requires for the company to be understood (…) every aspect of the job will be of greater interest (…) better understanding the job will allow the privilege of the use of empowerment successfully.”

Before we go any further, it is worth noting that Potterfield (1999:6) examined several reasons why employee empowerment should be critically examined and enumerated the following:

“Empowerment is:

– a popular concept that influences powerful institutions (…)

– an enigmatic concept, related to a range of organisational development and business management theories (…)

– a controversial concept (…)

– an ideology.”

Whilst developing each of the above reasons, the author pointed out that we are all “affected by new management practices designed to bring changes in corporate behaviour”, (Potterfield,1999:8). As such , if management practices affect the stakeholders within and beyond an organisation, which in its own turn affects the corporate behaviour, and if these actions and reactions are oscillatory and cyclical without being predictable, we must regard all types of empowerment, including employee empowerment critically with regard to all aspects of evolution.

With regard to employee (or any empowerment for that matter) being enigmatic, the author states that it ” not only lacks a precise definition but also contains ideas and practices that are embedded within a wide range of related management approaches.” (Potterfield, 1999:10)

As for its being a controversial concept, the author postulates that if an organisation aims to simply provide its customers with “a high volume service or goods at a low cost”, (Potterfield, 1999:11), the only means of achieving this goal is to implement a traditional “production line approach” (Ibid) whereas if it aims to “provide highly personalised service”  then the best adapted approach would imply empowerment of front-line employees so as to make quick decisions adapted to the customer’s changing needs. (Ibid)

Finally, in terms of empowerment being an ideology, the author reasons that because employee empowerment literature is researched, analysed and written by experts in collaboration with, if not based on management measures, whilst presenting “a liberatory promise”  (Potterson, 1999:12) addressed to the workers may suggest a misleading if not a presumptuous character in some cases.

Now, lets take all that has been said above in due consideration and ask some specific questions pertaining to the various empowerment-related statements and assertions with regard to technology, which seems to be advancing at a rate that no organisation can possibly keep up with and the reasons why that is the case.

Lets take the case of small- and medium-sized enterprises first. Whilst most of those that remain are either family-owned and family-run enterprises, communication within the workforce and the management mainly remains informal and principally verbal. It might well involve the purchase and use of a more or less sophisticated smartphone or a tablet in some cases, a laptop or a desktop suffices in most cases with less technologically advanced means being preferred by the older and less technology-savvy or technology sceptical generations of the enterprise.

Taking the reflection a step higher, to a start-up in its initial or more developed phases, the enterpreneur’s final aim being to sell the enterprise once it achieves its ‘cruising speed’, all technological investment is justified for the enterprise to reach its apogee within as short a lapse of time as possible. This requires for the personnel and the management to work hand-in-hand, but also for everyone to be aware of the latest developments. This, in most cases, dictates for the hierarchical structure to be as horizontal as possible and for the employees to be empowered in terms of decision-making to best satisfy the customers’ needs, desires, whims and fancies as long as the enterprise is able to recuperate its investment along with a premium.

When such start-ups or smaller entrepreneurial units are absorbed by bigger organisations, they undergo profound changes in their operational and management structures because the aims then change from a flat hierarchical structure to a more vertically pronounced hierarchical structure on the one hand, and the productivity approach changes from placing the onus on the client’s satisfaction to more productivity-based effective and cost-efficient operational methods. This more or less automatically filters out the “out-of-the box leaders” of the start-up and leaves space for more classically minded management-oriented to take over.

Finally, lets look at the bigger organisations – be they national or multinational – which take over the smaller ones we mentioned above. They could broadly be categorised in two columns:

– those who depend on their stockholders, financiers, investors and balance sheets to evaluate their ongoing strategies;

– those who have a more democratic way of deciding their policies by involving their stakeholders including the ones enumerated above.

When it comes to technology and its advances on the one hand, as well as the national and multinational organisations’ approach towards them, something that cannot be ignored is the fact that all organisations have to progress with their environment. Barker and Angelopulo (2006:122) were referred to in a previous post (Organisational Communication / Corporate Communication – The five questions, when? why? what? where? how? – 9.10.2011) with the following terms: “Without exception, changes in the external environment(s) necessarily require changes in the internal environment(s) of an organisation, thus having a direct bearing (positive or negative) on the communication networks with employees.” So we realise that the approaches in response to the changes in environment due to the technological advances of both types of organisations would be different.

The more conservative organisation which bases its policies on financial results will guard their finances and only invest in technological advances for the benefit of the employees when they have no choice left. Till such time, technology shall be employed, as all other resources are, to the singular aim of making more money. The more democratic of the organisations, on the other hand, I think, would tend to invest in the technology, principally with the aim of empowering their employees and promoting employee motivation.

We know from reading specialists in either or both fields or through experience of our own that change management and technological advances have requirements of their own. This makes it somewhat difficult for any of both types of organisations mentioned above to find too varied approaches whilst merely (trying to) react and adapt themselves to the changing times that environ them. Given that technology has been advancing in leaps and bounds in recent times, and that no one organisation is able to either keep up with or control the velocity of technological progress, we still have to find ways in which we can protect the organisations from being damaged by either excessive behaviour because, as Hippocrates is said to have said, “Everything in excess is opposed to nature.”

One might then argue that the excessive velocity at which technology advances today is also contrary to nature. I would only like to state that this is just why organisations should ideally keep up with the technological progress on the one hand without having to compete with it or having to resist adapting to the changes that occur in their internal and/or external environment(s)

Reference:

Barker,R and Angelopulo,G.,(2006),Integrated Organisational Communication, Jutta & Co., Cape Town, RSA, available at http://goo.gl/0z11n accessed September 2011

Oliverio, M.E., Pasewark, W.R., White, B.R., (2007), The Office Procedures and Technology, (2007), 5th ed., South Western Cengage Learning, available at http://goo.gl/A1GjX accessed in October 2011

M. Peacock (2011), Top Sixteen Technologies for Empowered Employees, CMS Wire, available at http://www.cmswire.com/cms/enterprise-20/top-16-technologies-for-empowered-employees-013176.php accessed in October 2011

Potterfield, T.A., (1999), The Business of Employee Empowerment: Democracy and Ideology in the Workplace, Quorum Books, Greenwood Publishing Group Inc, available at http://goo.gl/rdhT9  accessed in October 2011

Organisational Communication / Corporate Communication – The Five Questions: when? why? what? where? how?

Corporate communication and organisational communication are sometimes interchangeably used, as is the case with van Riel and Fornbrun (2007:14) who stated, “we propose the concept of corporate communication as an integrative communication structure linking stakeholders to the organisation” but also state van Riel and Fornbrun (2007:13), “Not all of the communications in an organisation are work-related, nor are they necessarily relevant to fulfilling organisational objectives.”

Are Corporate Communication and Business Philosophy really only oxymorons? Goodman (1994:4) points out, “organisations of all sorts and sizes which are committed to communicating with their employees have a communicational philosophy.”

Hargie and Tourish (2009:25) also ask a fundamental question in business ethics (another oxymoron?), “what can be gained from a proactive focus on communication, both internally and externally (…) when staff are treated as dispensable liability, customers as little more than a damned nuisance and suppliers as potential industrial spies?”

As with most things in life, when a change has to be brought about within an organisation, one has to be prepared to be confronted with opposition to such change. Lets not forget the adage,”better the devil you know than the one you don’t.”

However, it is also a known fact that if an organisation continues to progress with the above cited facts and sayings, then it is, sooner or later, going to run into troublesome times which are going to be directly

proportional to the size of the company and the amount of time that such beliefs are put to practice.

Barker and Angelopulo (2006:122) point out, “Without exception, changes in the external environment(s) necessarily require changes in the internal environment(s) of an organisation, thus having a direct bearing (positive or negative) on the communication networks with employees.”

So we can safely deduce that as we evolve in time, the outside environment of an organisation evolves too, and the inside of the organisation has to evolve too. The best way for an organisation to keep evolving with the times and to make sure that there won’t be any “black sheep” or “spin off” organisations, the communication has to be up to date and in tune with the times.

Another aspect that affects the communication and can be tantamount to the organisation’s progress is the multicultural aspect of it’s human resources. As more and more multinational companies take over or run out local businesses, locals are in a constant tussle with executives out to preach the multinational’s gospel which originate from the headquarters.

We have also to consider, as Blundel and Ipolito (2008:43) point out, “the danger of relying on shorthand, stereotypical accounts of cultures that ignore local and individual-level factors and the reality that cultures are  dynamic and constantly changing.”

As a result, we now not only have times to evolve with but dynamic cultures to adapt to. This means that communication has to have a common denominator – the message – as the words are adapted to the environment’s times and culture.

“Designing the workplaces have placed more emphasis on the technical systems, the tools, techniques, procedures and devices used by the workforce and have tended to overlook opportunities to redesign technologies to meet the needs of people” argue (Pasmore, Francis, Haldemann and Shani, 1982; Goodman, 1994:45).

In conclusion, we can say that:

– corporate communication and organisational communication as a whole should be proactive, that it has to evolve with the times, the environment and the oirganisation’s dynamic culture as its demographics and human resources evolve, and in continuing with this last point, that technologies should be adapted to the people who use them rather than trying to adapt people and their tools to the organisation’s evolving processes.

Reference

Barker,R and Angelopulo,G.,(2006), Integrated Organisational Communication, Juta & Co, Cape Town, RSA, available at http://goo.gl/0z11n accessed September 2011

Blundel,R and Ipolito,K.,(2008),Effective Organisational Communication:Perspectives, Principles, Practices, 3rd ed, Pearson Education, Harlow, UK, available at http://goo.gl/vKABv accessed September 2011

Goodman, M.B.,(1994), Corporate communication: theory and practice, State University New York Press, available at http://goo.gl/hEs8N accessed October 2011

Hargie,O and Tourish,D,(2009),Auditing Organisational Communication: A Handbook of Research,Theory and Practice, Routledge, Hove, UK available at http://goo.gl/SP9Va accessed October 2011

van Riel, C.B.M., and Fornbrun, C.J.,(2007), Essentials of Corporate Communication: implementing practices for effective reputation management, Business and Economics, Routledge, Hove, UK, available at http://goo.gl/ybf4z accessed September 2011

Employee Empowerment – What does it cause? How does it work?

Employee empowerment has been the main subject of the past two posts on this blog and we will not stop at that – although the next one might well be directed at organisational (and/or) corporate communication.

Lets consider the subject at hand: how employee empowerment works, and what does it cause to happen?

For one, in most cases, if the organisation which considers employee empowerment as a measure to progress, it is bound to bring about change and has to manage it..

Thakkar (2011), states that “successful balancing [in an organisation] requires employee trust [and] employee empowerment. The author goes on to define employee empowerment as “giving the employee a reason to be proud of be doing what s/he does” and goes on to point out that “loading employees with responsibility without empowering them is like making them fly without providing them with oxygen”.

If these practices have been known to exist in an organisation, then employee empowerment is going to lead toa radical change, which will originate amongst the employees and needs to be managed as all resources do. If the HR managers of your organisation are confronted with the above-mentioned mistrust or distrust, then they have to undergo training themselves in order to learn  how to manage such a change prior to making it occur on the one hand, and to adapt the processes to the organisation’s needs rather than vice versa as mentioned in a previous contribution.

Communication plays an important part in handling the change. “Ultimately the success of any change effort depends on how effectively the strategy for and the substance of the change is communicated to those who are the targets of change.” (Witherspoon and Wohlert, 1996 in Frahm and Brown (2003:3)

The authors go on to quote other specialists in the field as they state, “within the implementation phases, communication is often a top down sales pitch” (Okumus and Hemington, 1998) which is “argued to lead to cynicism about change” (Reichers, Wanous & Austin, 1997; Wanous, Reichers and Austin, 2000 in Ibid)

Such cynicism has to be overcome in the organisation so as to allow the management with an opportunity to lead by example as they bring about a coherence between that which is ‘broadcast’ to the outside world, that  what is ‘preached’ within the organisation and that what is practised by the ‘preachers’. (Thakkar, 2011). Incoherence is known to be rampant in organisations “where there is a lack of communication between the departments governing the organisation’s internal and external communication policies.” (Motiani, 2010).

Nayab (2011 a) points out that in order “for employees to be given the responsibility, the organisation’s culture  :shares information openly, encourages open communication with regular [constructive] feedback, facilitates leadership by guiding the empowered employee, involve the employees in strategic planning exercises so that  they are aware of the organisation’s vision and objectives, and apply that knowledge to strategic work.”

The other question asked above is, How does employee empowerment work?

Nayah (2011 b) points out that “organisations that engage in providing empowered employees with the means to carry out their work, will gai, thanks to: better employee performance, novel and better adapted ways to overcome operational issues, exploit opportunities and improve products and services.”

As we have seen, employee empowerment requires engagement on behalf of the organisation which wishes to reap its benefits. As in any case, employees only given responsibilities without the necessary resources to carry them out will only end up frustrated and that can only take all persons involved in a downward spiral.

As I  close this section on employee empowerment, I’m reminded of Archimedes Principle which states “an object, immersed in a fluid shall be buoyed by a force equal to that of the fluid displaced by the immersed object.” Similarly, an employee who is empowered and when the organisation is sufficiently flexible to let him act, will reap from the benefit of his work (which can be compared to the buoyancy).

Reference:

Frahm, J. and Brown, K.,(2003), Organisational Change Communication: Lessons from the Public Relations Communication Strategies, ANZCA03 Conference, Brisbane, available at http://www.anzca.net/conferences/anzca03proceedings.html

Motiani, K (2010), A Study of the Correlation between improved Intra- and Inter-Organisational Communication and Operational Efficiency and Efficacy in Luxembourg’s Non-Profit Organisations, University of Liverpool

Nayah, N., (2011 a), Overworked Employees Are not Empowered. Learn Why Here, Bright Hub: Business-Team Building and Empowerment available at http://www.brighthub.com/office/human-resources/articles/123587.aspx

Nayah, N., (2011 b), How Employee Empowerment has pushed Companies Ahead, Bright Hub: Business-Team Building and Empowerment, available at http://www.brighthub.com/office/human-resources/articles/123676.aspx

Thakkar, H., (2011), How to manage change from Employees?, Learning and Development, HR Planning, available at http://www.hrgyaan.com/how-to-manage-change-from-employees/

Resources, what why, which one, and how?

Kumar and Goyal (2011) have stated that “Over the last two decades, the ERP market has grown from strength to strength , and the ERP system has almost become an integral part of any part of any enterprise worth its salt.” The authors then go on to report that “the ERP market is currently about $ 40 billion in total revenue, consistently ranks among the top IT spending priorities for enterprises, and is expected to grow to more than $ 50 billion by 2013.” (Ibid)

With such figures flying around, I, for one, am obviously going to ask some basic questions and share the outcome of my thought-process and research with you in the course of what follows:

– who is spending the money?

– whom is the money being spent on?`

– to what end is the money being spent?

– what exactly is “ERP” (Enterprise Resource Planning) and did it exist previously – in other words, have we not yet realised that this wheel had already been invented and was in use prior to being baptised ERP by some marketing and/or management gurus and/or priests?

– that the ROI is worth the effort seems obvious – I do not see any enterprise “worth its salt” (Ibid) to pick it up from the authors cited above – but then the question is, why has it gained importance today of all other days?

The same authors also quote the Project Management Institute in saying that “70 per cent of all ERP deployment projects fail, are late or go over budget.”

Now, wouldn’t facts such as these not send you raving mad and running amok? I was on the verge of the latter when I was distracted by a more pleasant sight that led me to a rare and brief moment of lucidity in which I asked myself the following question and its subsidiaries as follows::

– why did the ERP deployment fail though?

– is it because the leadership is not qualified enough?

– is it because the ERP deployment was not adapted to the enterprise’s needs?

– is it because, imposed on the resources, they did not understand how, why, when to best use them?

On the other hand, if the enterprises have spent $ 40 billion and are going to increment that spending by a further $ 10 billion, with $ 28 billion being lost thus far, the enterprises are planning a further loss of $ 35 billion by 2013. These facts sent me of my rocker all over again!!!

Another day, another line of thought: if processes as simple as “IDEA Board (Improvement Driven by Employee Action)” (Johnson, 2011) were to be deployed, and the billions of dollars spent on employee empowerment with initiatives of this type, then, not only would the improvements in those organisations’ operational processes be best adapted to themselves, but it would also mean that incoming managers would have to adapt their methods to suit the existing operations rather than twisting the organisation’s operations to suit their needs.

The above reflection would lead anyone worth his/her managerial salt to ask a him/herself a fundamental question: when an organisation employs a manager, is it to manage the resources as it best suits that specific organisation or is the employment based on adapting the organisation to the manager’s modus operandi?

Alleyne (2011) quoted Murray (2011) who shared that, “unless you train your managers and executives, [they] are not going to be able to speak the same language… [or] be able to lead by example… [even] sustain the program.” The author also quoted Beckles (2011) who referred to “the success of the Survey/Feedback/Action program within his company” (Ibid). Through my own experience, I have been able to learn that both of the above are based on efficient measures of communication within the organisation.

Robertson (2011), argues that “When done wrong, it [employee empowerment] can be devastating for both, the business and the workforce.”  In keeping with this train of thought, any financier worth his/her salt will definitely be very hesitant to relinquish any part of his/her control that s/he enjoys. That is the case of most corporate executives who have a lot to lose and not enough in terms of guarantee – as any banker would (re-)act.

As such, we stand confronted with the best interests of the business and it’s operation whilst safeguarding it’s resources versus the stockholders’ interests and the guarantee that they require to get competitive returns on their investment in the organisation.

Barnes (2011), points out “it is (…) fitting to give back to them [employees] what they rightfully deserve, especially those who have become the most loyal to the company.”

Polonsky (2005, 1063-4) defined stakeholders as  individuals or groups thereof who present “three features, namely:

(1) interdependency;

(2) affecting/being affected by the organisation;

(3) the sense of an interest or right in an organisation.”

Therefore, if we group stockholders and employees as stakeholders (as marketers like to label them), then we can deduce that it is in the best interest of the organisation to protect the interests of its investors as well as those of its employees.

While paying dividends to investors is one way of protecting their interests, rightly implemented employee empowerment measures are paramount to protecting the employees’ best interests. Both can be achieved by  means of better communication which will raise the organisation’s credibility amongst its investors and improve its operations carried out by its employees.

These are just two aspects in which better communication can help in improving an organisation’s reputation amongst a more or less random cross-section of its stakeholders..

Reference:

Alleyne, R., (2011), Top Employers share Pearls of Knowledge, The Barbados Advocate, available at http://www.barbadosadvocate.com/newsitem.asp?more=business&NewsID=19543

Barnes, W., (2011), “Encourage Employee Empowerment Through Corporate Gifts”, Management, available at http://articlesbeacon.com/business/management/encourage-employee-empowerment-through-corporate-gifts

Johnson, M., (2011), Lean Leadership and Employee Empowerment, Michigan Tech – Continuous Improvement Blog, available at http://blogs.mtu.edu/improvement/2011/08/08/78/

Kumar, K., and Goyal, A., (2011), Best Practices for Successful ERP System Deployments, Supply Demand Chain Exevutive, available at http://www.sdcexec.com/article/10282391/best-practices-for-successful-erp-system-deployments

Polonsky, M. J.,(2005), Stakeholder thinking in marketing, Business & Economics, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 39, Number 9/10, Emerald Group Publishing, available at http://goo.gl/pXjnw

Robertson, T., (2011), Negative Effects of Employee Empowerment, Chron: Small Business, Demand Media, available at http://smallbusiness.chron.com/negative-effects-employee-empowerment-18691.html

Questions about job satisfaction, employee empowerment and communication

Mani (2010, 136) writes that “People are the most important asset of any organisation.” The author then goes on to state that “It is found that factors like stress, job climate, training, supervisor-relationship, employee benefits, job, compensation, employee empowerment, communication and company are the major contributors of employee satisfaction.” (2010, 137) What one usually wonders about when one is at the bottom of the chain in some organisations, especially international ones, is that where do these studies really get carried out? And who participates in them?

I am not questioning the truth in these studies, but just want to underline the fact that there are many more organisations in this world which not only believe in nothing more than financial gain and incrementing dividends for shareholders than the benefit of one and all stakeholders involved in the organisation’s operations.

One cannot deny the fact that politics plays an important role in all multinational organisations in view of the impact they have on a given economy’s unemployment rate, foreign trade balance, currency, stock exchange, and the number of millionaires that it counts over a financial exercise. Now whether politics plays a role in the organisation or is it the other way round hardly makes a difference to the wage-earner of an organisation because one way or the other s/he will invariably  end up paying more taxes over the next financial exercise – lest s/he gets married, procreates and/or pays through his/her nose to charity or stashes money away into a hidden, numbered account in one of the numerous fiscal havens of the world.

Marrelli (2010,9) writes, “A strong sense of the value of one’s daily work facilitates engagements and creates a foundation of high performance.” But how is it inculcated, if not indoctrinated into the employees? In my opinion, it is the reputation of the organisation on the one hand, but also the image of the work that the employees do, which guarantees such feelings. The fact of the mater is that in today’s overly media dependent world, most jobs are linked to an image which leads them to prejudged in the public eye.

According to the author (2010,19), “Non-supervisory employees’ perception of managers and executives are much less positive. They do not believe that their senior leaders are communicating openly and sincerely with them.”

So, if an organisation’s most important resource are the humans who work there, then why the discrepancies so often observed in so many of them? Why do shareholders still have the upper hand even if all management specialists have said and learned and preached that considering stakeholders in a holistic approach as more important than the only group of investors who expect ever-increasing dividends at the end of every financial exercise? Considering that the human resource of an organisation is included amongst the stakeholders, why do they have to continue to “fight for their rights” rather than just be given them – as naturally as investors get their dividends? These and so many more questions need to be answered in today’s society. Satisfactory answers to be found which will be applicable to all organisations of all shapes and sizes, in all fields of business, anywhere in the world.

Reference:

Mani, V., (2010), “Development of Employee Satisfaction Index Scorecard”,European Journal of Social Sciences, Volume 15, Number 1, pp 129 – 139 available at http://www.eurojournals.com/ejss_15_1_12.pdf

Marelli, A., (2010),”Managing for Engagement – Communication, Connection, and Courage”, Diane Publishing, available athttp://books.google.co.uk/books?id=RgPtJXTBQzkC&dq=marrelli+2010+employee+empowerment&lr=&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Inter- and Intra-organisational Communication

Communicate well to serve better: Most issues within and between organisations and/or persons arise due to lack of a suited / suitable communication-strategy/ies within and emanating from them.

Doing the right thing is good, but it is equally (if not more) important for the personnel to know how to go about it, and for the consumer of your goods and services to know how best to benefit from them.

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