Friday, February 03, 2006

Empowerment and other fallacies

One of the things that companies - and bosses - say often is that they 'empower' their employees. It sounds fine in theory.

The problem is that the extent of empowerment depends on individual bosses. And even then, you never know to what extent you are really empowered - you might go off and do something thinking you've been empowered, only to find yourself in deep trouble. Hence, you don't often know where you really stand - do you actually take intiatives, or make the right noises but do nothing? In some ways, you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

In some ways, it's better to have an explicit dictatorial culture. You do what the boss says. That way, there's no scope for misinterpretation. But unfortunately, what we have is a half-way house - not explicitly dictatorial, yet not explicitly free.

I'm sure NASA employees have been told that they're empowered. But as we've seen, that's really not the case.

The only way out: change the system, so empowerment becomes inevitable - it's not in the hands of the boss.

(Please email me your comments at