It's not just semantics LO6331

Michael McMaster (
Sun, 31 Mar 1996 07:37:23 +0000

Replying to LO6290 --

Tim, thanks for the honest response and the courage to post when your
organisation is on the list.

I was recently working with a UK training and education company and
the issue of empowerment of teams was the main topic. They gave case
after case of managers who really intended that teams be empowered -
and then intervened when the teams made decisions that the managers
wouldn't have considered frivolous or wrong.

Their problem was the same as the managers'. How to give people
freedom and yet depend on their answers. The first is that you must
let people do what they see to do - particularly at the beginning -
if this is going to work. This is as much a matter of communication
as anything else. The message will be tested by reality.

My suggestion to them was that the managers first needed some
education, some development and, most important, some real thinking
time before they could expect empowerment to be real. That is, not
only do they need to change their practices (and probably their
previous "winning formulae") they also need to think through what
they are intending and what it will take.

What is intended is usually some increased freedom and
responsibility. What is seldom intended is absolute freedom. Given
that both managers and employees or teams are learning, tis is not
unreasable. This is where the thinking comes in. What is the nature
of that freedom and what are its conditions. The problem here is
that most managers look for old-style rigid controls and rules and
therefore it looks the same to everybody in operation.

What I suggest is that managers need to discover the principles by
which they operate and which they consider important (and sufficient)
and then share those with the teams to be empowered. This takes some
real work. It also then releases the team to be intelligent in the
context of the existing systems and of the manager.

Instead of intervening in decisions, the manager can conduct
conversations with the team - in which they will all learn - about
how the actions proposed or taken are consistent with the principles.
If the work has been done well, nothing else will be needed.

Michael McMaster :
book cafe site :
Intelligence is the underlying organisational principle
of the universe. Heraclitus


Michael McMaster <>

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