Will Sr. Managers Change? LO7663

Michael Erickson (sysengr@atc.boeing.com)
Wed, 29 May 1996 07:27:43 -0700 (PDT)

Replying to LO7575 --

Hello Rol

I've appreciated your comments. I was happy to read one of your posts
that described the "Taking of empowerment" and heartily agree with that
position. I'm one of the "takers" and it has for the most part been a
fairly well taken by those I work with. I haven't been obnoxious about
it, I just "go and do" and it works.

Here's a few observations of my own relating to one of your other posts...

On 23 May 1996, Rol Fessenden wrote:
> For 90% of what passes for empowerment, you are absolutely correct. who
> needs it? why should I empower anyone -- assuming it was even within my
> power to do so -- unless I get something in return? The operative phrase
> is the last one -- get something in return. I have to get better, more
> effective performance -- better results -- or there is no value. The
> performance may come in many ways, but it has to be there.

I've employed the idea of "giving my job away" with good results. It
goes counter to the olde trade union idea that "if I show someone else
my job, they will take it away from me."

Practical experience (first beginning as an instructor in a summer camp
where I had no paid job to risk) has shown me the opposite is true.
The more I taught people what I know, the better I got at doing what I
know, and so the further ahead of my students I became. Furthermore,
This tactic created a greater market for the type of work I was doing,
and since I was the teacher, I became sort of a default Guru (whether
I wanted to be or not).

I found that by empowering fellow workers with my own skills, that they
were happy to take over the more rudimentary pieces of it, leaving me to
work the more complex (and for me the more challenging and enjoyable)
pieces of it.

So I found that there is quite a lot "in it for me" when I empower
others, and even thought I'm not a manager who is giving away
authority (and hence responsibility) I am giving away power in the
form of skills and knowledge, that lead others into responsibility.

> The vast majority of people who want 'empowerment' actually want freedom
> from responsibility. The reality is that empowerment carries
> responsibility with it. People blame senior management for the state of
> the corporation. However, once senior management empowers others, then
> those others now own the responsibility to perform, and in reality, to
> perform at a higher level than was being accomplished under the old
> paradigm. This is uncomfortable for many people.

I'm not sure I agree with you. I want empowerment because I'm tired
(and so are my work mates) of doing the same task wrong 47 times.

I find myself being rushed "by command" to slap together something that I
end up having to, slap together again two or three days (or weeks) later,
and correct the errors from the first slap together, and this goes on
and on until I've spent ten time the amount of effort and time I would
have spent if I just slowed down and did it the way I thought it should have
been done the first time. Empowerment gives me the ability to
"push back" and do the job with a little thought and carefulness.

I'm notorious for missing arbitrary deadlines, I'm also becoming
notorious for superior quality in my little niche and for having "the
thing" that is wanted in the long term either in my own plan, in work
or there already waiting to be picked up. While on the one hand I
get into trouble for openly laughing at the gantt chart builders who ask
me "can you do this in "that" amount of time"? especially when I ask
them "how many times are you going to change the deliverable between
when I start and when you finally decide I'm done?"

I credit the empowerment I've been given with my ability to survive,
and use the longer view to do work that ultamately gives me satisfaction.
I'm so thankful not to have to dodge some manager with a whip who can
only see the immediate task and not the culmanation of all the tasks.

I'm constantly amazed at how much effort is spent building schedule
charts (gantt and other types) that more than anything represent a "Hope"
rather than the actual input from the troops that know (or who might at
least have a clue) that the plan is only a pipe dream and the work
will take as long as it takes. I find the planning chart-while a necessary
tool for planning-to be nothing but an anvil hanging over the heads of
us workers in an attempt to get us to get the work out fast, instead
of getting it out "good".-and then we have the old saying kick into
action; "we didn't have time to do it right, but we have time to
do it over.

> Your comment about environments free of abuse is an interesting one. I
> have experienced profit, education, and non-profit environments, and the
> most abusive in my experience are the non-profits. Hospitals are horribly
> hierarchic, and social work agencies -- ironically -- could care less
> about the feelings of their employees. I suspect these organizations
> mistake DOING good for BEING good.

I've had the same experience. -Worked as a nursing assistant in Nursing
homes 3 years. Couldn't stand it further because I watched too many
docters, nurses and administrators "get off" on the power they held
over lower level staff members and patients. I Watched a doctor kill a
little old lady by prescribing an overdose of laxitive because he couldn't
be bothered to take the time to take a good look at her actual condition.
I almost got fired for getting irate enough to "question God". And you
would think that DOING GOOD was why they were doing that job. It just
ain't so.

I realize that most of my answers to these kinds of questions are based
on personal experience, not education or theory. That's why I bring
them up. I operate on the simple principle: "If it happens, it
must be possible."

A lot of what we talk about in the LO list can happen, but doesn't
often, unless pushed, or usually happens except when directly challenged.
While my personal experience can't possibly represent much other than
my own reasons for doing things, I'm finding I'm out there doing a
lot earlier than many who still feel the need to talk about it a while
longer before actually getting their feet wet. (boy are my feet wet).

So, I guess this is "news from the wet footed" meant to encourage
others to get wet feet too.

Michael Erickson


Michael Erickson <sysengr@atc.boeing.com>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>