In my article, “Empowering your project portfolio: What is empowerment?,” I helped you get clear on what empowerment is and is not. In this article, I will share my checklist of characteristics that are usually evident in an empowering organization and highlight what an organization should (and should not) do in order to empower their teams successfully.
The first time I felt empowered was on my first day at my first job. Fresh out of college, full of energy and ideas. The first time I felt unempowered was my first day back from a three-day training conference paid for by my organization; all fired up with new ideas and eager to apply what I had learned at an organization that was not prepared to consider those ideas and energy at the time.
Empowerment is a collaborative effort. The more your organization works together to create a culture of empowerment, the more successful it will be. When you are empowered, you understand the importance of asking questions to reveal the information needed to ensure the success of your project portfolio, and leaders understand the importance of sharing all the information that project portfolio managers and their teams need to succeed. Your organization will be experimenting with success if only the leaders, or only the teams, practice empowerment.
Your organization is empowering well when it:
- Wants employees to grow.
- Believes more skilled employees produce better results.
- Provides a clear strategy and direction.
- Trusts employees to make decisions.
- Clearly defines responsibilities that are suited for the role and compensation level.
- Provides training on processes and responsibilities.
The transition to a fully-empowered organization is not a task. It is a strategy that may require significant organizational change. Empowering your teams may be a matter of unlearning current behaviors that may be hindering empowerment:
|Do This…||…Not This|
|Clearly identify the decision-maker.||Make decisions based on consensus.|
|Provide all the necessary information.||Withhold information.|
|Reward all decisions.||Reward only “good” decisions.|
|Support all decisions.||Overrule, change or undermine decisions.|
|Clearly identify the problem.||Identify some symptoms of the problem.|
|Measure progress.||Assume progress is being made.|
|Explain the “WHY”||Describe the “HOW” or “WHAT” in great detail.|
|Explain how the result will be judged as a success.||Say, “I’ll know it when I see it.”|
Note that consensus decision-making should not be confused with participative decision-making, which is characterized by inviting involvement in the decision-making process and taking a decision after hearing all input and ideas.
Wonderful things happen when you trust and empower your team to do things better than you could. Empowerment is essential in this world of digital transformation, of applying technology to evolve and innovate so you can improve and then sustain the way your customers do business and engage, today and in the future. Without empowerment, it is challenging to reimagine how you can achieve organizational objectives, competitive advantage or operational excellence. When you empower your teams, you are able to accelerate delivery, improve quality, and drive customer adoption and satisfaction. Elise Stefanik said, “Technology is the foundation of the empowerment economy.”
Is empowerment thriving in your organization? How many characteristics of empowerment are evident in your organization? What are you doing to empower your future?
Jan Schiller, PMP, PSM1, FLMI, is a partner with Berkshire Consulting, LLC. She specializes in revealing the path from where an organization is to where they want to be. Over the past 30 years, Jan has been focused on linking strategy to results with project management in the financial services, investment, health, beverage, learning management and life sciences industries. She has helped her clients with the adoption of project management best practices; streamlining business processes; addressing regulations; achieving competitive advantage and much more. Jan writes about scope and portfolio management.