Organizational Consultation XXII: Empowerment (Part Two)
The third building block of group empowerment concerns the capacity to solve problems. After underlying conflicts are addressed, an individual or group is ready to establish its unique mode of operation and, in particular, its way of addressing the problems that the organization faces. The tools and procedures of problem solving must be mastered if an individual or group is to act in an empowered manner. The fourth and final building block concerns decision-making. Once an individual or group has identified ways in which to effectively address problems, the time has come for the individual or group to make decisions. This is the ultimate goal of any empowerment process. It should enable individuals and groups to make decisions regarding the ideas that have been generated in the organization. Furthermore, these decisions should be aligned with the clear intentions of the organization and should be based on the ample information that is made available to the individual or group.
As I have frequently noted in this series of essays, empowerment requires that ideas be closely linked to information and intentions. I now turn to each of these four building blocks of group empowerment and suggest ways in which group members can master each of these four fundamental functions.
Information is critical to empowerment. As Blanchard and his associates have recently noted:[i]
If we want people on the front lines of companies to be responsible for making good business decisions, they must have the same information that managers use to make good business decisions. People without information cannot make good business decisions, nor are they motivated to risk making decisions in such a void. On the other hand, people with information are almost compelled to take the risk of making business decisions to the best of their abilities.
The key to effective transmission of information is, in turn, effective communication. We must first seek to empower group members by promoting effective communication and the sharing of information, particularly in the meetings that these members regularly attend. This seems to be an obvious statement: we all know that communication is a good thing and that information should be shared. However, the real message regarding communication and information is not obvious. For one thing, information-sharing meetings are rarely discussed in the literature on group functioning. Yet, most meetings are convened primarily for this purpose. Many staff meetings, general organizational meetings, advisory group meetings, and administrative cabinet meetings are devoted primarily to the sharing of information. This function, however, is rarely acknowledged. Group members are led to believe that decisions will be made or problems solved at the meeting—the sharing of information is considered to be of secondary importance.
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