The project team has been complaining for a long time of their lack of empowerment. They have a lot of responsibility but little power to make decisions. The budget is not with them. It is spread across functions and business centres.
The complains are heard.
The system changes and the Project Leader now has budget responsibilities. They have the money! Hurray! They have to power!
Oh no! We don’t want that. This is too much for us. We don’t have financial training, and we are already overloaded; imagine if we have to manage the numbers on top of it.
I have seen this many times, or similar, in corporate life.
Many times the issue is not that the empowered people don’t want empowerment; they just meant, errr, to be empowered, but, did not mean that kind of empowerment.
So, be careful what you are asking for, you may get it.
Also you might get what you never asked, as well, if you are not careful…
The other side of the coin is often one of artificial redistribution of ‘empowerment’ and accountability, without asking the supposed to-be-empowered people whether they will take. Or indeed, whether they will have the skills, capabilities and mindset.
Many reorganizations and reshuffles, particularly the ones that come on 400 page PowerPoint by Big Consulting Groups, do change the rules on spot on behalf of some kind of artificial effectiveness dictated by dogma and by a big consulting budget.
Suddenly, sales managers become Key Account Managers with no change of anything other than the business cards. And it shows. Country managers become Regional Sales directors (it is cheaper). And the downgrade hurts, and they leave. Local HR directors become pan-regional-pan-continental HR heads, but they don’t have a passport. Just as well, because they don’t have a budget to travel.
Empowerment is a funny thing that goes up and down, often without the players noticing , asking for, or meaning it.
But empowerment is not passing the monkey, or passing the button.
Truth is, empowerment is never unidirectional. It is always, always, at least, a tango. It takes two to it.
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