Sustaining Outclass TeamsTM

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Occasionally, organizational leaders ask me a very straightforward question: "We agree with you on the idea of empowering teams for long-term sustenance. But we have witnessed that even empowered teams become severely ineffectual and don't remain sustained for long. How would you explain this?"

The observation is spot on! Team empowerment can prove to be completely ineffectual, even meaningless. You know why? Because the organization does not reinforce empowerment with the key factors I am listing below:

Reason No. 1: Non-existent policies and guidelines:

At times, companies verbally tell people that they are empowered, but this empowerment is not supported by policies, guidelines and processes.

A clear framework, within which the empowered team is allowed to act on its own, is very important. Too much power without proper direction or control can result in a disaster. It can lead to chaos and losses for the company if the team begins to make decisions that unfavorably affect the company.

It is, therefore, vital to clearly establish the level of autonomy that the team actually has. Clear guidelines on the extent of power and the amount of decision-making scope that the team enjoys are essential to effective empowerment.

Reason No. 2: Information and resources are scarce:

Do you often complain that your team doesn't make quick decisions? Did you ever take the trouble to ascertain whether or not the team actually has access to current and latest information? Or whether they have adequate financial, technological and human resources at their disposal?

Reason No. 3: Senior managers are afraid:

Is the top management ready to share some decision-making power with the other members of the team? Indeed this can free up the senior person to do other things.

However, some managers are reluctant to pass control or power to someone else, because of the desire to control or a lack of trust in the team's ability. The senior manager has to be willing to give up a certain amount of control and display confidence and commitment in the team process and in the team's ability to handle responsibilities.

Reason No. 4: People development is not a priority:

We empower the team in the hope that it is geared to take on the challenges of its new role, but all we get is disappointment. The reason? If we don't fully train the members to meet our performance expectations, it is not likely that the team will show the results desired.

If this is the case, then they can't implement their decisions properly. For example, if a service team were to invite company experts such as engineers (who have direct knowledge of the product) to important meetings, it might help them enormously in handling customer complaints. If the sales team had access to a CRM database, they could create better selling strategies and even design innovative sales approaches such as up-selling, cross-selling or bundling.

Over the years research has proved that teams that are equipped to work on their own bring greater efficiency. At the same time, empowered teams can also pose major problems if they are not handled correctly or not given the right guidelines to help them self-manage their jobs.

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