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February 05, 2008


Micro-CEO in training

Is this comic illustrating a situation of empowerment without discipline? I would rather believe it is "empowerment without knowledge/understanding". Perhaps in some cases, the lack of apparent discipline can be a symptom for underlying lack of education/reflection/guidance about what are the priorities, what are the goals, what is the schedule, etc.

Well, I guess that make me an idealist. :-)


Caution: Empowerment and Discipline in wrong hands can be a dangerous thing. Look at Hitler and other armies on the way we blindly execute with terrible outcome...

Curious from Singapore

guidelines mean constraints. How is that Empowerment. Believe it is micro management.

BQN Network Hall of Famer

Not sure why I received this four year old link over the weekend, but it spoke to me today (October 29, 2012). The ROI of empowerment is everyone being able to make their own best decisions and adjustments quickly. The challenge is that everyone needs to be aligned on the goal and their scope. There is always a need for leadership and feedback. The Giants baseball team just won a World Series and are all strong in their fields, but they still need a manager. The guy trimming the sails on an America's cup contender is "empowered", but the captain is setting the strategy and deciding when to tack. To properly set their sails EVERYONE needs to understand the destination, the direction of the wind, and who on the team "owns" each task. The two folks in the cartoon pushing against each other need a "Constructive Confrontation", and the person who empowered both of the them for the same area/task needs feedback and perhaps discipline.

California Guy

Empowerment is the delegation of official authority or legal power with respect to desired outcomes. Empowerment is only meaningful in the context of social action, that is, interaction between 2 or more persons with mutually beneficial results.

Defining what are mutually beneficial results requires a common frame of reference as a starting point. Whether you call them golden rules, ten commandments, laws of the land, standards, strategic objectives, business management system, California driver handbook, or guidelines, they require discipline for empowerment to produce outcomes that are consistent with the common frame of reference.

A simple example is a California Driver's License. I am empowered by the State of California to drive an automobile on USA streets and highways only after I successfully pass a written and driving test based on documented rules and guidelines in the California Driver's Handbook. If I do not adhere to these rules and guidelines, then I am given penalties that can include revocation of my license (removal of empowerment) or jail time for severe offenses.

A business example is certification to the ISO 9000 quality standard. This standard specifies WHAT are the requirements for certification, but the standard does not prescribe HOW to meet the requirements. This separation of WHAT vs. HOW provides empowerment (creative license) to organizations on deployment of policies, procedures, and tools that are most suited to the organization (including formal documenting of deviations in the form of waivers).

A personal example is the parenting of children based on the Golden Rule. If I want my children to treat others in a safe and fair manner when I am not present, then I myself need to provide coaching on the fundamentals of what it means to treat others in a safe and fair manner (the WHAT) and to be a role model (examples of the HOW).

Whether any of this is "micromanagement" will depend on an individual's perception of constraints within the common frame of reference (box is too small, too big, or just right).


Since I took the excellent Situational Leadership training, I’ve viewed Empowerment in the context of the model taught in that class. The appropriate level of Empowerment is Situational, i.e. it depends directly on the maturity and qualifications of the subordinate and the complexity of the task being assigned. Most people move through the stages of SL during their careers, beginning with a maximum of structure and discipline, and then moving to a maximum of empowerment at the point when they know enough to provide their own structure and discipline.


A great reminder on why processes are important.

Deming 101

Good stuff.. thank you!!

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