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Employee Empowerment:

An Apprenticeship Model

John Fox

 
 
 

Barney School of Business University of Hartford

June 22, 1998


© 1998 by John Fox.  All rights reserved.

Abstract


    This thesis examines the topic of employee empowerment and seeks to provide a model for its implementation which addresses needs identified in the literature but insufficiently addressed previously.  Empowerment is defined as a process whereby:  a culture of empowerment is developed, information is shared, competency is developed, and resources and support are provided.  Each of the components of empowerment—culture, information sharing, competency development, resource provision, and support—is examined in detail as addressed in the literature.  The benefits of employee empowerment are noted, and objections to it are addressed.  Theoretical foundations of employee empowerment are examined in an extensive literature review.
     A model for understanding and implementing employee empowerment is provided based upon the precepts of apprenticeship.  The apprenticeship model suggests that employees be viewed first as apprentices while their skills and knowledge within a given task set are developing, then as journeypersons through continued development, and finally as masters of their craft.  An assessment of organizational empowerment is provided and training responses based upon this assessment are suggested.



 

 Acknowledgements

     Dr. Sandra Morgan.  Every time I talked to her it was like moving to a higher plane of intellectual existence.  Sandra is down-to-earth person with deep empathy, an infectious enthusiasm, and an enviable intellect.  Someday I hope to be like my friend and teacher, Sandra Morgan.
     Dr. Mel Donoghue, who taught several of my core courses.  Mel's comfort in the classroom and emphasis on creativity are inspirational.  Her friendship is one I cherish.
 My colleagues in the Office of Residential Life at the University of Hartford, without who's support over the past five years I could not have completed my course of study.  I especially appreciate their tolerance of my absence while writing this thesis.
     Jean Long—without her advice and counsel I may never have completed this work.
     And most especially, my wife, Kathleen Fox.  By agreeing to live far from home and in student residence halls for the past seven years, K has been my biggest supporter in my effort to attain a degree.  It is she who introduced me to the concept of empowerment and who was my first teacher on the subject.  It is she who has tolerated my stress response during the completion of this thesis.  It is for her and our future life together that I have made the effort.


Dedication


To

Kathleen G. Fox

You were the first to teach me about empowerment.
You have provided loving support throughout my education.
You are my best friend and my life-mate.
It is for all these reasons, and more, that
To you I dedicate this work.


Table of Contents

Abstract

Acknowledgements

Dedication

Introduction

Literature Review

 Definition of Empowerment

 Apprenticeship Empowerment Defined

 Benefits of Empowerment

 Objections Overcome

 A Culture of Empowerment

 Management Role

 Information Sharing

 The Value of Vision

 Developing Competency

 Importance of Resources

 Sufficient Support

 Theoretical Foundations

 Implementation Timeframe

 Situational Implementation

 Assessment

The Apprenticeship Model

 Apprentice level

 Journeyperson level

 Master level

 Support, Culture, and Information

 Value of Competency Development

Assessment Questions and Associated Responses

 Assessment Questions

 Training Responses

Bibliography of Literature Reviewed

Annotated Bibliography

Appendix

 A.  A Retail Example of the Apprenticeship Model

 B.  Other Models of Apprenticeship




 

Introduction

     Employee empowerment is one of those terms that everyone thinks they understand, but few really do.  Ask a dozen different people and you'll get a dozen different answers to the question, "What is employee empowerment?".  In fact, research a dozen organizational theorists and you'll get as many answers to the same question. This paper seeks to answer that question in a way that it can be understood by a greater number of people.  Some writers indicate that empowerment consists of sharing power and authority.  Others say that empowerment occurs when the organization's processes are set-up to allow for it.  If you keep in mind the secondary dictionary definition of "to give faculties or abilities to:  enable" (Grove, 1971, p.744), with all that this word implies, then you will be on the right track for the purposes of this paper.
     This paper also seeks to answer the question above in such a way that people who work within organizations can apply the information to enhance employee empowerment.  "Why would we want to enhance employee empowerment?" you may be asking.  That detailed answer will be provided in the in the literature review section under the heading "benefits of employee empowerment".  However, it has been shown that employee empowerment results in increased employee satisfaction, increased productivity, and increased customer satisfaction.
     "Aren't there some strong objections to the implementation of an empowerment program which must be overcome if we are to receive these benefits?"  The short answer is yes.  Empowerment, if it is to be implemented effectively, calls for a culture change for the typical organization.  Leaders must learn to be visionaries who can provide an idea to which employees will want to dedicate themselves.  Supervisors must change their ways of supervising and learn to be coaches and mentors.  All members of the organization must dedicate themselves to sharing information and to training.  Each of these issues will be addressed in turn.
     Since this is an academic paper, I would be remiss if I did not include a section on the theoretical foundations upon which the concepts of employee empowerment are built.  While there are few theorists who have delved very deeply into what makes up empowerment, what they have mined is rich.  There are more researchers who have attempted to provide a framework for what they have observed; their ideas which have merit will be addressed.
     Implementation of empowerment programs seems to be the biggest challenge organizations face.  The popular press often writes about "failed" empowerment efforts.  What has become evident to me is that there are some speed bumps on the road to empowerment; often these so called failures are only rough patches which will be overcome.  However, it is also evident that the implementation often takes years, especially if the organization has a bureaucratic culture.  It also seems that empowerment implementation efforts are often haphazard.  By providing an easily understood definition of empowerment, some information about what must take place, an assessment of how empowering your workplace is, and a model for implementation based upon what is commonly understood as an apprenticeship system, I hope to address unmet needs with this paper.



 

 Literature Review

 

Definition of Empowerment

     The common dictionary definition of empowerment, "to give official authority to:  delegate legal power to:  commission, authorize" (Grove, 1971, p. 744) is the one most understood by most people.  As an example, Gandz (1990) writes, "Empowerment means that management vests decision-making or approval authority in employees where, traditionally, such authority was a managerial prerogative." (p. 75) However, this is not the definition of what is usually called employee empowerment.  One author notes empowerment is, "easy to define in its absence—alienation, powerless, helplessness—but difficult to define positively because it 'takes on a different form in different people and contexts'" (Zimmerman, 1990, p.169).  When most people refer to employee empowerment they mean a great deal more than delegation.  It is for this reason that many authors provide their own definitions.
     Some of these are vague, and meant to be so.  Block (1987) describes empowerment as "a state of mind as well as a result of position, policies, and practices." (p. 65)  One has to read an entire chapter to understand what he means when he says,
    "To feel empowered means several things.  We feel our survival is in our own hands. . . .We have an underlying purpose. . . .We commit ourselves to achieving that purpose, now." (Block, 1987, p. 65).  Other authors (Blanchard, Carlos & Randolph, 1996; Blanchard & Bowles, 1998) use their entire book to define empowerment.  Still others provide an excellent perspective of effective empowerment without mentioning the word even once (Freedman, 1998).
     Other author provided definitions are simplistic on the surface, but have far greater implications than a first reading would suggest.  For example, Caudron (1995) articulates empowerment as, "when employees 'own' their jobs; when they are able to measure and influence their individual success as well as the success of their departments and their companies." (p.28)  The casual reader may think that owning one's job is what the postal worker's union seeks to provide their members.  Most would agree, however, that job security is not empowerment.  Many employees must measure their jobs by submitting reports.  Seeking one's own individual success is what the American dream is all about.  And knowing that one makes a contribution to the success of the department and the company is a given in all but the largest organizations.  It is only when these ideas are taken together in one package that they approach a definition of employee empowerment.    Ettorre's (1997) definition of empowerment as, "employees having autonomous decision-making capabilities and acting as partners in the business, all with an eye to the bottom-line" (p.1) is more accessible to many readers.  While many employees understand their contribution to the work at hand, how many know their contribution to the bottom line?
     It is this essential ingredient, information with which to make decisions, from which empowerment is created.  Bowen and Lawler (1992) indicate, "We define empowerment as sharing with front-line employees four organizational ingredients:  [the first being] information about the organization's performance. . . .[another is] knowledge that enables employees to understand and contribute to organizational performance" (p. 32).  The other two ingredients Bowen and Lawler note are, "rewards based on the organization's performance [and] power to make decisions that influence organizational direction and performance."  In a later article these authors conclude that, "research suggests that empowerment exists when companies implement practices that distribute power, information, knowledge, and rewards throughout the organization." (Bowen & Lawler, 1995, p. 73)  The authors go on to note that, "if any of the four elements is zero, nothing happens to redistribute that ingredient, and empowerment will be zero." (Bowen & Lawler, 1995, p. 74)
     Another author uses this type of combination of concepts to define empowerment.  Spreitzer (1995) indicates,  "psychological empowerment is defined as a motivational construct manifested in four cognitions:  meaning, competence, self-determination, and impact.  Together these four cognitions reflect an active, rather than a passive, orientation toward a work role." (p. 1442).  Spreitzer notes, "the four dimensions are argued to combine additively to create an overall construct of psychological empowerment.  In other words, the lack of any single dimension will deflate, though not completely eliminate, the overall degree of felt empowerment." (p. 1442) This additive construct is distinct from Bowen & Lawler 's (1995) construct noted above which is multiplicative, indicating that the absence of any one of their four elements (power, information, knowledge, and rewards) will completely eliminate empowerment.
     Researchers tend to provide definitions of the concept of empowerment which reflect observed end results or their research into concepts which are known and are or may be precursors to empowerment.  In his 1995 dissertation, Menon indicates, "the empowered state was defined as a cognitive state of perceived control, perceived competence and goal internalization. . . .The empirical results supported the view that empowerment is a construct conceptually distinct from other constructs such as delegation, self-efficacy and intrinsic task motivation.".  In this case the constructs of delegation, self-efficacy and intrinsic task motivation are known quantities, each with its own previously tested validity.  Conger and Kanungo (1988) note in their literature review that, "scholars have assumed that empowerment. . . .[is] the process by which a leader or manager shares his or her power with subordinates.  Power, in this context, is interpreted as the possession of formal authority or control over organizational resources. . . .This manner of treating the notion of empowerment from a management practice perspective is so common that often employee participation is simply equated with empowerment." (p. 471).  However, they also note, " We believe that this approach has serious flaws." (p. 471)  Instead, the authors offer this definition, "empowerment is. . . a process of enhancing feelings of self-efficacy among organizational members through the identification of conditions that foster powerlessness and through their removal by both formal organizational practices and informal techniques of providing efficacy information." (Conger & Kanungo, 1988, p. 474).  Implied here are new roles for managers and supervisors, that is, removing conditions that foster powerlessness and providing feedback about performance, in other words mentoring.
     Other researchers have attempted to classify what has been written and practiced previously, and found it lacking.  Quinn and Spreitzer (1997) provide two such classifications.  In the, "mechanistic approach" (p. 38) managers and researchers "believed that empowerment was about delegating decision making within a set of clear boundaries. . . . Delegate responsibility; and Hold people accountable for results." (p. 37)  In the, "organic approach to empowerment" (p. 37) researchers and managers "believed that it [empowerment] was about risk taking, growth, and change. . . .understanding the needs of the employees; model empowered behavior for the employees; build teams to encourage cooperative behavior; encourage intelligent risk taking; and trust people to perform." (p. 38)  However, they found these two approaches lacking; some combination of the two was needed.  In the end, they indicate, "empowerment must be defined in terms of fundamental beliefs and personal orientations. . . . Empowered people have a sense of self-determination. . . .Empowered people have a sense of meaning. . . .Empowered people have a sense of competence. . . . empowered people have a sense of impact." (Quinn & Spreitzer, 1997, p. 40)
     The most comprehensive definition of empowerment in the literature can be found in Thomas and Velthouse's 1990 article entitled "Cognitive elements of empowerment:  An 'interpretive' model of intrinsic task motivation".  The definition they provide is:
To empower means to give power to.  Power, however, has several meanings…authority, so that empowerment can mean authorization. . . .capacity. . . .However, power also means energy.  Thus to empower also can mean to energize.  This latter meaning best captures the present motivational usage of the term.  Our perception is that the word empowerment has become popular because it provides a label for a nontraditional paradigm of motivation. . . .change [has] forced a search for alternative forms of management that encourage commitment, risk-taking, and innovation. . . .the newer paradigm involves relaxed (or broad) controls and an emphasis on internalized commitment to the task itself. . . .We use the word empowerment to refer to the motivational content of this newer paradigm of management. (p. 667)


     In her excellent literature review of employee empowerment, Linda Honold indicates, "to be successful, each organization must create and define it [empowerment] for itself.  Empowerment must address the needs and culture of each unique entity." (Honold, 1997, p. 202)  It is in this spirit that I offer my own definition of empowerment.  I have drawn on several of the authors noted above and below for concepts.  I will provide credit in the appropriate sections below.
 

Apprenticeship Empowerment Defined

     Employee empowerment is a process whereby:  a culture of empowerment is developed; information—in the form of a shared vision, clear goals, boundaries for decision making, and the results of efforts and their impact on the whole—is shared; competency—in the form of training and experience—is developed; resources, or the competency to obtain them when needed to be effective in their jobs, are provided; and support—in the form of mentoring, cultural support, and encouragement  of risk-taking—is provided.
     Every employer uses employee empowerment to some extent, though it is often thought of as delegation.  No organization of more than one person can survive without some employee empowerment.  When the owner of a Mail Boxes, Etc. hires someone to work the weekends, that person is empowered.  When a manager hires an accounting graduate to maintain the departmental ledger, that person is empowered.  When the director of advertising chooses which slogan should go on the web banner, that person is empowered.  In each of these instances the empowered person has been provided with the training and experience they need to be effective in their position.  Each has the information to know how their decisions will impact the larger whole.  Each has access to the resources he or she needs to be effective.  And the assumption is that each will be supported in the decisions they make.
     Empowerment is a process of becoming, not a task or end result in and of itself,  Just as with continuous improvement, no organization is ever done with its empowerment implementation; no person is ever "completely empowered".  Empowerment becomes part of the culture of the organization.  Empowering others becomes a transparent act, nobody within the organization notices when an act of empowerment is exercised.  It may be noticeable in the extreme to outsiders, but, if the implementation effort has been successful, it will be second nature to those accculturated within the organization.
     Clearly, empowerment is not quick nor easy, except in the case of a newly formed organization where the leaders understand it and have committed themselves and the organization to it.  Given that this is the case it becomes necessary to demonstrate the benefits and provide an implementation strategy which builds upon a clear understanding of all that employee empowerment entails.
 

Benefits of Empowerment

     That employee empowerment benefits the organizations which implement it effectively is widely noted in the literature.  The popular press accepts the belief of benefit almost without question.  Thomas Petzinger, in his column "The Front Lines" in the Wall Street Journal, is a big advocate for empowerment.  He writes, "As a society we know the best way to organize people is freeing them to organize themselves.  Why should it be any different in business?" (Petzinger, 1997a, p. B1).  Also in the Wall Street Journal, Aeppel asks the rhetorical question, " What better way to tap into workers' brains as well as their brawn than to encourage them to think on the job, to bring to it a greater sense of professionalism and self-motivation and to feel committed to the company's success?" (Aeppel, 1997, p. 1).  Freeman (1998) writing in Inc. about applying Marine Corps values in the growing corporate workplace advocates a form of empowerment where training is key and, within clear missions, risk-taking is rewarded.
     However, a bunch of business writers jumping on a bandwagon was not sufficient for me to believe that empowerment is beneficial.  I wanted evidence and I found it.  A number of writers cited Kanter (1979) as the source of information about the efficacy of employee empowerment.  Kanter writing about positional power indicates, "Organizational power can grow, in part, by being shared. . . .By empowering others, a leader does not decrease his power; instead he may increase it--especially if the whole organization performs better." (Kanter, 1979, p. 73).  Kanter then uses the logic that, "The productive capacity of nations, like organizations, grows if the skill base is upgraded.  People with the tools, information and support to make more informed decisions and act more quickly can often accomplish more." (Kanter, 1979, p. 73).
     Many authors cite, "anecdotal and case evidence…to show that empowerment does produce more satisfied customers and employees." (Bowen & Lawler, 1995, p.75).  However Bowen and Lawler go beyond this and provide additional evidence, "considerable research on practices such as gain sharing, communication programs, work teams, job enrichment, skill-based pay, and so on has shown the results of these practices are consistent and positive." (p.75).  They go on to cite survey research conducted by,
The Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California…to determine the degree to which firms are adopting practices that redistribute power, information, knowledge, and rewards, and the effects. . . . The… data…suggest that empowerment may have a positive impact on a number of performance indicators.  Respondents report that empowerment improves worker satisfaction and quality of work life.  Quality, service, and productivity are reportedly improved as a result of employee involvement efforts in about two-thirds of the companies.  Approximately one-half of the companies also report that profitability and competitiveness have improved; this is supported by the finding of a relationship between empowerment and the firms' financial performance. (Bowen & Lawler, 1995, p. 75)
This is the hard evidence most skeptics are seeking.
     For those of us seeking softer evidence, Bowen and Lawler (1992) indicate empowered employees provide, "quicker on-line response to customer needs during service delivery;. . . . quicker on-line responses to dissatisfied customers during service recovery;. . . . employees feel better about their jobs and themselves;. . . . employees will interact with customers with more warmth and enthusiasm. . . . when employees felt that management was looking after their needs, they took better care of the customer;. . . . great word-of-mouth advertising and customer retention" (pp. 33-34). Randolph (1995) indicates, "A more subtle, yet very powerful benefit" of employee empowerment was increased "trust in the organization" (p. 22).  When employees trust that the company is not out to suck their blood and is providing a competitive produce or service they will respond positively, "people who have information about current performance levels will set challenging goals--and when they achieve those goals they will reset the goals at a higher level." (Randolph, 1995, p. 23).
     A number of authors also indicate that the increasing competitiveness of the global marketplace calls for better service and the benefit of drawing upon the entire pool of employees for creative ideas (Bowen & Lawler, 1992; Gandz, 1990).  An example of this would be a consumer products company looking to expand into less developed countries using custodial staff who immigrated from those countries for marketing ideas and possible distribution contacts.  One never knows if someone has an uncle or aunt in his or her home country who owns a chain of grocery stores, unless one asks.  An empowered organization would think to ask, or would at least encourage the employees to make helpful suggestions.
 

Objections Overcome

     Management's fear of letting employees make decisions which can impact the profitability of the company is a major factor in the ineffectiveness of many empowerment programs, and yet is still a major objection.  Even Kanter (1979) who, as noted above, is often cited as providing evidence of the effectiveness of empowerment indicates,
One might wonder why more organizations do not adopt such empowering strategies.  There are standard answers:  that giving up control is threatening to people who have fought for every shred of it; that people do not want to share power with those they look down on; that managers fear losing their own place and special privileges in the system…and so forth.  But I would also put skepticism about employee abilities high on the list. (p. 74)
This objection can be overcome if the managers in question can be assured that the employees are ready for the level of authority being placed with them.
    The apprenticeship model emphasizes the growth and training of the employee into readiness to be empowered.  Only when employees are trained in the ramifications of their actions and are able to see the big picture should they be allowed and encouraged to make decisions.  The role of the supervisor is as mentor and coach.  The worker must be given the opportunity to make decisions about less significant things and then the outcomes of these decisions reviewed so that learning can occur.
     For example, when residential life staff members at the University of Hartford plan a bar-b-que meal for the residents of a building they are given a budget and encouraged to shop for sufficient food to feed the number of people expected.  If the worker has little experience, a list of items to purchase is discussed prior to the shopping trip, however the quantity and brand selection are left to the worker so that the budget can be maximized in the store.  A common mistake less experienced workers make is purchasing brand-name soda in cans.  This is a very expensive way to ensure that drinks are available.  As a result less food is able to be purchased within the budget provided.  The worker learns that brand-name canned soda is quickly drunk by the people who arrive first and then no drinks are available to later attendees.  It is better to buy inexpensive soda in bulk bottles, or some sort of drink mix, than to provide brand-name soda because it meets the need and does not inspire greed.  This lesson is best learned through direct experience and review of the results with the supervisor.  Being told this reality is not nearly as effective.
     Just as we would not expect a person with an associate's degree to articulate ground-breaking new theories in their field; so too we should not expect untrained employees to make decisions which affect the bottom line.  The manager who has been involved in the training of the worker will have greater confidence that the worker will make a decision which is in the best interests of the company.  The benefit of empowerment is that it allows each employee to bring his or her experience and creativity to bear on the decision.
     Middle managers often object to employee empowerment because they perceive that the effort will take power away from them.  The view is, as Blanchard & Bowles (1998) indicate, "Managers must…give up the levers of control they've worked a lifetime to get hold of".  I call this the "hazing theory of management".  One of the reasons initiation activities and hazing are still a part of many fraternal organizations is that the current members want the opportunity to do onto others as was done onto them.  If, as a pledging member, they had to run errands for the brothers then they want the opportunity to have pledges run errands for them once they become brothers.  Running errands are the "dues" pledges must pay in order to join the brotherhood.  Working for the organization for years and being subjected to the decisions of others are the "dues" middle managers have paid to obtain their positions.
     This type of thinking is called zero sum change.  That is, in order for you (the worker) to gain something I (the manager) must lose an equivalent amount of that thing, in other words, win-lose thinking.  In order for an employee empowerment implementation to be successful, managers with this objection must change their attitude. Ward (1996) asks the questions these managers might ask, "How can I give up control when I am accountable for the results?  How can I give greater decision-making authority to employees, yet ensure the results are of good quality and are consistent with corporate objectives?  How can I manage the empowerment process so employees feel the project is their own?" (p. 21).
     The answer to these questions, and the way this needed change is accomplished through training.  Managers must see that they still have a role despite authority being shared with empowered employees.  This new role is as mentor, coach, and facilitator.  Training should be provided for each aspect of this role.  Acting as mentor comes easily to some people, however others have difficulty seeing themselves as able to offer anything beyond direction.  Proper training can show the reluctant mentor how to improve his or her skills.  Coaching is another skill some people have difficulty with.  Again, training is called for in this instance.  Because empowered employees often are formed into self-managing teams they often need someone to facilitate their discussions until this skill is developed among the members of the group—this initially becomes the role of the manager.  Later on, as cross-functional teams are formed, the manager's facilitation skills are called for again.  Many managers will require training to enhance their ability to facilitate discussions.
     Managers who take on these new roles of mentor, coach, and facilitator begin to recognize that they are still needed.  A new win-win attitude replaces the old win-lose attitude in those managers who are successful at implementation of empowerment.  As the benefits of empowering employees become apparent, the properly trained manager will become a strong proponent of empowerment—he or she will recognize the value inherent in taking advantage of everyone's experience and creativity.  If one accepts the premise that empowered employees are more satisfied with their jobs, and the premise that satisfied employees result in satisfied customers, then logic dictates that managers will seek empowerment opportunities in an effort to grow the business and increase revenues.
     Bowen & Lawler (1992) note other objections which are raised by management as a result of these proposed changes, "a greater dollar investment in selection and training. . . . higher labor costs. . . . slower or inconsistent service delivery. . . . violations of 'fair play'. . . . giveaways and bad decisions." (p.34-35).  Still other management objections are noted by Conger & Kanungo (1988), "Specifically, empowerment might lead to overconfidence and, in turn, misjudgments on the part of subordinates." (p.480).  These objections are valid in some respects; proper training will overcome some of them, but not all.  However I believe the benefits of employee empowerment outweigh the detriments.
     Union leaders often express some of the same reservations regarding employee empowerment as do middle managers.  Most union contracts call for seniority as the guiding principle for increased benefits.  If one perceives decision-making authority as a benefit, then the union will argue that those with the most seniority should receive it before those with less.  If a team is made up of employees of varying seniority, and all are empowered to make decisions after simultaneous training then the union may object to less senior members receiving a benefit at the same time as more senior members.
     Unions perceive that their power comes from collective bargaining with management on behalf of the workers.  Employee empowerment breaks down barriers to communication between individual workers and the organization's management thereby reducing the role of the union.  It has been my experience that unions object when their roles are reduced.
     Both of these objections may be valid.  Both call for a shift in the focus of the union and an emphasis on new roles.  Instead of using seniority as a guiding principle, unions may be convinced of the increased organizational viability resulting from a guiding principle of ability.  That is, those with the greatest skills, rather than those with the longest tenure, should receive benefits first.  Most managers, I think, would agree that what is best for the organization to continue its competitive position is a greater focus on ability over seniority.  Unions are in the business of ensuring jobs for their members.  If union jobs are lost because an organization goes out of business as a result of inflexibility on the seniority versus ability issue, then the union has not been successful.  If, however, the union changes its focus to ability, and the organization grows, more jobs will be created.
     Beyond the issue of seniority versus flexibility, unions can change the focus of their efforts from communicating with management on behalf of employees to providing training and pre-qualification of skill-sets for an empowered workforce.  Trade unions already serve this function; witness the carpentry trade.  The carpenter's union provides training opportunities for apprentice carpenters, and the union bestows journeyperson and master status onto workers who have completed established parameters.  These parameters may be number of hours on the job, completion of training programs, demonstration of skills and abilities, etc.  A union contract for a given job will call for a set number of master level, journeyperson level, and apprentice level carpenters; the union is then able to provide appropriately trained individuals to fill the positions available.  This could be the case for other unions as well.  For example, a manufacturer might have need for workers skilled in a specific process.  The union runs a training program which teaches workers the skills needed for this process and certifies their level of training.  Workers are then assigned to work on this process based upon their level of training and upon that which is needed at that time.
     Employees, too, sometimes object to empowerment efforts.  Aeppel (1997) noted that one of the complaints by Eaton employees is the responsibility the group has for each individual, "with everyone watching everyone else, it can feel like having a hundred bosses" (p.1)  Another common employee objection is that they don't want any more responsibility than they already have.  My experience is that an employee with this complaint is already not sufficiently motivated, and some management response is called for.  Perhaps she or he is not aware of the benefits which accrue to the organization because of her or his work.  Perhaps the employee lacks the understanding that purposeful work is often less demanding than what she or he may already be doing.  Perhaps there are difficulties in other aspects of that employee's life which could benefit from timely intervention by a caring supervisor.  In any case, it is likely that this objection can be overcome.
     Conger and Kanungo (1988) raise the possibility of, "major organizational changes…seriously challenge[ing] employees' sense of control and competence as they deal with the uncertainty of change and accept new responsibilities, skills, and guidelines for action and behavior." (p. 477).  Bridges (1991) indicates, "Stability through change demands clarity about what you are trying to do. . . .[there must be] a clear sense in people's minds of how their activities contribute to the entire undertaking." (p. 76).  It is the responsibility of the leader to provide the vision which assists employees to have this peace of mind.
     At the Eaton plant noted above, an additional objection is, "The plant's emphasis on fitting into the group can seem almost cultish. . . .Some people do well with all the physical aspects of the work, but fall short by other measures--such as their communications skills." (Aeppel, 1997, p. 1).  In response to this objection I bow to the more articulate Linda Honold (1997) who states, "The critiques of employee empowerment emanate from what appears to be half-hearted attempts by employers that allow for a very limited degree of decision making and control by employees." (p. 210).
 

A Culture of Empowerment

     An organization's culture is a complex thing, not easily described.  Yet it is upon this foundation that empowerment is built.  The organizations which successfully implement employee empowerment will have certain values at their core from which the process of empowerment can flow.  Among these values are respect and appreciation for individuals and the value they bring to the organization.  Values alone do not make up an organization's culture, and respect for individuals is only one of the outward signs of an empowered culture.
     Edgar Schein defines organizational culture as,
a pattern of basic assumptions—invented, discovered, or developed by a given group as it learns to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration—that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.  (Schein, 1985, p. 9)
However coherent this definition seems, the concept is much more complex.  Schein uses the bulk of his book Organizational Culture and Leadership to provide a more complete understanding of what culture really is.  Such in depth study of this single concept is beyond the scope of this paper and I would refer the reader to Schein's book for a deeper understanding.
     Nonetheless, the culture of the organization must support the thrust of empowerment if there is any chance for success.  I am resolved to discuss the "'artifacts' and 'values' that are the manifestations or surface levels of the culture" (Schein, 1985, p. 6-7) since that is within the scope of this thesis.  Other authors try to get at this essence that is organizational culture which must be supportive for empowerment to succeed.  By Schein's definition, they tend to focus on the surface manifestations, though several try to imply the greater depth.
     For example, Quinn and Spreitzer (1997) indicate, "empowerment must be defined in terms of fundamental beliefs and personal orientations" (p. 40), which is an apt description of organizational culture.  Yet they go on to note the manifestations, "Empowered people have a sense of self-determination. . . .Empowered people have a sense of meaning. . . .Empowered people have a sense of competence. . . . Empowered people have a sense of impact." (Quinn & Spreitzer, 1997, p. 40).  Other manifestations these authors note in an earlier article include, "actual barriers to change present …and the social support available to the manager from his/her boss and peers." (Spreitzer & Quinn, 1996, p. 239), these barriers are aspects of culture.  Another example is provided by Gandz (1990), "A set of shared values is needed. . . .beliefs about the way things should be done, the standards of behavior that are appropriate, the ethics of organizational actions. . . .Such values compel and propel behavior" (p. 75)—significant cultural artifacts which will lead to empowerment.
     Ford and Fottler (1995) provide a model of how empowered an individual is on two scales, job content and job context.  The aspects of job context are manifestations of culture; they indicate, "Job context is much broader.  It is the reason the organization needs that job done and includes both how it fits into the overall organizational mission, goals, and objectives and the organizational setting within which that job is done.  Organizational structure, rewards systems, mission, goals, objectives and so forth make up the rich tapestry of job context." (p. 22-23).  Organizational structure and reward systems are often put into place with the unknowing and unquestioned basic assumptions which are part of the culture of the organization.  Shein's position supports this view thusly, "If culture has developed in this sense, it will affect most of the aspects of an organization—its strategy, its structure, its processes, its reward and control systems, and its daily routines." (Schein, 1985, p. 244)
     An organization seeking to implement empowerment is likely to examine its structure and reward systems, however if the culture is not also examined by the change agents, replacement structures and systems are likely to reflect the old assumptions.  One such assumption is whether individuals or groups (teams) should be rewarded for their efforts.  Many organizations in the United States hold that country's value of individualism.  If, on the one hand, teams are being promoted as a tool of empowerment, and on the other hand, individuals are being rewarded for the work of the team, then employees will unconsciously (or consciously) pick-up on the cultural norm and will be reluctant to dedicate themselves to the teaming concept where their work may not be recognized and rewarded.  In other words, empowered organizations put their money where their mouth is.
     Mallak and  Kurstedt (1996), perhaps more articulately, express this sentiment when they write, "Managers who understand how empowerment integrates with organizational culture are motivated to lead employees…and help them internalize the values and traditions [of empowerment].  These managers help create a work environment where employees take action for intrinsic reasons more so than for extrinsic reasons." (p. 8).  Mallak and Kurstedt provide a four stage model for cultural integration, because they understand how important the organization's culture is to the successful implementation of empowerment.
     Shipper and Manz (1992), in their description of W. L. Gore and Associates, demonstrate how committed to empowerment that company is by describing the cultural manifestations.  Some examples include:  there are no position titles, all employees are called Associates; every associate has one or more sponsors who provide training, act as coach or mentor, and advocate with the compensation committee for the employee's pay increases; all associates are encouraged to apply their creativity, even to the extent of finding their own job within the organization after being hired.  While these tactics far surpass what another organization interested in empowering its employees is likely to do, they do reflect what has been successful for Gore.  The cultural values which brought about this unique organizational culture are the result of the personal values of Gore's founder.  Schein notes, "Founders usually have a major impact on how the group defines and solves its external adaptation and internal integration problems." (Schein, 1985, p. 210), these are essential components of the development of culture.
     Other authors provide less articulate, though no less powerful, demonstrations of the importance of organizational culture to employee empowerment.  Witness:  Blanchard and Bowles (1998), "It's the understanding, not the work.  It's how the work helps others, not units dealt with." (p. 170); Block (1987), "Creating a vision of greatness [is] the first step toward empowerment" (p. 99); Ginnodo (1997) "Empowerment serves a purpose.  It's not a feel-good program.  It's about accomplishing business objectives.  It's a means to an end, not an end in itself.  Empowerment helps employees help the organization and themselves…." (p.12).
     By now, it should be clear that the organization's culture is important to employee empowerment.  If an organization's culture does not already support empowerment it must be changed,  However, as Schein points out, "we may be suggesting something very drastic when we say, 'Let's change the culture'" (Schein, 1985, p. 5).  And you may be asking yourself, "How would we go about changing the culture, should we decide we need to do so?".  A very good question indeed.  Fortunately, Schein provides some insight into this.  He notes, "Leaders create culture, but cultures, in turn, create their next generation of leaders." (Schein, 1985, p. 313).  If the leader is acting in a growing organization, he or she needs, "both vision and the ability to articulate it and enforce it." (Schein, 1985, p. 317).  If, however, the organizational culture is mature, "If it is to change its culture, it must be led by someone who can, in effect, break the tyranny of the old culture." (Schein, 1985, p. 321).  This is accomplished through replacement of assumptions.  "If an assumption is to be given up, it must be replaced or redefined in another form, and it is the burden of leadership to make that happen." (Schein, 1985, p. 324)  Schein makes a distinction between leaders and managers.  I make that distinction as well in the section on the manager's role below.  Schein also provides a useful table of organizational, "Growth Stages, Functions of Culture, and Mechanisms of Change" (Schein, 1985, p. 271-272).
 

Management Role

     In an empowered organization the managers and supervisors take on a different role than they usually would in most organizations.  The literature is unanimous on this point.  It may be obvious that one aspect of this role change is the sharing of power and authority.  Yet, many managers and supervisors already do this, either actively or passively, through delegation or abdication, neither of which is empowering people.
     Empowerment implies a great deal more.  There is an active role for managers and supervisors rather than the passive one of abdication.  There are stages an employee must go through before he or she should have authority delegated to him or her.  There should also be a recognition that while the employee may be ready to have one aspect of the job delegated to her or him, she or he may not be ready for delegation in other functional aspects of the job (Blanchard, Zigarmi & Zigarmi,1985). Managers and supervisors must reframe their perception of their roles because, "The primary task of supervision is to help people." (Block, 1987, p. 63).  Block (1987) also tells us, "As managers we become more powerful as we nurture the power of those below us." (p. 64).
     So what are these new, active roles for managers?  First we must understand that, "Managers and supervisors need to be empowered, too" (Ginnodo, 1997, p. 12).  One use of manager's new found empowerment should be to allow them to remove barriers to employee empowerment.  Conger and Kanungo (1988) describe this as, "providing autonomy from bureaucratic constraint" (p.478). Harari (1997) asks us to, "imagine that your job is to create an environment where your people take on the responsibility to work productively in self-managed, self-starting teams that identify and solve complex problems on their own."  Ginnodo (1997) tells us this, "involves articulating a vision, values, strategies and goals; aligning policies, practices and business plans; improving processes; organizing, communicating and 'walking the talk' of total quality. . . .and removing barriers that prevent outstanding performance"[italics are mine] (p. 8).  Gandz (1990) indicates, "Managers need to be willing and capable of changing their roles from supervisors and work directors to visionaries and coaches." (p. 77)
     This new role of coach is also nearly universal in the literature. Coaching is defined as, "teaching and practice focused on taking action, with celebration when things go well and supportive redirection when things go wrong, while all the time creating excitement and challenge for those being coached" ( Blanchard & Bowles, 1998, p.159). Ward (1996) indicates of coaching, "The objective is to keep giving employees responsibilities which move them along the capability continuum, eventually reaching 'fully capable of the task'.  Naturally, the manager must be careful to keep adjusting his or her leadership style as the employee becomes more capable." (p. 22) "Managers also have to learn how to nurture and reward good ideas." (Caudron, 1995, p. 30)
     Conger and Kanungo (1988) discuss the importance of the employee's sense of their own abilities as a factor in their empowerment.  These coaching, or, "empowerment strategies…[are] aimed not only at removing some of the external conditions responsible for powerlessness, but also (and more important) at providing subordinates with self-efficacy information" (p. 478).  Among the coaching strategies noted are, "(a) expressing confidence in subordinates accompanied by high performance expectations, (b) fostering opportunities for subordinates to participate in decision making, (c) providing autonomy from bureaucratic constraint, and (d) setting inspirational and/or meaningful goals."(p. 478). Thomas and Velthouse (1990) indicate events such as, "inputs from supervisors, staff peers, and subordinates, for example, performance evaluations, charismatic appeals, training sessions, mentoring advice, and general discussions of ongoing projects…provides data on which to base task assessments." (p. 671). Task assessments are those perceptions by the employee of his or her ability to perform, or interest in, the task.  That is, management can change the environment to make completion of the tasks rewarding intrinsically (for example, through praise and recognition or increased opportunities), or management can work as a mentor to help the employee perceive his or her contribution as valuable.
    Mallak and Kurstedt (1996) echo this mentoring approach for employees, "and help them internalize the values and traditions [of the organization].  These managers help create a work environment where employees take action for intrinsic reasons more so than for extrinsic reasons." (p. 10).  Another aspect of mentoring is role modeling.  Block (1987) indicates, "One way we nurture those below us is by becoming a role model for how we want them to function." (p. 64).  Other authors use a sports analogy to get this same point across. "By setting the key goals and values, you define the playing field and the rules of the game.  You decide who plays what position.  Then you have to get off the field and let the players move the ball." ( Blanchard & Bowles, 1998, p.79)
 If a manager does not perceive her or his role is to help those she or he supervises to grow, then any empowerment implementation effort will not be successful.  A change in role perception is called for in this instance when implementing employee empowerment.  The supervisor must see potential in the employee and work to bring that potential out.  The process is best described as mentoring or coaching and it entails:
  • determining the skill level of the employee
  • sharing information about the goal to be achieved and why it is important to the organization as a whole
  • providing for employee training as needed
  • depending upon the employee's skill level, providing appropriate supervisory support
  • a directing style for those tasks for which the employee has a low skill level
  • coaching for those tasks with which the employee has some skills but is lacking experience or motivation
  • a supporting style for those tasks where the employee knows what to do but is still lacking confidence in their abilities
  • a delegating style for those tasks where the employee is motivated and fully capable. (Blanchard, Zigarmi & Zigarmi,1985)
  • ensuring that the employee is consistently growing in skill by providing new responsibilities for which a higher level of supervision is needed
  • mentoring the employee such that they absorb both the organizational culture and the value of empowerment
  • removing barriers to empowerment present in the organizational structure
  • ensuring that appropriate resources are available for the employee, or ensuring that the employee has the appropriate skills to obtain needed resources
  • providing support for the continued empowerment of the employee
  • and sharing information about the employee's and the organization's effectiveness.
  • Information Sharing

         Information is what the organizational culture is made of initially. Information is the gatekeeper to power.  The literature is unanimous on this point as well, every author indicated a need for increased information sharing.  Each author provided a different way of describing the importance of sharing information, "The first key is to share information with everyone. . . .People without information cannot act responsibly." (Blanchard, Carlos & Randolph, 1996, p. 34); "[if information shared] is zero, nothing happens to redistribute…[it], and empowerment will be zero." (Bowen & Lawler, 1995, p. 74); "Communication and information are the lifeblood of empowerment." (Ginnodo, 1997, p. 12).  In the absence of information employees do not know the ramifications of their actions and therefore are not responsible.
         Caudron (1995) in reporting about, "How to get the best from employees…[in Eastern European countries]" indicated, "managers gave employees information about the business, invested in new skills training, set goals for employees and gave them ongoing feedback on how they were meeting those goals." (p. 28).  The author reports that the results in this case study are, "nothing short of amazing. . . .Job satisfaction is high, most employees appear to trust management, and when you ask Berry [director of human resources] if he thinks workers have become empowered, he answers with an emphatic 'Yes.'" (Caudron, 1995, p. 28).  Despite the workers having never been exposed to this type of involving management, and perhaps never having trusted management before, the effort was a success—due to the power of information sharing.
         Block (1987) advises, "Share as much information as possible. . . .Most supervisors think part of their role is to shield their subordinates from bad news coming from above.  When we shield our people we are acting as their parents and treating them like children.  If we are trying to create the mind-set that everyone is responsible for the success of this business, then our people need complete information." (p. 90-1).  An important part of employee empowerment is demonstrating confidence in the worker, yet many managers hesitate to just let people go on their own.  This may be a call for some limitations in the form of shared information.
         Blanchard, Carlos and Randolph's (1996), "second key is to create autonomy through boundaries." (p. 40).  This statement sounds counterintuitive, however the authors explain that when employees understand the boundaries they are then free to take any action within those boundaries; they can bring their own creativity to bear on the task at hand and perhaps improve its effectiveness.  Other authors cite the need for boundaries, "The third lever is discipline and control. . .  .While they [employees] have autonomy, they are aware of the boundaries of their decision-making discretion." (Quinn & Spreitzer, 1997, p. 45) "Setting clear boundaries tells people what they're authorized to do" (Ginnodo, 1997, p. 12).  Bowen and Lawler (1995) also address the issue of, "setting reasonable boundaries for employee heroism" (p. 79) when responding to a service failure or the customer's needs.  Shipper and Manz (1992) in their case study of W. L. Gore and Associates note one of the four principles all employees are expected to abide by is, "Consult with other Associates prior to any action that may adversely affect the reputation or financial stability of the company. . . . associates can (and are encouraged to) make decisions on their own as long as the downside risk does not threaten the organization's survival." (p. 51).  Creating boundaries avoids one of the objections noted in the section above, that is, that employees will become overconfident and exceed their authority.
         Sharing information about goals and, "Effective communication about the organization's plans, successes, and failures." (Byham, 1997, p. 27) may seem commonplace, however its importance cannot be undervalued.  Randolph informs us that, "research…revealed that people who have information about current performance levels will set challenging goals—and when they achieve those goals they will reset the goals at a higher level." (Randolph, 1995, p. 22)
        Spreitzer (1995) provides additional evidence of this value; she notes,
    Hypothesis 2d:  Access to information about the mission of an organization is positively related to psychological empowerment
    Hypothesis 2e:  Access to information about the performance of a work unit is positively related to psychological empowerment. . . .
    Hypothesis 2f:  An individual-performance-based reward system is positively related to psychological empowerment. . . .(p. 1448)
    Spreitzer supports hypothesis 2d and 2e with this information, "Information about mission is an important antecedent of empowerment because (1) it helps to create a sense of meaning and purpose and (2) it enhances an individual's ability to make and influence decisions that are appropriately aligned with the organization's goals and mission." (p. 1448).
         As noted in the management role section above, one of the skills of this new role is sharing feedback about the employee's effectiveness.  Cauldron (1995) indicates, "empowerment programs fail because HR initiates the process the wrong way. . . . empowerment isn't something you do to people. . . . [rather it is developed by] creating an empowering environment--one in which employees are given goals, information, feedback, training, and perhaps most importantly, positive reinforcement. [italics mine]" (p. 29). Conger and Kanungo (1988) use nearly the same words to express the same sentiment, "The employment of these strategies is aimed not only at removing some of the external conditions responsible for powerlessness, but also (and more important) at providing subordinates with self-efficacy information (p. 474).  Without this positive reinforcement employees do not easily come to realize how skilled they really are and how important their work is to the success of the organization, "Empowered people have a sense of competence . . . empowered people have a sense of impact." (Quinn & Spreitzer, 1997, p. 40).  The importance of, "Performance management systems that provide a clear understanding of job responsibilities and methods for measuring success." (Byham, 1997, p. 25) "is fundamental to reinforcing a sense of competence and believing that one is a valued part of an organization." (Spreitzer, 1995, p. 1450)
         To make employee empowerment work, not only do we need to give them information about their own work, we must, "Give employees information about the business and demonstrate how their work fits in. . . .'Everyone wants to feel they do something of value.  When you demonstrate the value individuals bring to the business, people want to grow.'" (Caudron, 1995, p. 29). "Empowerment must be placed in a context of responsibility to the larger whole." (Mohrman, 1997, p. 16)  Managers must help employees understand that their work is, "directly aligned with strategic goals and individual accountability [is maintained] all the way along the line to senior management, customers and stockholders." (Ettorre, 1997, p. 1), and that they are considered, "partners in the business, all with an eye to the bottom-line implications." (p. 1).  Empowered employees will only understand these bottom line implications if organizational information is shared with them.
     

    The Value of Vision

         The value of providing a compelling vision of an empowered workplace should not be underestimated.  Because empowerment is often poorly understood, and usually has not been experienced by employees, it is the vision of what is possible that brings their commitment to it.  Vision is perhaps the most visible component of organizational culture; it is through the vision of what is possible that leaders can inspire employees to apply their skills, knowledge, and creativity towards its achievement.  Whatever the mind of man can conceive, and believe, it can achieve.
         Charismatic leaders understand the power of vision; Thomas and Velthouse (1990) report, "the most important motivational aspect of charismatic/transformational leadership is the heightened intrinsic value of goal accomplishment produced by the articulation of a meaningful vision or mission." (p. 668).  Witness President John F. Kennedy's vision of a man on the moon by the end of the decade of the 1960s.  Because JFK was able to envision the possible, and to articulate it effectively, he was able to marshal the resources of the entire country to achieve it.
         There are numerous examples of the importance of providing a vision in the literature. Block (1987) identifies, "Creating a vision of greatness [as] the first step toward empowerment." (p. 99).  Vision provides employees with that sense of "what do we do next" which can inspire creativity; Bowen and Lawler (1995) describe this as, "Awareness of the context." (p. 75).  It also allows for employees to not make decisions which are in the direction opposite that of which the leaders of the organization believe is right.  On the importance of organizational vision Gandz (1990) indicates, "There needs to be a shared vision. . . .lacking buy in to such visions, employees can hardly be expected to be self-directing in their fulfillment." (p. 75).  Quinn and Spreitzer (1997) identify, "The first lever" of "organizational characteristics [which] facilitate employee empowerment. . . .is a clear vision and challenge." (p. 43).
         Blanchard and Bowles (1998) use the term "values" in place of vision.  They indicate, "Values guide all plans, decisions and actions." (p. 171).  The authors make a distinction between goals and values:  "Goals are for the future.  Values are now.  Goals are set. Values are lived.  Goals change.  Values are rocks you can count on.  Goals get people going.  Values sustain the effort." (Blanchard & Bowles, 1998, p. 171).
         Some other authors indicate that the vision is articulated through the basic values of the organization.  At W. L. Gore these basic values are, "1. Try to be fair.  2. Use your freedom to grow.  3. Make your own commitments, and keep them.  4. Consult with other Associates prior to any action that may adversely affect the reputation or financial stability of the company." (Shipper & Manz, 1992, p. 51).  Within these values is the vision of a growing, profitable concern which has instilled employee empowerment to its core.
         The question of what vision to instill is answered by Gandz (1990), "There are many appealing visions such as the provision of excellent customer service, that are the precursors of profit, productivity and market share growth; but they must be articulated as such for them to be compelling. (p. 75).  In short, employees must understand and share the vision of the organization if they are to empowered.
     

    Developing Competency

         In order to implement employee empowerment the employees must be competent.  Competency goes beyond developing job-task specific knowledge. Bowen and Lawler (1995) cite the importance of "training in which employees are familiarized with how their jobs fit into upstream and downstream activities." (p.80).  "Employees must be properly trained.  It does not make sense to empower employees to do things such as make decisions or approve or initiate action if they are not properly trained." (Gandz, 1990, p. 76)  Byham (1997) indicates that among the "Characteristics of an empowered organization" (p. 25) are, "Empowering leadership/training. . . .Job and technical skills/training. . . .Interpersonal and problem-solving skills/training. . . .Front-line customer service skills/training. . . .Empowering support groups/training." (p. 28-30).  Gandz (1990) indicates, "Technical training, decision making skills, group process skills,  all are required if empowerment is to be accepted and produce results." (p. 76).
         Authors indicate the importance of training throughout the literature.  Caudron (1995) indicates, "Once employees understand what needs to be done to improve the company, they must have all the skills and resources necessary to be able to accomplish those improvements." (p. 32).  Kanter (1979) notes, "spreading power means educating people to this new definition of it." (p. 73) Ginnodo (1997) indicates, "Empowerment training is more than remedial; it prepares people for collaboration and higher level performance, and sends a message to employees:  we're spending money on you because this is important to the organization's future." (p. 13).  Ettorre (1997) defines empowerment, "as employees having autonomous decision-making capabilities and acting as partners in the business, all with an eye to the bottom-line implications." (p. 1).  One must then ask, "Where do employees get those decision-making capabilities and information about bottom line implications?"  The answer, of course, is through training.
         Training does not come cheaply.  Not only must empowered organizations invest in training materials and facilitators, they must value training sufficiently to release employees from regular work duties to attend.  Gandz (1990) reports, "it is a common experience for organizations that seek to empower employees to find that their training and development budgets are woefully underfunded. (p. 75).
         However, it is not only the responsibility of the training department and supervisors to provide training.  "There must be procedures and occasions for empowered individuals and teams to learn from each other." (Bowen & Lawler, 1995, p. 81)  In an empowered environment more experienced, "employees tend to take a more active role in intervening in the actions of newer employees and offering feedback regarding culture-consistent behaviors." (Mallak & Kurstedt, 1996, p. 8).  "In short, these newly empowered participants empowered their associates through their actions.  They shared success stories and helped one another diagnose situations to develop appropriate coping strategies." (Quinn & Spreitzer, 1997, p. 43)
         "Stories make information easier to remember and more believable." (Morgan & Dennehy, 1997, p. 495)  Freedman (1998) reports that for the U.S. Marines, "Sea stories are the very best way to…" (p. 60) pass on learning and recognition of problem patterns.  The marines have institutionalized organizational storytelling, these sea stories, as a valid way to train employees.   A good story which emphasizes the value of errors is the one about the 3M engineer who was trying to formulate a new adhesive.  Unfortunately the glue was not sufficiently sticky and pieces of paper glued with it could be pulled apart.  The engineer could have decided his effort was a failure, however 3M has a corporate value of risk-taking and encourages workers to find other applications for their products.  The engineer described the failed glue's properties one day in a group meeting and was asked by another worker if the adhesive could be applied to bookmarks.  It seems that the second worker was a member of a church choir and his bookmarks would often fall out of his choir book making it difficult to find the next song they were to sing.  His thought was that if the bookmarks had a removable glue applied they would stay in place and yet still be movable to the next week's song selections.  The engineer agreed to provide the choir with some pieces of paper with the adhesive applied.  The engineer also kept some of these removable notes to use on memos and such.  Soon he was supplying all the workers in his area with pads of these removable notes.  One day someone said, "we should market these!" and so was born the post-it note.  The engineer learned that what seems like a mistake one day can be of tremendous benefit the next.  Now the Post-It? note is one of 3M's biggest sellers.
         "Another approach is through interventions that provide unusually dramatic, memorable examples of high task assessments and, thus, are more likely to shift a person's global assessments.  This approach is analogous to the one taken in such programs as Upward Bound." (Thomas & Velthouse, 1990, p. 679)  This may be an example of challenge and support training.
         Challenge and support (Sanford, 1962) is a concept used in the field of student affairs to describe how to help students learn and grow.  The concept proceeds from the perspective that people do not learn or grow when they are comfortable.  Nor do they learn when they are too uncomfortable.. The lack of interpersonal skills training in the Eaton company is a situation where too much challenge and insufficient support were provided, "new workers are required to give speeches before new employees and managers and to attend training seminars about saying 'we,' never 'I' or 'you,' when being critical, to avoid sounding accusatory." (Aeppel, 1997, p.10).  If this is the extent of their communications skills training, then it leaves a great deal to be desired.  The plant manager indicates, "It can be taught...but the worker has to want to learn it." (Aeppel, 1997, p.10).  And, as this company has learned, must be taught if empowerment is to be well received.
         When past coping behaviors or understandings of the-way-things-are become insufficient for the present circumstances people experience feelings of discomfort. This uncomfortable feeling is called cognitive dissonance.  At the point of cognitive dissonance people are ready to learn a new way of coping or to develop a new understanding of the-way-things-are.  This is "the teachable moment".  It is at this point that employees will be most receptive to learning something new.
         If we choose to help people to grow it is incumbent upon us to challenge them to the point of cognitive dissonance.  We can then use the teachable moment to provide new information that the person can use to change their perspective on the-way-things-are.  However, if too much challenge is provided, people will revert to old ways of coping and avoid the learning experience all together.  Because the environment often provides so many challenges that the learning individual can become overwhelmed, we must provide sufficient support to them so they do not regress.
         Challenging and supporting then become new roles for the teaching supervisor.  We do not want to allow people we are trying to empower to grow too comfortable in their roles such that there is no reason for them to expand their knowledge and grow in their empowerment.  Nor do we want to provide so much challenge that the employee tosses in the towel and decides to work elsewhere.  Rather we want to provide sufficient challenge to allow for growth and sufficient support to avoid overwhelming our associates.
         Just as individuals must be developed through the apprenticeship stages noted below, teams, too, must be supported and trained as they go through stages.  Blanchard, Carlos and Randolph (1996) indicate, "You have to start by giving them what they need at the place where they are."(p. 63)  That is,
    groups, like individuals, go through predictable stages of development.  They need different kinds of leadership at each stage. . . .the orientation stage. . . is a time when a team needs strong, clear leadership. . . .dissatisfaction stage.  The reality of working as a team always seems to be more difficult than team members expect. . . .need continued strong, clear leadership.  But they also need support. . . .resolution [stage]. . .when members begin to learn to work together we start to rotate the role of team coordinator among team members. . . .production stage. . . .A self directed team acts to direct and support individual efforts itself." (Blanchard, Carlos, & Randolph, 1996, p. 100-101).

    Importance of Resources

         In many organizations access to resources is controlled by supervisory staff.  If employee empowerment is to be implemented successfully, those controls must be removed and resources placed under empowered employees' control. "Resources include items such as funding, access to support staff, or experts who have knowledge on which the employee can draw." (Ward, 1996, p. 22)  Typically restriction of access to resources is in place to avoid employee abuse.  However, if information about the costs and effect on the bottom line procurement of resources has is shared with employees they are not likely to abuse them.  Caudron (1995) notes, "Once both employees and managers have received proper training, the next step is to give employees control of the resources needed to make improvements.  Nothing is more demotivating or disempowering than being stopped in your tracks because you either don't know how to proceed or lack the tools necessary to do a good job." (p. 31).
         Bowen and Lawler (1995) describe what happens if insufficient resources are provided.  Relying on people to provide service improvements without resources is called the human resources trap.  "The HR trap occurs when managers expect their front-line people to provide better and better service without simultaneously trying to improve the core service offering itself, enhance the tangibles, make available state-of-the-art technology and market research, and so on.  It can result in unreasonable responsibility for damage control placed on the front-line workers in a poorly designed, inadequately coordinated service system." (Bowen & Lawler, 1995, p. 82)
         Release of control to employees demonstrates management trust and confidence in their competence.  This is very empowering.
     

    Sufficient Support

         The organization which chooses to implement empowerment must ensure that sufficient support is available to keep it going. Blanchard and Bowles (1998) remind us, "You can't be in control unless the rest of the organization supports you and doesn't rip you, or your work, apart." (p. 172).  Zimmerman (1990) notes that, "It [empowerment] is not an absolute threshold that once reached can be labeled as empowered.  Empowerment embodies an interaction between individuals and environment that is culturally and contextually defined. . . . sense of community plays an important role in the development of personal control and participation." (p. 170-1).  In other words, the environment must be a supportive one.
         Support can take the form of workplace social supports.  Spreitzer and Quinn (1996) note, "managers who made transformational organizational change had significantly higher social support scores" (p. 249).  In other words, the more support the managers had the more effectively empowered they were.  "Empowerment techniques and strategies that provide emotional support for subordinates and that create a supportive and trusting group atmosphere can be more effective in strengthening self-efficacy beliefs." (Conger & Kanungo, 1988, p. 479)  Also, "inputs from supervisors, staff peers, and subordinates…mentoring advice, and general discussions of ongoing projects. . . .provides data on which to base task assessments." (Thomas & Velthouse, 1990, p. 671).  The task assessments, as noted above, are the employee's perception of his or her abilities and motivation and are the basis for intrinsic motivation.  So we can conclude that with a good support system in place the likelihood of employees developing intrinsic motivation and a sense of self-efficacy is increased, thereby increasing empowerment.
         Support can also take the form of, "recognizing and rewarding improvement efforts and success" (Ginnodo, 1997, p. 8). "Reward and recognition systems…build pride and self-esteem." (Byham, 1997, p27)  Blanchard and Bowles (1998) note, "Congratulations are affirmations that who people are and what they do matter, and that they are making a valuable contribution toward achieving the shared mission." (p. 174)  Spontaneous, Individual, Specific, and Unique" (p. 175) congratulations are most effective.  These authors also tell us, "You can't overdo TRUE congratulations:  Timely, Responsive, Unconditional, [and] Enthusiastic." (p. 174).  Ginnodo also indicates, "Celebration and recognition for forward motion and accomplishment are needed." (p. 13).
          Quinn and Spreitzer (1997) raise other aspects support by noting, "The fourth lever [of effecting empowering changes] is support and a sense of security" (p. 46).  Shipper and Manz (1992) discuss the powerful and general support which is provided to associates at W. L. Gore,
    every associate has one or more sponsors who provide training, act as coach or mentor, and advocate with the compensation committee for the employee's pay increases. . . .The sponsor tracks the new associate's progress, providing help and encouragement. . . .A sponsor is a friend and an Associate.  All the aspects of the friendship are also present. (p. 51).
    Gandz (1990) indicates, "Managers need faith in employees. . . .Risks can be minimized through training and shared vision, values and benefits, but the empowered organization requires confident managers who have faith in employees. . . .The overall culture of the organization must support risk taking." (p. 76-7).
     

    Theoretical Foundations

         One author in the field of social psychology writes, "psychological empowerment refers to the individual level of analysis, but does not ignore ecological and cultural influences.  Psychological empowerment is a contextually oriented conception of empowerment that embraces the notion of person-environment fit.  It includes, but is not limited to, collective action, skill development, and cultural awareness…" (Zimmerman, 1990, p. 173-4).  This perception of empowerment raises the questions, so as to bring about a more empowered workplace, How does one:      Spreitzer (1995) presents her hypothesises thus:
    Hypothesis 1a:  There are four distinct dimensions of psychological empowerment.
    Hypothesis 1b:  Each dimension contributes to an overall construct of psychological empowerment. . . .(p. 1446)
    Hypothesis 2a:  Self-esteem is positively related to psychological empowerment. (p. 1446)
    Hypothesis 2b:  Locus of control is positively related to psychological empowerment. . . .(p. 1447)
    Hypothesis 2c:  Self-esteem and locus of control are distinct from the overall construct of psychological empowerment. . . .(p. 1447)
    Hypothesis 2d:  Access to information about the mission of an organization is positively related to psychological empowerment.
    Hypothesis 2e:  Access to information about the performance of a work unit is positively related to psychological empowerment. . . .(p.1447)
    Hypothesis 2f:  An individual performance-based reward system is positively related to psychological empowerment. . . .(p. 1448)
    Hypothesis 3a:  Psychological empowerment is positively related to managerial effectiveness. . . .(p. 1449)
    Hypothesis 3b:  Psychological empowerment is positively related to innovative behaviors.
    These predictions represent a partial nomological network for the construct:  the variables included are believed to be key personality and contextual antecedents and individual consequences of psychological empowerment. (p. 1449)
    Spreitzer goes on to check the validity of the instrument she created through combining and refining previous instruments which measured the dimensions noted above.  She reports,
    both internal consistency and the test-retest reliability are established for the empowerment scale items. . . .Contrary to expectations, locus of control (gamma = .05) was not found to be significantly related to empowerment.  Because the theoretical links between locus of control and empowerment are quite strong, the lack of support for this hypothesis may be a result of measurement limitations. . . . support for Hypothesises 2a, 2c, and 2d was found, though support was not found for Hypothesis 2b. . . .(p. 1458)  support for Hypotheses 2d and 2e was found. . . .(p. 1460)  These findings provide support for Hypotheses 3a and 3b and suggest that managerial effectiveness and innovative behaviors tend to be moderately related. (Spreitzer, 1995, p. 1460)
    Despite these positive findings, Spreitzer (1995) notes, "The limited discriminant validity found her and some differences across the two samples suggest that continued refinement of the measures is necessary. . . .A more powerful test of the full empowerment model would be to tie empowerment to certain organizational manipulations" (p. 1461)
         The questions then become, How does one      In a later article, Spreitzer (1996) indicates, "perceptions of both empowerment and social structural characteristics were the primary focus in this study." (p. 486).  She goes on to note,
    this work contributes to the literature by articulating the importance of perceptions in the interpretation of the work environment as either empowering or disempowering to individuals. . . .by providing one of the first empirical examinations of the relationship between social structure and empowerment. . . .This study supports the proposition that high-involvement social structures (specifically , low role ambiguity, wide supervisory spans of control, sociopolitical support, access to information, and a participative climate) create opportunities for empowerment in the workplace.  In spite of these contributions, the study has a number of limitations and raises questions for future research on the nature of the relationship between social structure and empowerment. (p. 500).
         Additional questions raised by this research are, How does one      Unfortunately, one study which sought to answer some of these questions had an excellent study design, but the null hypothesis was not rejected.  The study design used a study group who were being empowered and a control group who were not.  "Both groups had responded to a previous, extensive survey of management practices, which served as a baseline measure."  However, apparently due to an organizational downsizing effort in the middle of the study, "Results provided minimal support for the positive influence of empowerment.  The null hypothesis that empowered workers would have no difference in how they viewed their situation than non-empowered workers was not rejected." (Thorlakson & Murray, 1996, p. )
         Some definitions are needed to help understand Thomas and Velthouse's (1990) perspective on empowerment.  These include, "intrinsic task motivation involves positively valued experiences that individuals derive directly from a task. . . .Task assessments are presumed to be the proximal cause of intrinsic task motivation and satisfaction. . . .task refers to a set of activities directed toward a purpose." (p. 668)  So, when a person does a set of activities (read work) he or she assesses the task at hand and decides if it is motivating and satisfactory.  Over the course of time the individual generalizes these individual task assessments into an overall perspective of this type of work.  If the intrinsic task motivation is present and is supported by management, that person becomes empowered.
         Thomas and Velthouse (1990) report,
    Thus far, two studies have provided support for the parts of the model that involve interpretive styles and task assessments. . . .A more extensive test of the model…involved a questionnaire survey of 164 managers in three organizations, using multiple-item measures of the task assessments and interpretive styles.  Factor analysis of the task assessment items demonstrated four separate factors, corresponding to the task assessments [impact, competence, meaningfulness, and choice] in the present model.  The authors identify, "Two general intervention strategies…: changing the environmental events on which the individual bases his or her task assessments and changing the individual's style of interpreting those events." (p. 667)
    Additional questions raised by this study include, How does one:      Spreitzer and Quinn (1996) provide follow-up to their initial studies conducted at Ford.  Their research efforts were targeted at what could be learned from those middle managers who attended Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) programs and who then were encouraged to effect change on behalf of the organization.  The authors report,
    only those with positive affect, self-esteem, and social support embraced the charge to make transformational change.  Those with negative affect, poor self-esteem, and little social support, responded with management style changes that had little affect on the organization.  The findings suggest that individual mind-set was a key moderator in determining who embraced change and who resisted it. (p. 250)
    these results show, when stimulated to make change, middle managers with negative affect tend to be unsuccessful in their efforts.  Second, developing transformational middle managers may require much more than most senior executives want to consider expending. . . .real change requires real investment.  The LEAD program represents creative design, long-term commitment, and heavy expenditure.  But the long term pay-offs can be high. . . .Third, the findings also suggest that an important resource in many organizations may be unintentionally wasted or consciously destroyed. . . . In this study, it was found that the plateaued managers were most likely to take the greatest risks on behalf of the company. (p. 252)
    this article…has several limitations.  First, the study is primarily exploratory in nature. . . .Second, the generalizability of the findings is limited. . . .Third. . . .causality cannot be ascertained. (p. 252-253)
     It seems that the questions raised by this article have already been raised by the articles above.  In some cases, the authors of the studies provide suggested answers to these "How does one" questions, in others the questions are left for the reader.  My hope is that with the information I have provided above, and the information I will provide below, I will answer all of these questions.
     

    Implementation Timeframe

         It should be clear at this point that implementing an empowerment program is quite and extensive affair.  I would be remiss if I did not support the contention that it may take several years before the organization will see the benefits of empowerment.  Several authors echo this sentiment:  Caudron (1995), "empowerment doesn't provide immediate gratification. . . . the length of the learning curve is the greatest challenge to most empowerment programs" (p. 28); Gandz (1990), "keep at it!. . . .It will not be done through a 90 day program with empowerment t-shirts and coffee mugs.  It is critical to signal that this will be a new way of running the organization that might take several years to develop." (p. 78); Ginnodo (1997), "Empowerment is hard work and takes time." (p. 13); Quinn and Spreitzer (1997),"empowerment is anything but simple and quick--it demands a willingness to embrace uncertainty, trust people, and exercise faith." (p. 43); and Thorlakson and Murray (1996), "recognize that empowerment is not an overnight process but rather a 'way of life,' which can take time to implement.  Finally, view empowerment not as a fad but as an opportunity and a challenge to help unleash an organization's full potential." (p. 79).  'Nuff said!
     

    Situational Implementation

         A number of authors indicate that employee empowerment is a process which must be implemented in stages.  This concept applies both for each individual and for the organization as a whole.  From the overall effort described by Blanchard, et al. in all three books cited in this paper (Blanchard & Bowles, 1998; Blanchard, Carlos & Randolph, 1996; Blanchard, Zigarmi & Zigarmi, 1985), to those who draw upon their work (Ward, 1996), to the social psychologists, who note that, "It [empowerment] is not an absolute threshold that once reached can be labeled as empowered." (Zimmerman, 1990, p. 170), there is this sense that empowerment is not an all or nothing proposition.
         Bowen and Lawler (1992) identify three levels of empowerment in organizations.  From least empowering, or "control oriented", to most empowering, or "involvement oriented" (p. 35). Caudron, 1995 indicates, "The best way to empower team members is gradually and systematically. . . . Responsibilities for self-management and decision making should be turned over to employees on as as-ready basis." (p. 30).
         Conger and Kanungo, (1988) echo this perspective, "When subordinates perform complex tasks or are given more responsibility in their jobs, they have the opportunity to test their efficacy.  Initial success experiences (through successively moderate increments in task complexity and responsibility along with training to acquire new skills) make one feel more capable and, therefore, empowered" (p. 479).  In other words, employees must be developed through ever more challenging tasks.  The concept is that as they experience success with less challenging tasks they will develop confidence in their skills and be ready and willing to accept further challenge.  The authors note, "Empowerment techniques and strategies that provide emotional support for subordinates and that create a supportive and trusting group atmosphere can be…effective in strengthening self-efficacy beliefs." (p. 479).
         Ford and Fottler (1995) also recommend an incremental implementation of an employee empowerment program, "this approach would focus first on the job content and, later, the empowered employees would become involved in making decisions about job context as well. Management could oversee the progress to assess the readiness of employees as well as their own comfort level with giving up authority." (p. 26).
         One of the factors which cause many empowerment programs to fail is a lack of recognition that, "empowerment is a continuous variable; people can be viewed as more or less empowered, rather than empowered or not empowered." (Spreitzer, 1995, p. 1444) as well as that, "empowerment is not a global construct generalizable across different life situations and roles but rather, specific to the work domain." (p. 1444).  Indeed, I would argue that it is not generalizable from one work task to another.
     

    Assessment

         The literature is ripe with ways to assess an organization either for how ready it may be for an empowerment effort, or how empowered it currently is. Conger and Kanungo (1988) indicate, "The first stage is the diagnosis of conditions within the organization that are responsible for feelings of powerlessness among subordinates." (p. 474).  They provide a table of, "Context Factors Leading to Potential Lowering of Self-Efficacy Belief" (p. 477) which can be used to create an instrument to ensure these factors are eliminated or minimized.
         Caudron (1995) provides an, "HR Checklist:  do you have an empowered environment?" (p. 33) based upon the Colgate-Palmolive model which may be useful as a measuring device for workplace empowerment efforts.  Byham (1997) provides 14 "characteristics of an empowered organization" and indicates "These factors are basically goals to be achieved." (p. 25).  Ginnodo (1997) also provides a list of dos and don'ts from which a survey could easily be developed.  Ettorre (1997) provides a seven question survey, "How empowered are your managers?" (p. 3).  Randolph (1995) provides an exhibit of, "The Empowerment Plan" (p. 29) which could be adapted into a survey to determine if these factors are currently present within the organization.  Ford and Fottler (1995) provide an implied survey with their "Employee Empowerment Grid" (p. 24).  An assessment of where the employee's decision making authority lands on the job content and job context helps to identify how empowered that employee is.
         Quinn and Spreitzer (1997) provide "Seven questions every leader should consider" on, "The road to empowerment" (p. 37); they are:
    1. What do we mean when we say we want to empower people?
    2. What are the characteristics of an empowered person?
    3. Do we really need empowered people?
    4. Do we really want empowered people?
    5. How do people develop a sense of empowerment?
    6. What organizational characteristics facilitate employee empowerment?
    7. What can leaders do to facilitate employee empowerment? (p. 45)
    The authors indicate that the questions above raise "Some Hard Questions" and "Some Harder Questions" (p. 44), which provide more of an assessment set for the organization.
         Bowen and Lawler (1992) provide a table reproduced below to assist with determination of the best strategy given the contingencies of the organizational environment.
     
     
    Contingency
    Production Line Approach
    Empowerment
    Basic business strategy Low cost, high volume
    1  2  3  4  5
    Differentiation, customer personalized
    Tie to customer Transaction, short time period
    1  2  3  4  5
    Relationship, long time period
    Technology Routine, simple
    1  2  3  4  5
    Nonroutine, complex
    Business environment Predictable, few surprises
    1  2  3  4  5
    Unpredictable, many suprises
    Types of people Theory X managers, employees with low growth needs, low social needs, and weak interpersonal skills
    1  2  3  4  5
    Theory Y managers, employees with high growth needs, high social needs and strong interpersonal skills
    (Bowen & Lawler, 1992, p. 37)
    Clearly, within each contingency, the higher number circled, the more likely that employee empowerment will be effective in the organization conducting the survey.
         Bowen and Lawler (1995) also provide measures of how effective empowerment efforts have been.  The authors include:  asking employees if they feel more empowered, "survey customers to determine if they view employees as empowered,. . . . track changes in the percentage of employees who are 'covered' by empowering management practices,. . . . monitor changes in organizational structure. . . . decreasing management levels and increasing span of control are important indexes of empowerment success." (p. 77).
         Thorlakson and Murray (1996) provide a table with the results of their survey where responses have been categorized.  The actual survey can be obtained from one of the authors.  Spreitzer and Quinn (1996) also provide a table with categorized responses from which a useful assessment instrument could be developed.  Spreitzer (1996) provides a table with the actual questions used in her survey.  Spreitzer (1995) provides an appendix with the "Text of Items Measuring Empowerment" (p. 1464).


    The Apprenticeship Model

         Apprenticeship, as commonly practiced in the trades, consists of three levels of competency and an associated level of empowerment.  This concept can easily be transferred to any organizational environment.  Employees do the work and make the decisions for which they have sufficient skills and knowledge.  Employees and their employer also recognize their responsibility to continue the training and development of the employee.  Because the empowerment concept calls for a recognition of the value of every employee (Blanchard & Bowles, 1998), no employee is looked down upon based upon his or her job responsibilities or level of skill.
     

    Apprentice level

         Rather than as a lowly, know-nothing, the apprentice is viewed as an unskilled worker with potential.  He or she may be assigned tasks which are seemingly menial yet are essential to the effective working of the shop.  The apprentice is expected to be aware of how the organization works and to ask questions at appropriate times.  Also he or she is expected to be eager to learn new skills and to practice these skills under the guidance of journeymen and masters.
     

    Journeyperson level

         Journeypersons do the primary work of the organization.  In order to be considered a journeyperson an individual is expected to have all but the most specialized skills of their craft.  She or he must be able to work without supervision. There must also be a recognition of one's responsibility to provide skills training for apprentices.  Journeypersons know how to get the answers to their questions, and are developing the sense of what are the right questions to ask.
     

    Master level

         Masters provide the overall direction and vision for the organization.  They decide which jobs to do and how they can be done.  Masters understand their responsibility to supervise the continued development of journeypersons so as to teach and develop the next generation of leaders.  As part of sharing their vision, masters provide information about the overall organization to both journeypersons and apprentices.  As befitting their advanced knowledge, masters advance the trade through innovation and complete the work for which only they are trained.
         This model is deceptively simple.  Anyone can quickly grasp the three levels (Freedman, 1998) and place workers they know into one of the three categories.  However, it is important to realize that the model calls for a recognition that an individual could be at any one of the three levels for different aspects of their job (Blanchard, Zigarmi, & Zigarmi, 1985; Blanchard, Carlos & Randolph, 1996; Ward, 1996).  I have provided an example of how this may be the case in a retail department store in Appendix A.
     

    Support, Culture, and Information

         One must also realize that the model calls for individuals with greater skills to accept responsibility for training those who are less skilled (Thomas & Velthouse, 1990; Conger & Kanungo, 1988; Zimmerman, 1990; Blanchard & Bowles, 1998; Blanchard, Zigarmi, & Zigarmi, 1985).  This form of mentoring also provides the necessary social support for empowerment to occur (Ginnodo, 1997; Byham, 1997; Quinn and Spreitzer, 1997; Shipper and Manz, 1992; Thomas & Velthouse, 1990; Conger & Kanungo, 1988; Zimmerman, 1990; Blanchard & Bowles, 1998).
         An additional consideration is the importance of passing along the culture (Schein, 1985; Quinn & Spreitzer, 1997; Mallak & Kurstedt, 1996; Shipper & Manz, 1992; Blanchard & Bowles, 1998; Block, 1987).  As noted above, the apprentice develops a sense of the values of the craft as he or she watches the care the master puts into his or her work.  A recognition of the importance of every task is developed while sweeping the floor—for without a swept floor the shop becomes potentially dangerous and may drive away paying customers.  Both the master and the journeyperson share this perspective with the apprentice as the floor is swept.
         It is this type of information sharing which will allow the apprentice to grow and develop (Bowen & Lawler, 1995; Mallak & Kurstedt, 1996; Quinn & Spreitzer, 1997).  As she or he develops, information beyond the simplistic, "we must sweep so no one gets hurt and customers don't think we do sloppy work" is shared.  The journeyperson must learn how to set prices for the finished work; the master shares information about how to estimate the time it will take to complete a given project and what the overhead costs during that time period will be.
         Perhaps this information sharing will be in the form of a story (Thomas & Velthouse, 1990; Morgan & Dennehy, 1997; Quinn & Spreitzer, 1997) about a time when the master estimated incorrectly and had to live frugally for the next month as a result.  The master may also share the perspective that it may be better to overestimate a project's costs, then one can inform the customer of the reduced cost of the project and delight him or her.  This is an example of sharing the vision the master has for his or her organization (Blanchard & Bowles, 1998; Quinn & Spreitzer, 1997; Block, 1987).  In this instance the vision is one of superior customer service (Gandz, 1990).
         The master also must help the journeyperson understand that doing this may result in the customer going elsewhere to obtain what is needed.  This sense of balancing the opportunity costs is an important concept, and lacking it, one which might force the journeyperson to fail in his or her own shop. The master could just as easily have shared a vision of being the low cost leader.  In this instance, the apprentice would be told to not waste time sweeping the floor and that it was more important to be constantly working on projects; the journeyperson would be told that we can make up in volume what we may loose in margin.  One can see how this apprenticeship model can be adapted to the different types or organizational strategies which exist.
     

    Value of Competency Development

         Perhaps the easiest aspect to understand from the apprenticeship model is that of developing employee competency (Blanchard, Carlos & Randolph, 1996; Quinn & Spreitzer, 1997; Ginnodo, 1997; Byham, 1997; Blanchard & Bowles, 1998).  It is clear that as one's skills develop one moves through the levels from apprentice to journeyperson to master.  The importance of understanding that competency is more than just technical skills cannot be overemphasized (Bowen & Lawler, 1995; Caudron, 1995; Mohrman, 1997).  Perhaps the apprentice develops sufficient skills to become a journeyperson, but does not develop a sense of the importance of keeping a clean floor—the results could be disastrous if the newly minted journeyperson slips and injures him or herself and cannot work.  Or perhaps the new master, who did not learn how to mentor an apprentice and winds up out of business for lack of labor (or as an alternative for those with a sense of the macabre, is paid a visit by "representatives" of the other masters who make sure he or she "understands" the importance of keeping the price level high—perhaps by having extra medical bills imposed).  While the possibilities of suffering injury or financial loss are used as extreme examples here, one can appreciate the complexities which must be understood in any organizational environment.  Developing competency is developing this appreciation as well as developing skills.



     

     Assessment Questions and Associated Responses


         Based on the research cited in the Assessment Instruments section above, and keeping in mind my definition of empowerment (culture, information, competency, resources, and support), there seems to be a need for an assessment instrument which leaders can use to assess the empowerment level of their organization within the constructs of the apprenticeship model.  I would argue that assessing is only half of the effort needed to successfully implement empowerment.  The other half is responding with organizational changes and competency development.  The assessment questions below are the starting point.  The training responses in the next section are cross-referenced by question number, then lettered to provide the appropriate response based upon the answer to the question.  For example, after answering question 237, the organizational leader can look for the appropriate response under 237A, 237B, or 237C depending upon the what fits best given the organizational circumstance present.  If this instrument was based on a computer, hyperlinks could be created from the possible answers directly to the appropriate response.
         Any survey of this type has its drawbacks.  I address these first so that an understanding can be achieved that these questions and the associated training responses in no way represent the only possible way to implement an empowerment program in a given organization.  It is possible that the individual or group which uses the assessment instrument do not know the organization sufficiently well to be able to answer the questions; or that they will want to make the organization look good and skew the results.
         As in any assessment instrument, the terms used within are subject to interpretation by the users, this could cause confusion and thereby not address the needs of the organization.  A significant event in the life of the organization could completely change how the questions are answered or whether the training responses are appropriate.  Certainly, the ability of the instrument users to implement or recommend change or training might make the entire exercise worthless.  Nonetheless, I believe the instrument and the suggested responses to be useful.
     

    Assessment Questions

    1. Can a consensus be reached by any group of organizational members as to the definition of empowerment?
     YES         NO         DON'T KNOW

    2. What perquisites become available as climbs up in the organizational hierarchy?

     NONE          FEW          MANY         DON'T KNOW

    3. Who are your mentors within the organization?

     MANY         FEW         NONE

    4. In the course of a week, how may times does a low-level, front-line employee need to seek approval for an action she or he believes is the correct one?

     NONE         FEW         MANY

    5. Can any given employee accurately answer the question, "How is the organization doing"?

     YES         NO         DON'T KNOW

    6. What is the vision of the organization?

     EASILY ANSWERED         DON'T KNOW

    7. In what aspects of your job have you reached master status?

     SEVERAL        FEW         NONE—NEW TO ORG.        NONE—NO EFFORT

    8. Are you providing training to anyone within the organization?

     YES         NO

    9. In what aspects of your job do you continue to grow?

     SEVERAL         FEW         NONE

    10. When was the last time a project or work effort was delayed due to lack of resources?

     LONG TIME AGO        RECENTLY         ALL THE TIME

    11. If your supervisor was away and a customer or another department asked you to complete a project for which you knew there was capacity to complete, would you be able to agree to complete the project and access the needed resources?

     YES         YES, AFTER SEEKING APPROVAL         NO

    12. If the above request slightly exceeded the known capacity to complete, what would be your supervisor's boss's response if you decided to accept the project anyway?

     PRAISE        DON'T KNOW         ANGER

    13. How would such a decision affect the organization?

     POSITIVELY         NEGATIVELY         DON'T KNOW

    14. What would you do if another member of your department disagreed with you about the decision to accept the project?

     DISCUSS TO RESOLUTION         GO OVER HIS/HER HEAD

    15. Who are your friends in the organization?

     MANY         FEW         NONE         DON'T KNOW




    Training Responses

    1A.  YES:  Good for you!  Your organization is making progress toward empowerment.  Keep doing what you have been doing.

    1B.  NO:  Discussions about what empowerment is and how it will impact the organization need to begin.  Without at least some shared understanding of the concept of empowerment there will be confusion in the organizational ranks and your empowerment effort will be sidetracked if not derailed.

    1C.  DON'T KNOW:  Go and find out.  If consensus can be reached see 1A, if not see 1B.  But first, read the thesis so at least you'll have some understanding of the concept.
    question 2next question

    2A.  NONE:  Great!  Keep up the effort to eliminate perquisites which are not available to everyone.

    2B.  FEW:  Work to eliminate them or make them available for everyone.  Discuss with those who benefit from the perquisites how they felt when they were in a position where they were unavailable.  Ask them if they think those who do not receive these added benefits feel the same way they did.  Encourage honest reflection.

    2C.  MANY:  Work to eliminate them or make them available for everyone.  If a culture of empowerment is to be achieved then those who receive perquisites must demonstrate their belief in it by equalizing the organizational environment.

    2D.  DON'T KNOW:  Try to find out and then address as noted above.  Hint:  if no one will discuss perquisites with you then there are probably many of them.
    question 3

    3A.  MANY:  Congratulations!  The value of mentors is manifold.  Be sure that you are acting as a mentor to others as well.

    3B.  FEW:  Work to increase the number of people you can look to for advice, training, and cultural clues; also be sure to be offering mentoring to others with less experience than you.

    3C.  NONE:  The empowerment effort in your organization is probably off-track or non-existent .  As a first step, find yourself a mentor who can show you the ropes and enhance your skills.  Continue to find people who can provide mentoring advice, and offer mentoring advice to those with less experience.
    question 4

    4A.  NONE:  Good.  The organization has probably established clear boundaries for decision-making for these employees.  This is also an indication that trust has been placed in their ability to make good decisions, generally this type of trust comes from effective competency development, clear vision, and good information about the impact of decisions on the bottom line.  It also indicates that appropriate resources have been made available to these individuals.

    4B.  FEW:  Work to increase these individuals' skills and understanding of their impact on the work of the organization.  Establish clear boundaries for their decisions and share the organization's vision with them.  Ensure that the resources they need are at their disposal.

    4C.  MANY:  Does your organization consider itself an empowering one?  If so, then this is an important place to begin demonstrating commitment thereto.  These front-line workers interact with your customers so empowering them will enhance your customer service.  Implement whatever changes are needed in higher levels of your organization, then follow the suggestions in 4B.
    question 5

    5A.  YES:  Your organization is probably sharing information about the bottom line and how that individual impacts it.  This is very empowering.

    5B.  NO:  Work to increase information sharing.  Empowered individuals understand how their work impacts the bottom line.  If employees don't know what that bottom line is then they cannot possibly know their impact upon it.  Of course, employees will need to be trained to understand whatever information is shared with them, so developing this competency is an important step as well.

    5C.  DON'T KNOW:  This is probably an indication that they don't.  Refer to the suggestions in 5B.
    question 6

    6A.  EASILY ANSWERED:  Very good.  Sharing a vision is an important aspect of empowering employees—it allows people to think about how their work fits into the larger picture and provides opportunity for them to apply their creativity to help achieve that vision.

    6B.  DON'T KNOW:  Work to develop a vision for the organization, or at least for your unit.  Help employees to see where the organization hopes to go so they can help to get it there.
    question 7

    7A.  SEVERAL:  Great!  This is an indication that you have been developed to this point.  Be sure that you are training journeypersons and apprentices in what you know.  Also, keep challenging yourself to achieve master level in other aspects of your job or in tasks beyond your current responsibilities.

    7B.  FEW:  Continue to work to achieve this level.  See suggestions in 7A as well.

    7C.  NONE, BECAUSE I AM NEW:  Continue to work to achieve this level.  See suggestions in 7A.

    7D.  NONE, NO EFFORT MADE:  Work to enhance your skills.  Seek out mentors and people with additional skills and information who can help you to grow professionally.  Even if your job responsibilities seem menial, you have an impact on the organization's bottom line so enhancing your skills will be of benefit to the organization.
    question 8

    8A.  YES:  Good.  Continue to develop the skills of others as you continue to develop your own.

    8B.  NO:  If your organization is an empowering one, you must ask yourself "Why not?".  If you consider yourself too busy, reconsider.  Think of your responsibilities for the future needs of the organization—will you ever be less busy if you don't train others to do what you do?  If you don't think you have sufficient stills to teach anyone anything, think again.  Perhaps you are the most inexperienced person in your department, but are there people in other areas with whom you could share what little experience you do have.  Do you have talents which are not apparent in the organizational setting?  If so, share those with your colleagues so that the balance is maintained.
    question 9

    9A.  SEVERAL:  Very good.  This demonstrates a recognition of the importance of developing competency.  Even if you are a master at all aspects of your current job, you are seeking opportunities to learn aspects of other jobs.  Even if you are the CEO you recognize that you don't know everything.  Allowing an employee at a lower level to provide the CEO with training is tremendously empowering to them.

    9B.  FEW:  Unless you are relatively new to your position, this is still good.  See ideas in 9A.

    9C.  NONE:  Probably not an empowering organization.  Work to develop the apprenticeship model within your organization.  Seek out opportunities to develop your competency to the point of mastery.  Or, if you have achieved mastery in your area of specialty, seek out opportunities to grow in other areas.
    question 10

    10A.  LONG TIME AGO:  Good.  Empowering organizations provide the resources needed for employees to get the job done, or the employees have developed the competency to obtain needed resources themselves.

    10B.  RECENTLY:  Unless this was an unusual circumstance, work to develop systems or competencies which make the needed resources available to empowered employees.

    10C.  ALL THE TIME:  Probably not an empowered organization.  Work to make needed resources available to employees.  Develop employee competency such that they can obtain resources they need.  Work to develop trust in employees such that higher-ups will have confidence that resources will not be squandered.
    question 11

    11A.  YES:  This is a clear indication that you are empowered.  Continue doing whatever brought you to this point and work to enhance other's ability to reach it.

    11B.  YES, WITH APPROVAL:  This is either an indication that you are new and still developing competency, or that the organization is not empowered.  If you are still developing ask the approving individual what factors she or he took into consideration when making the decision.  If not an empowered organization, work to develop employees competency such that they would be able to make the decision for themselves.  If the answer is going to be yes, better that those closest to the customer have all the information needed to give the answer more quickly.

    11C.  NO:  Either you are still developing competency, or the organization is not empowered.  See suggestions in 11B.
    question 12

    12A.  PRAISE:  Great!  This demonstrates support for risk-taking and is very empowering.  It also provides the opportunity for continued challenge and ever increasing goals to become the norm.

    12B.  DON'T KNOW:  This may be an indication of lack of support for risk-taking and could be disempowering.  It is also an indication that insufficient communication is occurring about the organization's vision and between levels of the organization.

    12C.  ANGER:  Very disempowering.  Unless there is a clear explanation of why this was a bad decision and how it negatively impacted the organization, no learning will take place.  Keep in mind the benefits to the customer of allowing employees at the lowest level possible to make decisions.  Also, work to develop an understanding of continued incremental challenges inherent in the apprenticeship model.
    question 13

    13A.  POSITIVELY:  This demonstrates an understanding of the bottom line implications of one's work and the presence of a clear vision.  There also seems to be support for risk-taking.  Good!

    13B.  NEGATIVELY:  Well, at least there is an understanding of the implications of one's work.  This may be an indication of a disgruntled employee who is working to sabotage the organization's success, and knows how to do it.  It may also be an indication of insufficiently developed competency.  Work to develop competency to make this type of decision such that it has positive impact on the bottom line.

    13C.  DON'T KNOW:  This is an indication of insufficient information sharing and lack of clear vision.  Employees must have access to the information about how their work impacts the organization as a whole if there is any hope of a successful empowerment implementation.
    question 14

    14A.  DISCUSSION TO RESOLUTION:  Good.  This is an indication that employee competency has been developed in the skills of communication among an empowered group.  There is also evidence that the environment is supportive and this will enhance empowerment.

    14B.  GO OVER HER/HIS HEAD:  This is very disempowering.  Work to develop the competencies needed for employees to be able to discuss differences of opinion and learn from each other's perspective.  Also, work to develop an environment which is supportive of employee risk-taking.
    question 15

    15A.  MANY:  Good.  This may be an indication of a supportive environment within which employees can challenge themselves to grow.

    15B.  FEW:  If you are new to the organization, this is probably OK.  If tenured, then this is a sign of a lack of a supportive environment and could be disempowering.  Work to develop an organizational value of friendliness and cooperation.

    15C.  NONE:  May be a bad sign for organizational empowerment.  Even if you are a brand new employee, there should be somebody with whom you are friendly.  Work to change the organizational culture to make friendliness a value.

    15D.  DON'T KNOW:  Look out!  If you don't know who your friends are in the organization, the they all may be enemies.  Empowerment  depends, in part, upon a supportive environment.  This doesn't sound like one, or it is an indication that this issue has not been evaluated.  Work to ascertain who your friends are in the organization.  Be friendly and approachable yourself.  Offer assistance and mentoring advice, if appropriate.  Work to change the organizational culture to make friendliness a value.


    Bibliography of Literature Reviewed

    Aeppel, T. (1997, September 8).  Missing the boss:  Not all workers find idea of  empowerment as neat as it
        sounds.  The Wall Street Journal, pp. 1, 10.
    Blanchard, K. & Bowles, S. (1998).  Gung Ho!  Turn on the people in any  organization.  New York:  William
        Morrow.
    Blanchard, K., Carlos, J.P. & Randolph, A. (1996).  Empowerment Takes More  Than a Minute.  San
        Francisco:  Berrett-Koehler.
    Blanchard, K., Zigarmi, P. & Zigarmi, D. (1985).  Leadership and the One Minute  Manager:  Increasing
        Effectiveness Through Situational Leadership.  New  York: William Morrow.
    Block, P. (1987).  The Empowered Manager:  Positive Political Skills at Work.   San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.
    Bowen, D.E. & Lawler, E.E. (1992).  The empowerment of service workers:  What,  why, how and when.  Sloan
        Management Review, Spring 1992, p.  31.
    Bowen, D.E. & Lawler, E.E. (1995).  Empowering service employees.  Sloan  Management Review, Summer
        1995, p.73.
    Bridges, W. (1991).  Managing Transitions:  Making the Most of Change.   Reading, MA:  Addison-Wesey.
    Byham, W.C. (1997).  Characteristics of an empowered organization.  In  Ginnodo, B. (ed.) The Power of
        Empowerment:  What the Experts Say  and 16 Actionable Case Studies.  Arlington Heights, IL: Pride
    Caudron, S. (1995).  Create an empowering environment.  PersonnelJournal,  74-9, p.28.
    Conger, J.A. & Kanungo, R.N. (1988).  The empowerment process:  Integrating  theory and practice.  Academy
        of Management Review, 13-3, p. 471.
    Ettorre, B. (1997, July).  The empowerment gap:  Hype vs. reality.  HRfocus, p.1.
    Ford, R.C. & Fottler, M.D. (1995).  Empowerment:  A matter of degree.  Academy  of Management Executive,
        9-3, p.21.
    Freedman, D.H. (1998, April).  Corps values.  Inc., pp. 54-66.
    Gandz, J. (1990).  The employee empowerment era.  Business Quarterly, 55-2, p. 74.
    Ginnodo, B. (ed.), (1997).  The Power of Empowerment:  What the experts say  and 16 actionable case
        studies.  Arlington Heights, IL:  Pride.
    Grove, P.B. (ed.), (1971).  Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the  English Language Unabridged.
        Springfield, MA:  G&C Merriam.
    Honold, L. (1997).  A review of the literature on employee empowerment. Empowerment in Organizations, 5-4,
        p.202.
    Kanter, R.M. (1979).  Power failure in management circuits.  Harvard Business  Review, 57-4, p. 65.
    Mallak, L.A. & Kurstedt, H.A., Jr. (1996).  Understanding and using  empowerment  to change organizational
        culture.  Industrial Management, 38-6, p. 8.
    Menon, S.T. (1995).  Employee Empowerment:  Definition, Measurement and  Construct Validation.  Doctoral
        dissertation, McGill University, Montreal,  Canada.  Abstract available:
        http:// wwwlib.umi.com/dissertations/search  Publication Number:  AAT NN08135.
    Mohrman, S.A. (1997).  Empowerment:  There's more to it than meets the eye.   In Ginnodo, B. (ed.) The Power
        of Empowerment:  What the Experts Say  and 16Actionable Case Studies.  Arlington Heights, IL:  Pride.
    Morgan, S. & Dennehy, R.F. (1997).  The power of organizational storytelling:  a  management development
        perspective.  Journal of Management  Development,16-7, p. 494.
    Petzinger, T. (1997, January 3).  The front lines:  Self-organization will free  employees to act like bosses.  Wall
        Street Journal, p. B-1.
    Petzinger, T. (1997, March 7).  The front lines:  How Lynn Mercer managers a  factory that manages itself.  Wall
        Street Journal, p. B-1.
    Petzinger, T. (1997, October 17).  The front lines:  Forget empowerment this job  requires constant brainpower.
        Wall Street Journal, P. B-1.
    Quinn, R.E. & Spreitzer, G.M. (1997).  The road to empowerment:  Seven  questions every leader should
        consider.  Organizational Dynamics, 26-2,  p.37.
    Randolph, W.A. (1995).  Navigating the journey to empowerment.   Organizational Dynamics, 23-4, p.19.
    Sanford, R.N. (1962). The developmental status of the freshman.  In Sanford,  R.N. (ed.), (1962).  The American
        College. New York: Wiley
    Schein, E.H., (1985).  Organizational Culture and Leadership.  San Francisco:   Jossey-Bass.
    Shipper, F. & Manz, C.C. (1992).  Employee self-management without formally  designated teams:  An
        alternative road to empowerment.  Organizational  Dynamics, 21-3, p. 48.
    Spreitzer, G.M. (1995).  Psychological empowerment in the workplace:   Dimensions,  measurement, and
        validation.  Academy of Management  Journal, 38-5, p.1442.
    Spreitzer, G.M. & Quinn, R.E. (1996).  Empowering middle managers to be  transformational leaders.  Journal
        of Applied Behavioral Science, 32-3,  p.237.
    Thorlakson, A.J.H. & Murray, R.P. (1996).  An empirical study of empowerment in the workplace.  Group &
        Organization Management, 21-1, p.67.
    Thomas, K.W. & Velthouse, B.A. (1990).  Cognitive elements of empowerment:   An "interpretive" model of
        intrinsic task motivation.  Academy of  Management Review, 15-4, p. 666.
    Ward, B. (1996).  How to empower.  Canadian Manager, 21-4, p. 20.
    Yates, R.E. (1992, September 20).  Workers go back to school as firms learn to  compete.  Chicago Tribune,
        p. 1.
    Zimmerman, M.A. (1990).  Taking aim on empowerment research:  On the  distinction between individual and
        psychological conceptions.  American  Journal of Community Psychology, 18-1, p.169.


    Annotated Bibliography

     

     
     
     

    Aeppel, T. (1997, September 8).  Missing the boss:  Not all workers find  idea of empowerment as neat as it
        sounds.  The Wall Street Journal,  pp. 1, 10.

    Type:  Newspaper article.     High usefulness.
    Audience:  general public, managers, CEOs.

        This article uses the example of the employee empowerment process in the Eaton Corporation's South Bend, IN forge plant to highlight some of the problems experienced by newly empowered workers.  Interviews with former employees who departed because of the expectations placed upon them are coupled with information about Eaton's empowerment procedures and interviews with workers who have stayed.  There is a clear slant to the article, despite the author's efforts to provide a balanced view, that there are some serious problems with the empowerment movement.
        The article fails to delve into root causes of the problems identified and leaves the reader either convinced that employee empowerment is seriously flawed or wanting a great deal more information.
     

    Blanchard, K. & Bowles, S. (1998).  Gung Ho!  Turn on the people in any  organization.  New York:  William
        Morrow.

    Type:  Book.       High usefulness
    Audience:  CEOs, managers, general public.

        This book is the sequel to Raving Fans a Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service.  The concept was to write about how to make employees as enthusiastic about their work as the customers of Raving Fans were about doing business with the company.  Written as a first hand account of one manufacturing plant's efforts to "Gung Ho themselves", the book provides a seemingly simple process by which managers can bring about the  revolution described below.  While the book never uses the term empowerment, it is clear that this is the goal of a Gung Ho workplace.  Presented in the guise of Native American wisdom, the authors summarize the process at the end of the work, pp. 170-176.
     

    Blanchard, K., Carlos, J.P. & Randolph, A. (1996).  Empowerment Takes  More Than a Minute.  San
        Francisco:  Berrett-Koehler.

    Type:  Book       Medium usefulness.
    Audience:  Managers, general public.

        This short book is written in the style of the other One Minute Manager series of books.  A manager develops an interest in the topic and seeks advice from someone with experience implementing the process.  The concepts are presented over the course of about 100 pages, and can be summarized in about three pages at the end of the book.
        The authors provide three key concepts on the "journey to the land of empowerment".  "The first key is to share information with everyone."  "The second key is to create autonomy through boundaries."  This statement sounds counterintuitive, however the authors explain that when employees understand the boundaries they are then free to take any action within those boundaries.  A shared vision for the organization must be developed, and each employee must identify their role within that vision.  Also, goals are developed by managers and employees together in the spirit of shared vision and complete information.  "The third key is to replace hierarchy with self-directed teams."  A component of this effort is providing training to the members of the teams, "groups, like individuals, go through predictable stages of development.  They need different kinds of leadership at each stage."  This leadership model closely follows that of situational leadership as discussed in Leadership and the One Minute Manager.
        In this book no effort is made to support the contentions beyond that they make sense within the context of the story.  One must read the preface to learn that the authors have seen this process work effectively in organizations with which they have consulted.  The book is written as a case study of the implementation of empowerment within a fictitious organization, so it does not even have the benefit of an actual case study.  Despite these drawbacks, the book presents useful information in an entertaining style which reinforces the concepts.
     

    Blanchard, K., Zigarmi, P. & Zigarmi, D. (1985).  Leadership and the One  Minute Manager:  Increasing
        Effectiveness Through Situational  Leadership.  New  York: William Morrow.

    Type:  Book.       High usefulness.
    Audience:  Managers, general public.

        Using the style of all the One Minute Manager books, the authors present a story of a manager seeking advice and education from another manager experienced in situational leadership.  In this way the concepts of situational leadership are presented in an easily understood manner.
        Situational leadership calls for a diagnosis of the employee's development level.  Employees with "low competence and high commitment" as is typical of the newly hired are at the first development level; employees with "some competence and low commitment" as is typical of employees with incomplete training and for whom the excitement of the newness of the job has worn off are in the second development level; employees who have "high competence and variable commitment" typical of mid-management are in the third development level; and employees with "high competence and high commitment" typical of senior managers and high performers are at the fourth level.
        Once the development level is known the appropriate leadership style can be used with that employee.
    'Directing (Style 1) is for people who lack competence but are enthusiastic and committed (D1).  They need direction and supervision to get them started. Coaching (Style 2) is for people who have some competence but lack commitment (D2).  They need direction and supervision because they're still relatively inexperienced.  They also need support and praise to build their self-esteem, and involvement in decision-making to restore their commitment.  Supporting (Style 3) is for people who have competence but lack confidence or motivation (D3).  They do not need much direction because of their skills, but support is necessary to bolster their confidence and motivation.  Delegating (Style 4) is for people who have both competence and commitment (D4).  They are able and willing to work on a project by themselves with little supervision or support.'
        This book again uses a pseudo-case study as evidence to support the theory.  Logical argument is also used to support this management scheme.  I find the logic compelling and there is strong alignment between this theory and the apprenticeship model presented in this paper.
     

    Block, P. (1987).  The Empowered Manager:  Positive Political Skills at  Work.  San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.

    Type:  Book.       High usefulness.
    Audience:  Managers.

        In this oft cited and influential book written early in the empowerment movement, Block provides advice for managers seeking to move their organizations from a bureaucratic one toward an entrepreneurial one.  Block notes the bureaucratic cycle and contrasts it with the, entrepreneurial cycle.  Block then goes on to discuss the origins of each cycle and provides reasoning behind moving toward the entrepreneurial one.
        Block notes, "empowerment is a state of mind as well as a result of position, policies, and practices.  As managers we become more powerful as we nurture the power of those below us.  One way we nurture those below us is by becoming a role model for how we want them to function." (p. 63-4).  Block also advises managers to, "Share as much information as possible. . . .Most supervisors think part of their role is to shield their subordinates from bad news coming from above.  When we shield our people we are acting as their parents and treating them like children.  If we are trying to create the mind-set that everyone is responsible for the success of this business, then our people need complete information." (p. 90-1).  Block identifies, "Creating a vision of greatness [as] the first step toward empowerment" (p. 99)
     

    Bowen, D.E. & Lawler, E.E. (1992).  The empowerment of service workers:  What, why, how and when.  Sloan
        Management Review, Spring 1992,  p. 31.

    Type:  Journal article.     High usefulness.
    Audience:  CEOs, managers, researchers.

        The authors provide information useful to managers about how to assess the appropriateness, costs, and benefits of empowerment  within their organizations.  The authors then analyze service employee empowerment first by identifying the benefits, which include:  "quicker on-line response to customer needs during service delivery;. . . . quicker on-line responses to dissatisfied customers during service recovery;. . . . employees feel better about their jobs and themselves;. . . . employees will interact with customers with more warmth and enthusiasm. . . . when employees felt that management was looking after their needs, they took better care of the customer;. . . . empowered employees can be a great source of service ideas;. . . . great word-of-mouth advertising and customer retention."  Next the costs of empowerment are examined:  "a greater dollar investment in selection and training. . . . higher labor costs. . . . slower or inconsistent service delivery. . . . violations of 'fair play'. . . . giveaways and bad decisions."
        Bowen and Lawler identify three levels of empowerment in organizations.  From least empowering, or "control oriented", to most empowering, or "involvement oriented", they are:  "suggestion involvement. . . .employees are encouraged to contribute ideas through formal suggestion programs or quality circles, but their day-to-day work activities do not really change. . . . job involvement. . . . [where] jobs are redesigned so that employees use a variety of skills.  Employees believe their tasks are significant, they have considerable freedom in deciding how to do the work, they get more feedback, and they handle a whole, identifiable piece of work. . . . high involvement organizations give their lowest level employees a sense of involvement not just in how they do their jobs or how effectively their group performs, but in the total organization's performance."
        The authors consider "when to empower" and identify a "contingency approach".  They present a short list of contingencies which are ranked on a scale with production line approach at one end and empowerment at the other.
        This article provides a sophisticated definition of empowerment, and an effort to develop a costs/benefits analysis for the implementation of empowerment.  The authors categorize empowerment within several levels and try to provide direction for managers seeking to implement the appropriate level of empowerment given their circumstances.
     

    Bowen, D.E. & Lawler, E.E. (1995).  Empowering service employees.  Sloan  Management Review, Summer
        1995, p.73.

    Type:  Journal article.     High usefulness.
    Audience:  managers, academic researchers.

        An excellent overview of what empowerment is and how it has been implemented and successful at a variety of service organizations.  Strong research foundation (though many self references by the authors) is provided to support assertions made by the authors.  Previous books have documented the success of empowerment programs in manufacturing environment.  This article provides a good list of references.
        The authors indicate that, "The empowerment equation is:  empowerment = power x information x knowledge x rewards.  A multiplication sign, rather than a plus, indicates that if any of the four elements is zero, nothing happens to redistribute that ingredient, and empowerment will be zero.".  The authors discuss the factors which contribute to an "empowered state of mind".  These include:  "Control over what happens on the job. . . . Awareness of the context. . . . and Accountability for work output."  They provide evidence of effectiveness through anecdotal and case evidence, and also through "Research on individual management programs, work teams, job enrichment, skill-based pay, and so on. . . "  The authors provide evidence that there is "a positive correlation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction."  Measures of how effective empowerment efforts have been are provided.
        Other issues the authors address include assessing the "degree of fit" of employees and the utilization of the empowerment approach; "setting reasonable boundaries for employee heroism", "training in which employees are familiarized with how their jobs fit into upstream and downstream activities".  The authors suggest that organizations take "a contingency approach to empowerment".  They go on to state, "Evidence indicates that empowerment can have positive returns for employees, customers, and the bottom line -- when it is right for the situation.  However, empowering service employees also brings new challenges, such as setting boundaries for service recovery, ensuring organizational learning, and integrating empowerment with other change initiatives."
     

    Caudron, S. (1995).  Create an empowering environment.   PersonnelJournal, 74-9,  p.28.

    Type:  magazine article.     Medium usefulness.
    Audience:  CEOs and managers.

        The article opens with a case study of Colgate-Palmolive in Central Europe's former communist countries where employees had never experienced anything like empowerment previously.  The author reports that the results in this case study are "nothing short of amazing."
        The author asserts several concepts about how to go about creating an empowering environment, and supports these assertions with testimony from authors and successful managers.   Several steps toward creating an empowering environment are presented: "first of these changes is information sharing."  Next the author recommends providing training and resources.  Next comes, "helping management learn to empower others. . . . [this is] more about coaching and creating an environment open to new ways of doing things. . . . Managers also have to learn how to nurture and reward good ideas."  The author indicates, "The best way to empower team members is gradually and systematically. . . . Responsibilities for self-management and decision making should be turned over to employees on as as-ready basis."  "The next step is to give employees control of the resources needed to make improvements."
        This pattern of creating an empowering environment fits well with Bowen & Lawler's (1995) framework article.  They posit an empowerment equation which requires that power, information, knowledge, and rewards all be provided for empowerment to be successful.  All these components are part of the recommendations provided for by this author.  This author also presents an "HR Checklist:  do you have an empowered environment" which may be useful as a measuring device for workplace empowerment efforts.
     

    Conger, J.A. & Kanungo, R.N. (1988).  The empowerment process:   Integrating theory and practice.  Academy
        of Management Review,  13-3, p. 471.

    Type:  Journal article.     High usefulness.
    Audience:  researchers, CEOs, managers.

        This article seeks to analyze empowerment through diverse theoretical foundations.  The authors cite research from psychology, sociology, leadership and management, and team building.  The authors indicate that most management writing on this topic  takes the view of empowerment as a set of management techniques, "and have not paid sufficient attention to its nature of the processes underlying the construct."
        A review of the management and social influence literature regarding power is  provided.  The authors go on to analyze the psychology literature.  Two dictionary definitions of empowerment are compared to contrast the typical management view and the typical psychological view.  The authors, "propose that empowerment be viewed as a motivational construct--meaning to enable rather than simply to delegate. . . . Enabling implies creating conditions for heightening motivation for task accomplishment through the development of a strong sense of personal efficacy."
        The authors propose five stages of the empowerment process, "The first stage is the diagnosis of conditions within the organization that are responsible for feelings of powerlessness among subordinates.  This leads to the use of empowerment strategies by managers in Stage 2.  The employment of these strategies is aimed not only at removing some of the external conditions responsible for powerlessness, but also (and more important) at providing subordinates with self-efficacy information in Stage 3.  As a result of receiving such information, subordinates feel empowered in Stage 4, and the behavioral effects of empowerment are noticed in Stage 5."
        The authors cite works by A. Bandura who identified sources of personal efficacy.  "Information in personal efficacy through enactive attainment refers to an individual's authentic mastery experience directly related to the job.  When subordinates perform complex tasks or are given more responsibility in their jobs, they have the opportunity to test their efficacy.  Initial success experiences (through successively moderate increments in task complexity and responsibility along with training to acquire new skills) make one feel more capable and, therefore, empowered."
        The authors provide little support for their model beyond logical reasoning.  When placed in the context offered by the authors, this model is sensible.  It makes sense to evaluate why employees may feel disempowered; this acknowledgment may lead to managers seeking to implement empowerment processes.  Helping employees to develop self confidence is a logical next step, and is essential in the author's context.  However, self confidence is not equivalent to empowerment, yet the authors indicate that  "as a result of receiving such [self-efficacy] information [in stage 3], subordinates feel empowered in Stage 4, and the behavioral effects of empowerment are noticed in Stage 5."  There seems to be no recognition that an organizational culture change must occur, that employees will need training and resources to increase their sense of self-efficacy, or that continued support is necessary for the successful implementation of an empowerment program.
        No evaluation of the model is provided, nor even suggested.  It appears that the authors expect the reader to be so appreciative of the research they conducted in other fields that no expectation of proof will be forthcoming.  Unfortunately, this may not be the case.  Given the date the article was authored (early in the employee empowerment movement), this article may have provided the theoretical foundation for others to evaluate the model's applicability.  Nonetheless, this article presents a simplistic understanding of the implementation of employee empowerment.
     

    Ettorre, B. (1997, July).  The empowerment gap:  Hype vs. reality.  HRfocus,  p.1.

    Type:  Magazine article.     High usefulness.
    Audience:  HR professionals, managers.

        The author attempts to call attention to a common problem with employee empowerment implementation efforts.  There is a clear slant toward favoring empowerment and the article seeks to assist the reader to successfully implement it by highlighting how to avoid falling, "into the empowerment trap", that is, "'Empowerment by default...when management turns its back, pulls away resources and leaves workers to their own devices.'"  The gap noted in the article title is the one between common empowerment implementation efforts and successful ones; it is a focus on the bottom line and big picture by every employee which is often lacking and causes the gap.  No effort is made beyond logical argument to provide evidence in support of the author's views.
     

    Ford, R.C. & Fottler, M.D. (1995).  Empowerment:  A matter of degree.   Academy of Management Executive,
        9-3, p.21.

    Type:  Journal article.     High usefulness.
    Audience:  CEOs, managers.

        This article presents a construct for determining extent of empowerment within "two dimensions:  content and context.  Job content represents the tasks and procedures necessary for carrying out a particular job.  Job context is much broader.  It is the reason the organization needs that job done and includes both how it fits into the overall organizational mission, goals, and objectives and the organizational setting within which that job is done."
        The authors recommend an incremental implementation of an employee empowerment program, "this approach would focus first on the job content and, later, the empowered employees would become involved in making decisions about job context as well."  Management could oversee the progress to assess the readiness of employees as well as their own comfort level with giving up authority.
        This article presents another theoretical framework for employee empowerment without any evaluation thereof.  The authors use logical reasoning to support their contention that empowerment is a construct of content and context.  Also, the authors provide no evidence that an employee's decision-making authority progresses in the order they articulate--from problem identification, to alternative development, to alternative evaluation, to alternative choice, to implementation/follow-up.  It may be that there are times when employees are thrown into the deep end of the pool and are expected to make alternative choices without having first grown through the levels below.  This growth is an essential step in the empowerment process, a point not clearly made by the authors.  This article may be an attempt to describe how empowerment is implemented in real organizations, however that is not how the information is presented.  Rather, the authors seem to indicate that this is the way empowerment should be implemented.  If this is the case, too little evidence is supplied to convince most readers.
        No evaluation of the model of the content and context construct is offered, though one is clearly needed.  The authors also do not have the luxury of having written early in the timeline of employee empowerment, by 1995 the concept was well developed and most academics were seeking information and instruments to evaluate empowerment efforts, rather than a new model.  The model is not useless, because it does have an internal logic.  A visionary manager may be able to develop the organizational culture and other systems needed to utilize this construct as a way to implement an empowerment program, however no one will know how effective it could be due to the lack of an objective and replicable evaluation.
     

    Gandz, J. (1990).  The employee empowerment era.  Business Quarterly,  55-2, p. 74.

    Type:  Journal article.     High usefulness.
    Audience:  Managers, human resources professionals.

        In this article Gandz relies on logical analysis to predict the increasing importance of employee empowerment.  He notes the benefits of empowerment as, "liberating the creative and innovative energies of employees to compete effectively in a global environment.  Within coherent and articulated visions, employees at all levels will be freed to pursue goals and objectives."  The author provides a number of useful definitions and perspectives:  training, organizational vision and culture, risk-taking, new roles for managers, and the time involved in the implementation process.
     

    Ginnodo, B. (Ed.) (1997).  The Power of Empowerment:  What the experts  say and 16 actionalble case
        studies.  Arlington Heights, IL:  Pride.

    Type:  book.       High usefulness.
    Audience:  general public, managers.

        This collection of articles from "experts" provides a good overview of empowerment--what it is, characteristics of empowered organizations, defining boundaries, roles and behaviors, preparation of supervisors and employees, as well as looking at the strategic implications of effecting an empowering organizational change. The only problems with this book are its reliance on so called experts and the relative lack of references.
        The case studies (including ones from Marriott, Federal Express, Monsanto Chemical, USAA, Motorola, Saturn, as well as other companies) provide the only supporting evidence beyond the reasoning of the chapter authors.  In general, the authors' reasoning is valid and they provide useful guidelines for the practicing manager.  Despite being edited by a single individual, the book presents a choppy view of empowerment; it seems as if the chapters were written as independent articles, though, with minor exceptions,  there is no indication of this.  Each chapter author, however, has written other books, and it may be from these sources from which they draw their information and ideas.  Ginnodo presents 12 guiding principles from interviews he has conducted in companies.  These guiding principles are useful and can be referred to by nearly anyone writing on the topic of employee empowerment.
        Another chapter of this book was written by Susan Albers Mohrman who is a researcher at University of Southern California.  This author provides the working definition of  employee empowerment for the book.  Mohrman notes, "Empowerment must be placed in a context of responsibility to the larger whole."  Mohrman goes on to say that, "Studies have demonstrated that it is possible to teach disempowerment. . . .when people repeatedly experience negative consequences as they try to accomplish things."  She argues that the manager's task then becomes "to remove the 'electric shocks' that result in a low sense of efficacy."  Mohrman presents a sociological view of empowerment and an organizational design view, and notes that empowerment includes both an individual and an organizational focus."   The author relies on logical reasoning and spurious conclusions drawn from animal psychology experiments to support her arguments.  Nonetheless, Mohrman provides the reader with food for thought and a strong summary of the complexity of the concept of employee empowerment.
        The next chapter author, William C. Byham, a consultant and author, discusses the characteristics of an empowered organization.  Again personal experience, and logical reasoning are used as the supporting foundation. Byham defines "14 factors that are needed to achieve maximum empowerment. . . .These factors are basically goals to be achieved.".  These factors provide useful information about the empowerment implementation process.
        Other chapters include one on the boundaries of empowerment written by Ken Somers who is a consultant; one on training employees and managers to be empowered written by John R. Dew a facilitator with Lockheed Martin; and one on empowerment fundamentals for strategic change written by consultant Steven A. Leth.  The remainder of the book provides case studies which demonstrate the concepts in practice.
     

    Honold, L. (1997).  A review of the literature on employee empowerment.   Empowerment in Organizations,
        5-4,  p. 202.

    Type:  Journal article.     High usefulness
    Audience:  researchers.

        In an excellent literature review on the topic of employee empowerment, Honold tracks the history of the movement, seeks a clear definition, and reviews the various approaches which have been used to provide a theoretical framework for employee empowerment.  The author attempts not to draw conclusions, rather she makes observations based upon what she has found in her research.  Clearly, an author must summarize what has been written by others and this process emphasizes some information and de-emphasizes other points; I believe that Honold has provided as fair an overview as anyone is capable.
        In seeking a definition Honold points out, "to be successful, each organization must create and define it [empowerment] for itself.  Empowerment must address the needs and culture of each unique entity."  The aspects of individual and organizational readiness for empowerment are reviewed.  Honold notes some historical terms for what can now be considered empowerment:  "The socio-technical approach. . . .the idea of job enrichment. . . . job autonomy. . . . employee participation."  Honold indicates, "The literature on employee empowerment can be divided into five groupings:  leadership, the individual empowered state, collaborative work, structural or procedural change, and the multi-dimensional perspective which encompasses most of the four previously stated categories."  She then goes on to summarize the works she has reviewed and places them into these categories.
        Honold also has a section regarding critiques of employee empowerment.  Here she does draw the conclusion that those who cite the failure of empowerment programs have studied ones where the implementation effort was incomplete or unsophisticated.   Other conclusions she draws are that, "it appears as though employee empowerment is on the rise in organizations.  As well, it looks as though it is an evolutionary process that cannot be achieved in the short term.  Initially, there will be mistakes as both employees and management internalize what it means to be empowered."
     

    Kanter, R.M. (1979).  Power failure in management circuits.  Harvard  Business Review, 57-4, p. 65.

    Type:  Journal article.     High usefulness.
    Audience:  Managers, CEOs, academics.

        This article seeks to identify some of the causes of a feeling of powerlessness among specific groups within organizations.  These groups are first-line supervisors, staff professionals, and chief executive officers.  The author argues that each of these groups suffers from the common problems of lack of open channels to supplies, support, and information.  The author uses a case study to demonstrate that by sharing what power the individual members of these groups have they are able to thereby increase their own power, and the effectiveness of the organization.
        The shortcomings of this article are its age (for example, the author devotes a section to the special problems of powerlessness felt by women managers), the fact that a model is provided which relies primarily upon logical analysis for support, and the fact that a single case study is cited as evidence.  Nevertheless, this article provides support for what many who study organizations would consider self-evident.  That is, that organizations which take better advantage of their human resources will be more productive and successful.  "Access to resources and information and the ability to act quickly make it possible to accomplish more and to pass on more resources and information to subordinates."
     

    Mallak, L.A. & Kurstedt, H.A., Jr. (1996).  Understanding and using  empowerment to change organizational
        culture.  Industrial  Management, 38-6, p. 8.

    Type:  Journal article.     Medium usefulness.
    Audience:  Managers, researchers.

        This article presents a model of the stages employees go through as they internalize the organization's culture.  The authors posit that the more that the employee has internalized the culture, the more empowered he or she becomes.  Mallak and Kurstedt note that empowered employees give feedback to others to enhance cultural consistency.  The authors adapt other theorists' models and use logical analysis to support their position.  The importance of mentoring employees through their internalization of the culture is noted.
     

    Menon, S.T. (1995).  Employee Empowerment:  Definition, Measurement  and Construct Validation.  Doctoral
        dissertation, McGill University,  Montreal, Canada.  Abstract available:
        http://wwwlib.umi.com/dissertations/search Publication Number:  AAT NN08135.

    Type:  Dissertation abstract.    Medium usefulness.
    Audience:  Researchers.

        Within the abstract Menon provides a definition of empowerment, "the empowered state was defined as a cognitive state of perceived control, perceived competence and goal internalization. . . .The empirical results supported the view that empowerment is a construct conceptually distinct from other constructs such as delegation, self-efficacy and intrinsic task motivation."  The author notes, "Empowerment was also found to be significantly related to a number of outcome variables including job satisfaction, job involvement and organizational commitment."  Menon also cites antecedents of prior research and creates, validates, and applies an instrument to measure empowerment.
     

    Petzinger, T. (1997, January 3).  The front lines:  Self-organization will free  employees to act like bosses.  Wall
        Street Journal, p. B-1.
     

    Petzinger, T. (1997, March 7).  The front lines:  How Lynn Mercer managers  a factory that manages itself.  Wall
        Street Journal, p. B-1.
     

    Petzinger, T. (1997, October 17).  The front lines:  Forget empowerment this  job requires constant brainpower.
        Wall Street Journal, P. B-1.

    Type:  newspaper column.     Medium usefulness.
    Audience:  Managers, general public.

        In a regular column, Thomas Petzinger, Jr. provides his perspective on what is happening in the front lines of business.  This series of columns, though unrelated, all have employee empowerment as the topic.  Petzinger seems to liken an empowered organization to an organic being; he advocates for empowering the workforce by noting how responsive it can be just as a living organism is responsive to stimulus.  Petzinger provides examples from actual companies which demonstrates the effectiveness of employee empowerment—documenting increased productivity and high employee morale.  Clearly these are opinion pieces, but are useful for the examples they provide.
     

    Quinn, R.E. & Spreitzer, G.M. (1997).  The road to empowerment:  Seven  questions every leader should
        consider.  Organizational Dynamics,  26-2, p.37.

    Type:  Journal article.     High Usefulness.
    Audience:  Researchers, CEOs and managers.

        This article examines factors related to why empowerment efforts in the work place are often ineffective.  In a very good literature review, the authors provide two approaches to defining empowerment.  The authors contrast the "mechanistic approach" with the "organic approach to empowerment".  The authors indicate that to be successful and empowerment program must include aspects of both the mechanistic and organic approaches.
        The authors describe what I would call a mentoring approach to the enhancement of empowerment in the work place:  "In short, these newly empowered participants empowered their associates through their actions.  They shared success stories and helped one another diagnose situations to develop appropriate coping strategies.  In addition, they built networks to expand their power base in the organization."  However the authors were quick to point out that senior executives must feel empowered before they are likely to support the process of empowerment, and that many executives are not empowered.  They remind the reader, "empowerment is anything but simple and quick--it demands a willingness to embrace uncertainty, trust people, and exercise faith."
        The researchers indicate, "Based on our research, we suggest four key levers that can assist this integration [between the mechanistic and organic perspectives of empowerment].  The first lever is a clear vision and challenge. . . . The second lever is openness and teamwork. . . . The third lever is discipline and control. . .  .The fourth lever is support and a sense of security."  The seven questions mentioned in the article title are:  "1. What do we mean when we say we want to empower people?  2. What are the characteristics of an empowered person?  3. Do we really need empowered people?  4. Do we really want empowered people?  5. How do people develop a sense of empowerment?  6. What organizational characteristics facilitate employee empowerment?  7. What can leaders do to facilitate employee empowerment?"  The authors make it clear that neither the mechanistic nor the organic approach alone is sufficient to ensure success, rather both together are needed.
        This article provides a description of in-place empowerment efforts.  The research conducted was in the form of observation.  An analysis of the observed behaviors was then conducted in an attempt to find and define the process which must take place for employee empowerment implementation to be effective.  While the researchers are careful to tie their model back to their observations, they rely on the weight of their logical reasoning to stand up to critical scrutiny.  No replicable tests have been conducted on this model, and so it is best used as a tool toward understanding rather than as an accurate description of employee empowerment and how best to implement it.
     

    Randolph, W.A. (1995).  Navigating the journey to empowerment.   Organizational Dynamics, 23-4, p.19.

    Type:  Journal article.     High usefulness.
    Audience:  managers, CEOs.

        Randolph is one of the authors of Empowerment Takes More Than a Minute.  This article provides a short overview of the concepts presented in that book and provides additional supporting evidence of the effectiveness of employee empowerment in the form of case studies from ten companies with which the author has worked; this documentation is far superior to that which is presented in the book.  Compelling logical analysis is also used as support for the author's thesis.
     

    Shipper, F. & Manz, C.C. (1992).  Employee self-management without  formally designated teams:  An
        alternative road to empowerment. Organizational Dynamics, 21-3, p. 48.

    Type:  Journal article.     Medium usefulness.
    Audience:  Managers, change agents.

        The authors provide a broad review of how employee self-management works at W.L. Gore and Associates.  The organizational culture of Gore is discussed in depth.  Gore has taken employee empowerment to an extreme degree.  The authors try to organize Gore's philosophy into themes which can be applied elsewhere, however the article reads like a public relations piece for the company.  The article does provide a perspective of what can go right when employee empowerment is effectively implemented.  It is clear, however, that this system is not for everyone.
     

    Spreitzer, G.M. (1995).  Psychological empowerment in the workplace:   Dimensions, measurement, and
        validation.  Academy of Management  Journal, 38-5, p. 1442.

    Type:  Journal article.     High usefulness.
    Audience:  researchers.

        The author designed an instrument designed to measure psychological empowerment felt by employees.  A review of literature is provided which coincides with much of my own research.  Spreitzer offers this definition:  "psychological empowerment is defined as a motivational construct manifested in four cognitions:  meaning, competence, self-determination, and impact.  Together these four cognitions reflect an active, rather than a passive, orientation toward a work role. . . .The four dimensions are argued to combine additively to create an overall construct of psychological empowerment.  In other words, the lack of any single dimension will deflate, though not completely eliminate, the overall degree of felt empowerment."  This additive construct is distinct from Bowen & Lawler 's (1995) construct which is multiplicative, indicating that the absence of any one of their four elements (power, information, knowledge, and rewards) will completely eliminate empowerment.
        Spreitzer makes several assumptions in her research which are very useful, these include:  "First, empowerment is not an enduring personality trait generalizable across situations, but rather, a set of cognitions shaped by a work environment. . . . Second, empowerment is a continuous variable; people can be viewed as more or less empowered, rather than empowered or not empowered.  Third, empowerment is not a global construct generalizable across different life situations and roles but rather, specific to the work domain."  I am completely in agreement with these assumptions.  I believe it is a lack of understanding of the second one which causes many so called "empowerment programs" in organizations to fail.
        Spreitzer goes on to check the validity of the instrument she created through combining and refining previous instruments which measured the dimensions noted above.  She reports, "both internal consistency and the test-retest reliability are established for the empowerment scale items."  There were some results which did not confirm what was expected, yet support for several hypothesises was provided at the significant level.  The author notes, "A more powerful test of the full empowerment model would be to tie empowerment to certain organizational manipulations in order to better explain the degree to which situational changes can produce motivational changes in employees."
        The article presents the results of measurements in near ideal format.  The author uses standard statistical analysis and points out the shortcomings in the research method.  The article is doubly useful because it presents results from replicable research and because it identifies the sources of potential error.
     

    Spreitzer, G.M. & Quinn, R.E. (1996).  Empowering middle managers to be transformational leaders.  Journal
        of Applied Behavioral Science, 32- 3, p.237.

    Type:  Journal article.     High usefulness.
    Audience:  Researchers, CEOs and managers.

        Report of a field study conducted with middle managers at Ford who attended a Leadership Education and Development training session which sought to develop middle managers into transformational leaders.  While the findings are not generalizable due to the homogeneity of the sample (80% white men, aged 40 to 50, who work for Ford), there were some findings which were not expected and are of interest.
        The most transformational middle managers (as measured by the type of change process they initiated in a six month interval) were not the ones on the promotion fast track.  Rather, they tended to be the plateaued managers. "The study indicates that both individual characteristics and the organizational context influence the propensity of middle managers to embrace transformational change", through empowerment.  The individual characteristics cited include self-esteem and affect about work.  Those with highest self-esteem and most positive affect about work were most likely to feel empowered to effect transformational change.
        The article is written such that the research could be replicated, although the likelihood of achieving the same results is doubtful because of the homogeneity of the sample.  This potential source of error was well reported in the article.  The authors do not attempt to apply the information beyond the organization from which it was gathered, however, as noted above, there may be some generalizable results from this study.
     

    Thorlakson, A.J.H. & Murray, R.P. (1996).  An empirical study of  empowerment in the workplace.  Group &
        Organization Management,  21-1, p.67.

    Type:  Journal article.     High usefulness.
    Audience:  researchers, OD consultants.

        A study which "evaluates the effect of a controlled introduction of empowerment, with reference to power, managerial functions, leadership styles, and employee motivation."  An excellent study design which used a study group who was being empowered and a control group who was not.  However, apparently due to an organizational downsizing effort in the middle of the study, "Results provided minimal support for the positive influence of empowerment."  The null hypothesis that empowered workers would have no difference in how they viewed their situation than non-empowered workers was not rejected.
        The article provides a good review of literature related to power, management and leadership, and employee motivation.  A balanced view of the concept of empowerment is provided, that is, while it is clear that the researchers wanted to demonstrate positive effects of employee empowerment they did relate references to prior writings critical of empowerment, and they did decide to publish a study where the expected results were not achieved.  The authors state, "The outcome of this study may also serve as a case example of an ineffective way to implement empowerment."
     

    Thomas, K.W. & Velthouse, B.A. (1990).  Cognitive elements of  empowerment:  An "interpretive" model of
        intrinsic task motivation.   Academy of Management Review, 15-4, p. 666.

    Type:  Journal article.     High usefulness.
    Audience:  Researchers.

        Thomas and Velthouse provide a great deal of useful information, including a definition of empowerment.  Some definitions which will help to understand the authors' perspective include, "intrinsic task motivation involves positively valued experiences that individuals derive directly from a task. . . .Task assessments are presumed to be the proximal cause of intrinsic task motivation and satisfaction. . . .task refers to a set of activities directed toward a purpose." (p. 668)  So, when a person does a set of activities (read work) he or she assesses the task at hand and decides if it is motivating and satisfactory.  Over the course of time the individual generalizes these individual task assessments into an overall perspective of this type of work.  If the intrinsic task motivation is present and is supported by management, that person becomes empowered.
        This comprehensive theoretical article seeks to provide a description of the cognitive elements which comprise intrinsic motivation.  An excellent literature review on topics ranging from leadership style to individual choice to globalization of understanding is provided.  Not only do the authors extrapolate from past writings of a number of theorists, but they also provide empirical support.  The authors note the benefits of their new model, and implications for implementation of employee empowerment are noted.  That is, management can change the environment to make completion of the tasks rewarding intrinsically, or management can work to help the employee perceive his or her contribution as valuable.
        What Thomas and Velthouse have provided is a theoretical framework within which empowerment and its proximate causes can be understood.  They provide too few examples to make the work accessible to most people.  However, they provide theoretical foundations for some of the reasoning within the apprenticeship model.  In the apprenticeship system, inexperienced workers are expected to make errors—this is viewed as part of the learning process rather than an indication of future performance.  The empowering manager will explain the value of the error in terms of the learning experience it provided and in terms of the value of breaking habits and taking risks.
     

    Ward, B. (1996).  How to empower.  Canadian Manager, 21-4, p. 20.

    Type:  magazine article.     High usefulness.
    Audience:  managers.

        The author uses simplified tenets of situational leadership to describe the stages an employee must go through while becoming empowered and the appropriate managerial style to address employee needs at each stage.  Ward also uses Stephen Covey's "idea of an 'agreement' between manager and employee which clarifies the 'terms' under which the employee is empowered.  The author uses logical analysis and the weight of what another author has proposed to support his thesis.  Few writers provide any perspective that empowerment is a process and that workers should not be given authority before they are ready to properly exercise it.  Because Ward does, I tend to overlook his lack of references beyond Covey and have used some of the information he has provided.
        Ward notes the importance of training and the changes to the manager's role, "The objective is to keep giving employees responsibilities which move them along the capability continuum, eventually reaching 'fully capable of the task'.  Naturally, the manager must be careful to keep adjusting his or her leadership style as the employee becomes more capable."  The assignment of responsibilities which move the employee on the continuum is a form of training not usually thought of as such.  Resource availability is also noted as important, "Resources include items such as funding, access to support staff, or experts who have knowledge on which the employee can draw."  Ward also makes note of an important tenet of situational leadership, "The leadership style does not have to be the same throughout—it can change on each component of the task."  That is, if the employee is skilled in one aspect of a project that aspect can be delegated to him or her, however if the employee lacks skill in another component a different, more directive, leadership style is called for.  The author goes on to provide an example of this.
     

    Zimmerman, M.A. (1990).  Taking aim on empowerment research:  On the  distinction between individual and
        psychological conceptions.   American Journal of Community Psychology, 18-1, p. 169.

    Type:  Journal article.     Medium usefulness.
    Audience:  Researchers, social scientists.

        While this article is from outside the management field, it does provide some useful conceptions which help in understanding empowerment.  The author argues that the individual perspective of empowerment is too limited.  The article, which introduces a series of articles on this topic, favors a psychological perspective of empowerment.  This perspective includes the context within which the individual makes decisions and acts out his or her empowerment.
        This article is primarily a literature review and seeks to synthesize the articles which follow into a coherent whole using logical analysis.  Because the perspective is outside the field of my thesis, I have taken only that which seems applicable.  Namely, the definition of empowerment and the perspective that empowerment must pervade the organization's culture in order to be effective.


    Appendix

    A.  A Retail Example of the Apprenticeship Model

         An empowered organization will recognize the contribution of all employees and will work to develop each to his or her full capability.  An empowered organization will recognize that competency in one area does not indicate competence in another area; the effort of every employee has an impact on the success of the entire organization and all work is valued.  That is, the effectiveness of the store depends upon properly displayed merchandise, appropriate acceptance of returned goods, and clean toilets.
        However, the customer service desk manager may not know how to properly clean toilets or how to display merchandise, the janitor may not know how to accept returns or display merchandise, and the department manager may not know how to accept returns or clean toilets.  It is conceivable that an apprentice in one area of competence will be a journeyperson in another, and that as a journeyperson he or she will mentor an apprentice in that area.  It is conceivable that a pair of employees will mentor each other across several competencies.
         An example will make these concepts clearer.  This example is provided not as a case study, but rather to more clearly articulate the concepts under consideration.  Imagine a department store where employee skill levels are ranked either as apprentice, journeyperson, or master.  Please refer to the chart below for each of five employee's position, and skill level in each of four competency areas:
     
     
    COMPETENCY AREAS
    employee name
    position title
    registers
    merchandise display
    merchandise codes
    employee scheduling
    Smith
    customer service desk manager
    master
    journey
    master
    journey
    Jones
    assistant store manager
    journey
    master
    journey
    master
    Samson
    hardware clerk
    apprentice
    apprentice
    journey
    apprentice
    Kirkwood
    ladies wear clerk
    journey
    journey
    apprentice
    apprentice
    Bhatia
    crafts manager
    master
    apprentice
    apprentice
    journey

         In the above example it would be expected that Smith would mentor Jones in the operation of the registers and in the codes associated with merchandise, Jones would mentor Smith in merchandise display techniques and employee scheduling.  This is clear because each is a master in some areas and a journeyperson in others.  If we carry this concept of more experienced people providing training and mentoring to less experienced people within a competency area, we would assume Smith and Kirkwood share responsibility for training Samson and Bhatia on merchandise display.  That Jones and Kirkwood mentor Samson on the registers, and are in turn mentored by Smith and Bhatia, and so forth.
     

    B.  Other Models of Apprenticeship

         The apprenticeship system is paralleled in the field of education and in the management theory of situational leadership.  Just as there is a hierarchy in the levels of the trades (apprentice, journeyperson, master) the field of higher education has its own hierarchy:      Situational Leadership (Blanchard, Zigarmi, & Zigarmi, 1985) seeks to identify the employee's knowledge, skills, and motivation level for each set of tasks he or she performs on the job.  The manager/leader then provides the correct combination of direction and motivation to respond to the employee's needs:


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