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Project manager – part 7 - Empowerment


Exactly what is ‘empowerment’

A dictionary definition would be:

‘To give or delegate power or authority’
‘To authorise’
‘To give ability to’
‘To enable or permit’

Others might be:

‘The concept of encouraging and authorizing workers to take the initiative to improve operations, reduce costs, and improve product quality and customer service.’
‘Having the right to make one's own choices and of having the ability to act on them.’
‘The process of displacing decision making downwards to the workforce, or lower levels of management, to enable them to use their skills more effectively and flexibly.’

Some of these definitions have a project management bias and others are more general.

In simple terms, personnel should be given the correct tools to get on with the task by themselves.
The correct tools might be:

A clear definition

The project team will be more motivated with a clear idea of what they are meant to be doing together with unambiguous knowledge of the projects deliverables.
The establishment of clear procedures will help in this area.
In general, personnel like to be given the tools to get on with the job with little interference.

Beware of the person who doesn’t like to ask too many questions.
If the definitions are poor this individual may still enthusiastically tackle the task but end up with the wrong result.
Ensure there is complete understanding of task objectives.

A personal plan on how to do the required work

A document outlining what is expected of the project team will help together with a personal plan covering what is required from individuals.
This can be linked into personal targets and Performance Management techniques.
Don’t forget to ask team members if they have any questions.
This may be a good point to put a ‘closed’ question.
‘Do you understand exactly what is expected?’ This requires a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ which can then be explored.

Skills and resources that are adequate to do the work

Empowerment will only succeed if the individuals have the tools to do the job.
Make sure that personnel have the necessary skills, resources.
For example, necessary equipment.
Do they have the experience or knowledge to carry out the task?
If not consider training or utilising other personnel.

Enthusiasm is no good if the result is failure.

Feedback on progress that goes directly to the person

If the Project Manager gives feedback it should be directly to the individual and not via third parties.
This is a good leadership tool and vastly improves motivation and confidence.
These areas are dealt with in much more detail in 'The Complete Leadership package' and 'The Complete Motivation package'.

A clear definition of his or her authority

At times an individual may be required to make decisions to progress the work programme.
If this is the case, the Project Manager should make sure that the levels of authority are well defined.
This could be included within the individual’s document clarifying his or hers deliverables, as mentioned above.

For particular positions this may be described in the job description.
However, the nature of project management suggests that more flexibility may be required.