My last post on Rio’s culture shared a bit of the background on how we began our journey toward a collaborative, team-managed environment. Having started the process, the Directors realized that just declaring Rio as an empowered environment wasn’t going to achieve the desired end results. We needed to build some sort of structure to establish empowerment in the workplace.
The research and reading began. In the course of this work we recognized that no person can empower someone else. Each individual must make his or her own choice to be empowered. What we can do is provide an environment that nurtures and supports empowered associates. And so, a number of ideas and sources coalesced into a list of four items critical to achieving empowerment:
The Empowerment Model (ARIA):
At Rio we define authority in two ways:
- The first definition relates to the authority between our leadership group and the balance of our associates. Leadership decides the strategic direction and vision for the company (what we’re going to do), while the teams of associates develop and enact the goals necessary to achieve that vision (how we’re going to do it).
- The second definition relates to the concept of Subject Matter Expertise. Regardless of title or status, the person with the greatest expertise has authority as it relates to their area of responsibility. If I’m working with a team to improve a process, I might be facilitating the meeting, but they’re the experts, and therefore the authorities, on the process.
Associates must be empowered with the (wo)manpower, tools, equipment, space and time to do their jobs. Ever been in a situation where you had a deadline, but didn’t have the resources to meet that deadline? Nothing robs power faster than not having the tools you need to do your job.
Information is critical to empowerment – facts, figures, measurements, feedback, etc. Even if you own the company, if you lack information, you’re not empowered. We replaced layers of management hierarchy with our responsibility for constant training and information sharing. From daily productivity stats to monthly reviews of our financial statements, associates stay up-to-date on our performance.
Just as we can’t empower someone, we also can’t force someone to be accountable. Accountability is an act of choice, not assignment. In order for an organization to be successful, its employees must choose shared (joint) accountability for the results of the organization. There are three models of accountability:
- Enforced Accountability = no individual empowerment. For example, the way you might be with a young child, ensuring they don’t walk out into the street. Or perhaps the very strict chain of command in the military. It’s all about rules, policies and dependencies.
- Self-Accountability = individual empowerment. You become responsible for yourself and your actions. It’s about freedom, creativity and independence.
- Joint Accountability = organizational empowerment. An environment in which self-accountable people work with like-minded individuals for mutual benefit (Win/Win). It’s about shared values, support, synergy and interdependence.
So, now that we’d established the tools for an empowered workplace, was everybody an empowered individual working within a jointly accountable business model? Not quite – we realized that we needed a set of principles that everyone could identify with and value equally. These principles would provide a framework for the type of conscientious decision making necessary in a self-managing environment.
Look for the next installment, Creating a Principled Business, coming soon…
What’s your working environment like? Are you able to make decisions that affect your business? Do you have the freedom to create? The freedom to make mistakes?