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The Team Empowerment Process

Identify a stretch project, task, or work process and a preliminary team, the team empowerment process proceeds by the team responding to the following set of guidelines:

  1. Define the purpose of the team.
    • Why does the team exist?
    • What is the team's objective or goal?
  2. Define the roles and responsibilities of the team.
    • Is each team member clear about her or his role?
    • Does each team member know the roles of the other team members?
    • Does the team have all the expertise necessary? If not, then how will the team utilize existing organizational expertise and support that is lacking among team members?
  3. Define the mode of operation of the team.
    • Establish a working vocabulary for important terms.
    • Establish a mode of leadership and an account-ability system.
    • Discuss team trust, relationship, communication, support, commitment, etc.
    • Establish a team code of conduct or value system.
    • Decide on a team operating.
  4. Select a manager to coach and set guidelines for the team.
    • Manager and team should agree on guidelines.
    • Manager and team should establish accountability in terms of quality, productivity, and team functioning.
    • Manager should coach as necessary.
    • Manager should provide the necessary resources for the team to experience success.
    • Manager and team are clear on overall team responsibility and accountability, what support the team will receive from the organization, and what specific authority the team has to meet their objective.
  5. Utilize training as an integral part of team empowerment.
    • Take training to understand and use team empowerment.
    • Training in technical, organizational, and inter-personal skills must be an ongoing part of the process.
    • Integrate just-in-time training into the process as required (e.g., interpersonal skills, coaching, and holding others accountable).
  6. Proceed to function with established management accountability checkpoints.
    • Assess team operation and objectives shortly after beginning.
    • Assess team operation and objectives at half completion.
    • Use crisis as an opportunity for a breakthrough.
    • Assess team success at completion.
  7. Evaluate team performance at completion.
    • What worked?
    • What did not work?
    • What did we learn for future teams?
    • What do we need to learn for future teams?
    • Establish a new team project (with fewer guidelines) and "go for it!"

The Empowerment Spiral

The Empowerment Spiral

At the successful completion of each task or project where a stretch has been involved, the team acquires a greater capacity to perform independently: ΔE (read "delta E", this symbol denotes a quantum jump in empowerment). This capacity is evaluated jointly by the manager or team leader and the team as a basis for establishing expanded guidelines for future team operation. This evaluation process is often skipped. To be a continuous-learning organization requires that, at the completion of team projects, time be taken to debrief. It is not unusual to feel that there is no time for more meetings. However, when it comes to discussing what was learned from the team experience, it is absolutely necessary to take time to reflect. This is the most effective way for a team to evaluate its expanded ability to perform on future assigned projects.

The empowerment spiral (hereafter referred to as the spiral) represents the measurable or demonstrated ability of the team to perform at or above customer expectation. Thus, Figure 6 shows a continuing process of expanded team empowerment (ΔEs). The dots represent start and end-points of a stretch project. The solid line semicircle represents the stretch process from beginning to end. ΔE (Efinal state - Einitial state) is the increased capability of the team, both individually and collectively. The spiral is represented by successively larger circles (combination of solid and dotted semicircles). As the spiral becomes progressively larger, the team assumes more responsibility for self-selection of projects and self-management. The ultimate state of team empowerment is total self-direction.

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