Empowerment LO26265

From: Don Dwiggins (d.l.dwiggins@computer.org)
Date: 03/04/01

Replying to LO26251 --

I've linked this to the following from Rick, but it also refers to the
whole interesting thread on this subject.

> I believe the "Creative" orientation of Senge and Fritz is closely aligned
> with the psychological idea of being in "Flow." I believe anyone in the
> "Flow" state is clearly "empowered."

> The psychological notion of being "OK" would be a minimal requirement for
> the creative orientation.

> As far as what one person does to another, I think that one can
> dis-empower another. What we can learn to do is to remove obstacles we are
> placing that tend to make it harder for people to be "OK", in "Flow", or
> in the "Creative orientation." This can make a big difference. This can
> help.

> But, I think the essential, critical element must come from within.

It seems to me that this discussion has mostly focused on individuals and
1-1 relationships. It might be useful to look at it also in terms of
one<->many mappings, and also to bring in ideas from another thread: tacit
vs. explict.

Here are some thoughts on this, by no means complete or conclusive.

Individual level: as discussed in many messages, a person can't wield
power without feeling able, as a person, to use it.

1-1 level: There may be a mixed message in the empowering act.
Explicitly, the supervisor says "I give you the power to do X". Tacitly,
the message may be "but watch your step -- any deviation from what I want,
or challenge to my ideas, will be punished". Or, in a healthier
situation, "I expect you to keep me informed of what you're doing, so I
can intervene if it duplicates or conflicts with something else I'm trying
to get done"; in this case, it's a natural consequence of the supervisor's
broader visibility of his group's operations and goals. Conversely, the
tacit empowerment may be greater; in effect "get it done the best way you
can, just don't break the rules too obviously" (this reminds me of the old
saying "sometimes it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission").

Organization (one-to-many) level: the allocation and flow of power is part
of the culture. Interestingly, tacit empowerment may be great in some
parts of the organization where it seems as though the structure is
rigidly top-down. This becomes particularly visible when the members of
the organization react against what they consider unreasonable management
actions with a campaign of "malicious compliance", in effect doing only
what they're explicitly empowered to do. Also, I think another old saying
"We, the unwilling, led by the incompetent, have been doing the difficult
for so long, with so little, we now attempt the impossible with nothing.",
probably relates to situations like this.

Best regards to all,


Don Dwiggins "Solvitur Ambulando" d.l.dwiggins@computer.org

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