The Power of Empowerment

As I find myself in my mid-40s, I have noticed a bit of a changing of the tides lately. I’m starting to recognize a shift from spending much of my time ASKING questions to more of my time in ANSWERING questions. One question that I’ve spent a lot of time with lately could be categorized as “What do you wish you knew then that you know now?” with regard to my professional career. While there is more than one answer for me, the answer that seems to illicit a lot of emotion and often times even anger with others is the topic of empowering others - specifically with empowerment around information.

I have found myself around the board room table with thousands of company leaders as a consultant, auditor and instructor. Very rarely does the leadership team say “You know… we’re not doing a very good job at leading our people. We’re not managing as well as we could be by developing our people, tools and other resources.” The day shift thinks the night shift is the problem. The Baby Boomers blame the Millennials. Top management points the finger down the ladder. “They’re so damn lazy…” or something about everyone else being a bunch of idiots. Whatever it is, it ain’t my fault.

Show me an organization where leadership uses this kind of language about their people and I’ll bet we’ll also find a severe lack of empowering others with regard to action and decision making. Metrics are not shared, communication is poor and being a manager (hierarchy) is more important than leadership .

From my perspective, the single most significant factor that differentiates these two types of cultures is empowerment. Randy Boyd, CEO of PetSafe discussed the power of empowerment and how empowerment played a pivotal role in the transformation of his company.

Companies that share relevant key indicators, and teach their associates how to understand the data that is being presented, clearly out-perform those organizations where top management keeps information close to their chests.

Here are a few empowerment benchmarks and best practices observed during my audits and consulting work days:

  1. Stall Art installed in restrooms by the CEO showing cost of quality metrics for the previous month alongside a photo of a Lamborghini and a Ferrari stating “$xxx,xxx = WE PISSED AWAY THESE TWO COMPANY CARS LAST MONTH”.

  2. Real time indicators streamed throughout the facility showing leading indicators such as # of parts produced/hour, # of near miss incidents reported (safety and quality), $ of rework/scrap/repair as a % of overall production, etc. Indicators were not only presented in common areas on TV monitors, but they were also presented on all computer screens as screen savers so even the folks offsite could stay abreast of the latest performance indicators.

  3. Daily stand up meetings performed around a central communication board used to provide visual communication of process-oriented metrics. Each day area leaders would pick an associate at random to tell the story of the posted information. A bit of a pop quiz approach, used to ensure that everyone is aware of past performance, present status and future expectations.

  4. Problem solving groups (PSGs) that are taught how to run their own problem solving sessions, at the place where the work is performed, using simple tools such as the A3, 8D, Corrective Action Forms, etc. Teams are cross-functional and must continue to improve their work by solving issues that effect the customer, create waste or decrease risks by clearing showing a connection between project results and improved indicators.

If you are a leader, I strongly encourage you to empower those that have an effect on the organizational health and improvement strategy. Empower your people then hold them accountable for their results. Be consistent and create an environment that encourages others to act like owners, take risks and learn from their mistakes. You see a difference, I assure you. And let’s not forgot to have a little fun along the way (see Brother’s Osborne video above).

Headshot - Jim Thompson.jpg

James Thompson has over 25 years of experience serving domestic and international organizations in their pursuit of organizational excellence. James also specializes in leadership development and advanced manufacturing techniques.

In 2003, Mr. Thompson founded Concentric in order to advise customers in organizational improvement, process optimization and integrated (concentric) management techniques. James has led hundreds of projects in Lean, ISO 9001, IATF 16949 + AIAG Core Tools, AS9100, ISO 14001, ISO 45001 and other organizational excellence (OE) implementation projects. In 2008, he relocated the business to Charleston, SC due to demand in cost reduction efforts, particularly in the automotive & aerospace manufacturing sectors. James is an Exemplar Global accredited QMS Lead Auditor, Certified Master Management Consultant (CMMC) and Lean Six Sigma instructor. You can find more information about him on our website here.

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ISO 9001:2015 Changes: What It Means for You

ISO 9001, ISO 9001:2015, new standards, international standard changes, change management, planning for change, leadership, tips for preparing for change, QMS changes, quality management, quality systems By now, you’ve surely noticed the buzz around the upcoming changes to ISO 9001. ISO 9001:2015 is projected to be approved and released in Q4 of 2015. If you haven’t heard the buzz, then perhaps you need to subscribe to a blog or two, pick up Quality Digest or raise your head a bit from the rock you’ve been hiding under! All rocks aside, this revision looks to have several significant changes to the standard including the overall structure, basic terminology as well as what is NOT going to make the cut for the new release.

What you can do to start preparing now.

The reality is quite simple. Change happens whether we like it or not. Markets change. Businesses change. Customers change. Nearly everything changes. Most of the time we hate change. Our brains are just programmed that way. We don’t like what we don’t know, but we know what we like. As quality practitioners in particular, our job as change agents tend to be easier when WE are driving the change versus times when we are being asked to change ourselves.

This round of ISO 9001 revisions will undoubtedly be the most significant change to international QMS standard in the past 15+ years. We have seen a draft that gives a little understanding of what to expect with the changes ahead (ref. http://www.acommoncenter.com/iso9001_2015). But what are you doing with the proposed changes, if anything? Are you preparing your organization’s risk management efforts through the use of tools such as the FMEA? What is the appropriate amount of control needed for any process that effects the customer or “other interested parties” (do you know what that means)? Have you appropriated defined expected process outputs by ensuring proper management of customer-specific requirements?

I encourage you to set aside 30 minutes to review this Google+ Hangout video titled ISO 9001 revision - Conversation with Nigel Croft. Mr. Croft is the Chair of the Subcommittee revising the ISO 9001 standard (aka “the horse’s mouth"). Watch the YouTube video here.

Our philosophy is that it is better to be proactive than reactive. While we don’t currently know all of the requirements that will make the final cut, we do have several opportunities to begin to be proaction with the changes ahead. It is at least time to start discussing potential changes to the requirements in order to think strategically about potential impacts and resource needs over the next 3-5 years.

What are some of your thoughts on these big ISO changes that are being proposed in the current draft? How are you preparing for these proposed changes? Let us know in the comments and share with the community. And if you are interested... keep up to date with our upcoming forum and online discussions in September.