As a result, consideration of alternative strategies, such as those depicted in empowering managers, in platoons, and possibly in the automaton quadrant, can fuel further discussion about the appropriateness and desirability of an empowered work team strategy while providing time for organizational members to build the experience and commitment necessary along the dimensions of both team building and empowerment.
In fact, a recent survey of Fortune 1000 companies found that 47 per cent of these firms had instituted some form of self-managing or empowered work teams with at least some of their workers, while 60 per cent planned to increase their employee involvement over the next two years (Lawler, Mohrman, and Ledford, 1992).
What follows is a comprehensive description of the Empowerment Strategy Grid and its practical application in the context of designing and implementing effective, firm-specific, empowered work teams at a leading US multinational corporation.
The challenges of creating fully empowered work teams
Capturing within its simple schematic the fundamental variables that structure and categorize empowered work teams; for example, degree and use of group activity, manager-subordinate relationships, and decision-making authority, the Grid offered a logical starting point for the organization to engage in discussions about its current environment and human resource strategies by provoking questions such as the following:
In contrast to empowered work teams, platoon members must report to and obey a higher authority.
These teams are simply not as effective as empowered work teams in rapid, autonomous, creative problem solving since they must comply with set rules and appeal to authority.
Finally, in Multicorp's empowered work teams quadrant, individual roles are fluid and assigned relative to team needs and member competences, tasks are interdependent, and team members share decision-making authority based on member skills and the specific knowledge needed to manage problems.
Interventions necessary to develop to empowered work teams
Clearly, organizational transformation from one quadrant, such as automatons, to empowered work teams is no simple feat.
In the Multicorp example, despite the CEO's full sponsorship of empowered work teams and middle manager's desire for more autonomy, senior management tacitly valued control and authority as characterized by the platoon quadrant.