South-Western - Management  
Creating Empowerment Teams Helps Multiply Productivity
Topic Managing Individuals and Teams
Key Words Teams, change, empowerment
InfoTrac Reference A152925766
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News Story

Any organization that wants to maintain a competitive advantage in today’s world needs to be constantly improving and changing. The author of this article, a project engineer for 42 years, believes that for any company to truly transform its business and stay competitive it needs to go through four stages of change:

  1. Recognize the need to change how the company operates.
  2. Introduce Lean principles of operation.
  3. Implement Value Stream Mapping
  4. Empower employees through the creation of empowerment teams.
The role of the engineer is to help the empowerment teams as a coach and to assist in the transfer of skills. Studies show that the top two reasons that business teams fail is because goals are not clear or because objectives change. Teams also fail due to lack of management support, ineffective leadership, inadequate team member priority, and no mutual accountability. Anticipating these problems from the start and adjusting for them, can present a better opportunity for success.

An effective team has five prerequisites to success: the right make-up of team members, a clear definition of the scope of work required, clear attainable goals, the time needed to achieve the goals, and the support of management.

In the author’s model for change, the engineer first coaches company executives on how to structure a successful team environment that will help their employees succeed. The engineer would next work with the empowerment teams helping to handle any structural problems that arise, helping to identify goals, and implementing solution processes.

A separate steering committee would support the company’s goals, allocate training resources, set up a system of reviews and standards, and provide a high level of coaching and guidance.

Management support of the team efforts would be critical. Teams are responsible for keeping management informed of progress, while management is responsible for empowering the team to run the business.


What is an empowerment team and why does the author believe that this structure is the key to success in becoming more competitive in the manufacturing environment?


The author recommends empowerment teams. Research teams in your textbook. What other types of team environments are there? Where do empowerment teams fall on the spectrum of low-to high-autonomy teams?


In what types of activities are empowerment teams likely to be engaging in the manufacturing environment? List at least three.


What are the key reasons that teams fail? What factors need to be in place for a team environment to succeed?

Source “Creating Empowerment Teams Helps Multiply Productivity,” Plant Engineering, October 1, 2006, v60 i110 p.29.
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