Key Success Factor 4: Empowerment *
Acquisition Reform has repeatedly stressed the importance of empowering the acquisition workforce. The results of surveys taken as part of acquisition reform standdowns indicate that many people in the acquisition system are empowered. Acquisition professionals have a great deal of freedom to do their jobs, keeping their supervisor informed as needed.
The implementation of directions from higher authority is dependent upon the interpretations and actions of people throughout many layers of their organization. This is one reason it is difficult for senior leaders to change their organizations simply by changing rules, policies, and making decisions. For change to be effective, it must be understood, accepted, and effectively supported by those at the lower levels, particularly those at the interface where the action occurs. Empowerment can be seen as a catalyst and lever for accelerating change throughout an organization.
Robinson (1997) considers empowerment to be: A strategic process of building a partnership between people and the organization, fostering trust, responsibility, authority, and accountability to best serve the customer.
This gives empowerment a much broader scope that just telling individuals that they can make certain decisions and represent their organizations at IPT meetings. It also reinforces the view that while every individual has some degree of influence and authority, the structure of the IPT and the enterprise can make those same individuals much more effective by setting and nurturing an empowering environment.
This suggests that empowerment should be interpreted as a characteristic of the enterprise rather than as a relationship between an employee and manager. From a systems view, there are several levels of empowerment: the individual employee or IPT member, the team leader, the IPT, its Program Office, and the enterprise. Each of these levels may have their own degree and boundaries of empowerment and can influence the empowerment at other levels.
Given the goal of a fully empowered enterprise, each level can take certain empowerment actions that maximize the overall enterprise effectiveness. Empowerment can create an environment and a structure within which IPTs and team members can work more effectively, each contributing their maximum where they have the most knowledge, experience, and competence.
From the team member's view, there are two ways that the individual can be empowered. If the individual reports to a functional manager, then that manager can empower the team member to speak for the functional organization. Each team member can also get empowerment from the team leader and the team to represent the team and take action on team matters.
* Navy IPT Learning Campus, Version 1.1.