When you think of famous managers, who comes to mind? Charlie Brown, right? Do you think winner when you think of him? Probably not. But think about this. He kept the same kids coming back to play on his team for 50 years, despite losing all but one game. He had to deal with an all-girl, attitude-filled outfield, a dog playing second base, and a love/hate relationship between his catcher and center fielder. You have to be one heck of an inspiring manager to do that.
The title of this post is a direct quote from Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. It defines the structure at Google, where managers are responsible for clearing roadblocks and inspiring their teams. Managers there have had a lot of their traditional role removed and handled in a different way. For instance, they do not decide who to hire and fire and do performance ratings. They contribute, but do not make the final decisions. The more authority and empowerment you give your employees, the more productive and innovative they will be.
Show Me Some Data
Google, a top rated company in both working environment and financially, has documented these performance gains with a staggering amount of data, but this has also been shown in other industries. Nike ran an experiment in two very similar factories in Mexico, where management at one plant gave workers more freedom, including helping set production targets, self organizing teams, deciding how work was broken up, and having the authority to stop production when they saw problems. The other plant did not make any of these changes. Production at the first plant was almost twice as much as the second plant.
A study done by 7 researchers from the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield encompassing 308 companies over 22 years reported that, “…we found performance benefits from empowerment and extensive training, with the adoption of teamwork serving to enhance both.” The study compared the results to what was gained from implementation of processes like LEAN, TQM, JIT, etc., and found that empowerment, training, and fostering teamwork worked very well, while more focused production enhancing efforts showed no significant effect.
This is also true in service industries like health care. A study by Heather K. Spence Laschinger and Joan Finegan comes to the conclusion that empowerment leads to a wide range of better results for the employees, patients, and organization.
There is a big place for process improvements, otherwise I would have to change my blog title. But, just like I have mentioned in past posts, it is the team working together and being empowered to make changes that is the key to progress.
As a manager, find not only what is holding your employees back and get rid of it, but find ways to get them to work together. Unleash all of their power. They are only going to make you look even better.
All of the information in this post referring to Google comes from Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock, pages 12-15. So does the reference to the Leeds/Sheffield study.