Creating empowerment teams helps multiply productivity

With increasing globalization of the U.S. economy and the world, and the impacts of technology, to survive today a company must learn to handle, manage and support necessary changes. The only way a company can stay ahead today is to be constantly improving and changing. World-class companies initiate change by extending supply chain management globally; by dealing with cutting-edge technology d...


With increasing globalization of the U.S. economy and the world, and the impacts of technology, to survive today a company must learn to handle, manage and support necessary changes. The only way a company can stay ahead today is to be constantly improving and changing.

World-class companies initiate change by extending supply chain management globally; by dealing with cutting-edge technology developers in China and India; and empowering their employees to help deal with these issues and the everpresent cost pressures. A company must be prepared to take new directions to see the world with new eyes.

Innovation is the most recognized competitive tool today. Companies worldwide are realizing there is a shorter period of exclusivity available for their products and/or services. So how does a company measure up against world-class companies? By continually improving their products, processes and services, and how they manage their company.

For companies to survive in today's competitive world, they must find ways to implement positive change. They need to foster an organizational culture that supports and fosters the company's who, what, where, when and how.

As a project engineer consultant who has worked with companies for the past 42 years, I believe that for a company to transform its business, it must go through four stages of change. The first step is to recognize the need to change how the company operates.

That change can happen if a company's management is willing to empower its employees, and if employees are willing to be empowered. To make change happen, it is essential to drive recognition of the need to change up or down the organizational chain.

The second step is the introduction of Lean principles of operation. It is my belief that companies of all sizes and purpose can begin the work of transforming their company by successfully utilizing the powerful strategies of 'Lean manufacturing.' These tried-and-true strategies can transform the operations and profitability levels of the majority of organizations. That transformation can best be achieved through the experienced understandings of an operational engineer.

With the guidance of an operational engineer, a company can begin transformation by first applying Lean principles of productivity and then implementing the process of Value Stream Mapping: the third step in the transformation process. The fourth and final step is for management to actually begin the transformation process by empowering its employees through creation of empowerment teams. These teams would map out the perceived values of each step in the day-to-day operations of the company.

It is the role of the engineer to also help the empowerment teams as a coach to assist in the transfer of his/her skills to the empowered employees. The goal of the teams would be to identify 'value added' aspects of daily operations that equate to steps needed to put actual value into producing a product or service. 'Non-value-added time' would be the time being devoted to activities that diminish the operations of a business and its productivity. In most businesses, the value-added activities are frequently a small percentage of the actual process time.

The overall objective of the Value Stream Mapping process is to help a company understand how the business operates. With input from the empowerment teams, the business could then create and implement activities specifically designed to improve overall performance.

Management and empowerment teams

Structure is needed within a company to guide teams of employees to achieve their goals. Studies prove that the top two reasons business teams fail is because goals are not clear or objectives change. They also fail due to inadequate management support; ineffective team leadership; inadequate team member priority; and no mutual accountability.

It has been proven that an effective team has five prerequisites to success: the right composition of team members; a clear definition of the scope of the work required; clear attainable goals; the time needed to achieve the goals; and the support of management.

An engineer's role would be to first coach company executives to better understand how they can structure their company to empower a team environment that would help their employees succeed in their assignments. That structure should include management or a steering committee, management champion(s), a team leader and the correct composition of an effective team.

The engineer would then assist the company by working with the Empowerment Teams; handle structuring problems that arise within teams; help identify goals; and then help implement solution processes. Additionally, the engineer would coach the steering committees, team leaders and the entire teams. It is the engineer who is responsible for ensuring that there is adherence to the process and to offer guidance when appropriate to enable the team's success.

The steering committee's role would be to support the company's goals; allocate the resources of time management and training; empower team members to make decisions that they can implement; set up a system of reviews and standards; plus provide a high level of coaching and guidance. Team management champions within a company would be business leaders who would want to implement a team; present a business problem that needs to be addressed; and/or who believe that solving that problem is critical to his or her business success.

Management support of the team's efforts is important for reaching defined goals. It is management that should review the progress of its teams, while the teams are responsible for keeping management informed and educated on their progress. It is management that empowers a team to run the business within the company's defined scope and goals.

Author Information

Arnold Most specializes in improving the productivity of small to medium-sized manufacturing firms. He is a currently a Project Engineer with HVTDC %%MDASSML%% the Hudson Valley Technology Development Center in Fishkill, NY. Formerly he was a senior industrial engineer at IBM Corp. He holds an MS Degree in Industrial Engineering from New York University, and a BS Degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Massachusetts. He also has received certification by the NIST MEP University in Lean Manufacturing, and as a Professional Business Advisor (PBA). For more information, contact Arnold Most at the Hudson Valley Technology Development Center at (845) 896-6934, or via email to .

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