Empowerment Takes More Than A Minute, by Ken Blanchard, John P. Carlos & Alan Randolph
In many ways, this is a very good book, but there is something missing from it that makes it not as good and not as useful as it could have been. A great many business books like this one are told as fables, where instead of explaining a concept the way a textbook would, the author creates a fake but “realistic” scenario where people discuss a situation and show the principles of empowerment in action as a way of making it more relatable and easier to copy. In this case, as is often the case with this sort of book , the story doesn’t really ring true as being fully fleshed out and realistic, and is clearly fictional in nature even if it is a composite picture of the way that consulting has gone for at least some businesses that have sought to use the power of empowerment to create better businesses and wrestled with the cultural and political changes within the organization that were required to get there. I found the story itself easy to follow and would certainly agree with the authors–in a knowing wink to previous books on the “one minute manager”–who comment that empowerment takes more than a minute.
This particular book is a short one at between 100 and 125 page. The authors begin with a discussion of the challenge of empowerment, a presentation of what an empowering manager looks (and acts) like, and a discussion of the land of empowerment by giving the protagonist, a CEO who feels the need to empower his company but who has no experience in what the land of empowerment looks like, likely a stand-in for the intended readers of the book. This leads to a discussion of three keys of empowered organizations, namely that information is to be shared with everyone, autonomy is created through boundaries, and hierarchies are to be replaced by self-directed teams. This is obviously something that would be a hurdle for many organizations, and this is then followed by a look at the three keys in dynamic interaction, and an explanation of the importance of the three keys, in that information to act is essential for people to be able to act in the best interests of the company, that boundaries are guidelines for action, and teams are to be allowed to be self-directed so that everyone owns and commits to what is done. This is followed by a discussion of the need to persist in one’s belief in empowerment, as well as the empowerment game plan, which ends the book somewhat abruptly, as well as acknowledgments, information about the authors, and services available to the readers.
Despite the agreement that I have with the author’s general perspective of what is related to empowerment, I found something missing about this book. Business fables are written in the way that they are because the barriers to applying truth in business (and in many other areas of life) are not so much a lack of intellectual knowledge about what are the right things to do but the native human resistance to change that makes it hard to apply such knowledge as we possess. It is easy to know what is right, and hard to do what is right, and successful business authors, as these people surely are, try to solve the issues that make application of their principles difficult. The problem, in this book, is that the entire contents of the book show the CEO learning about how empowerment worked for a company by talking to empowered associates of that company, and the entire process of working out empowerment in the CEO’s own company is quickly brushed aside in the last couple of pages of the book, making it seem as if once a CEO is sufficiently convinced of the need for empowerment and of the roadblocks that must be dealt with, that a company will be empowered so long as it pushes hard enough for it with support from the top. Is that the message that the authors were trying to send?
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