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Elements of Enterneering®/Culture/Empowerment 

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The term 'empowerment' is frequently used in the corporate context and is far too often equated with a cool tool or a current trend of the New Work movement. Linguistically speaking, empowerment means something like 'self-empowerment' (giving oneself the power) or 'strengthening of autonomy'. This makes it clear that it is a profound basic attitude towards enterprise design and a basic concept for various forms of work. Contrary to common assumptions, empowerment is not limited to leadership tasks, nor is it a special award or incentivisation for individuals. It is a matter of attitude – the core of the corporate philosophy that promotes values such as self-determination, freedom and participation.

Empowerment entails companies giving their employees extensive and, in some areas, complete personal responsibility for designing and executing work processes. The associated empowerment within the organisational units leads to progressive decentralisation and flat decision-making structures. This strengthens the self-organisation and independence of the workforce. This is also accompanied by a shift in authority and decision-making power. Empowerment implemented this way requires not only a high degree of trust but also a corporate culture that is aligned with it, and the necessary talent.


Changing empowerment fundamentally in an entire organisation is expensive and associated with risks. Companies with a consistent economic mindset must be convinced that changing forms of work and organisational structures pay off for them, before implementing such change. What are the possible reasons behind these considerations?

Attracting, motivating, and retaining employees are among the frequently mentioned reasons. For companies competing fiercely for every talent in markets where labour is scarce, empowerment is a significant factor. Especially the younger and more highly qualified talents today want much more than just a secure job with good compensation. They want to realise themselves, implement their own ideas and work in a self-determined way. In choosing a job, they carefully evaluate the working environment, the corporate culture and the behaviour of the company’s leadership.


In the era of digitalisation, the rate of change is increasing rapidly, product life cycles and development cycles are shortening radically, and disruption and spontaneity are on the rise. This scenario, known as VUCA (variability, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) in the professional world, requires companies to radically rethink and realign traditional processes across various domains. The agile working environment has emerged as a prominent solution in this regard. Decisions should be made within small agile teams directly on-site. Reaction speeds are expected to increase, and the degree of self-organisation must increase accordingly. Without empowerment, such working environments cannot be successfully realised.


In these fast-paced times, product quality and customer value must be kept in mind appropriately. Customer experience should not be compromised by the dynamics and changes. Therefore, the shorter the change cycles become, the closer the company must get to its customers regarding specific products or changes. In the agile world, the direct connection with the customer takes place in a decentralised and extensively self-organised manner within the respective teams of the organisation. This is hardly possible without well-functioning empowerment.


In a self-organised organisation with strong empowerment, the degree of content-related penetration into individual topics is greater than in the case of work models with delimited subject areas. This increases the absorption of knowledge and the understanding of cause-effect relationships and interdependencies in the product, process, project, or company. In addition, greater personal responsibility usually leads to greater interest in the interrelationships and better results of one's own work. Ultimately, professional interactions among individuals in the organisation are elevated, resulting in a greater transfer of knowledge. Self-organised work inevitably leads to self-organised learning.



The appropriate level to which empowerment is to be increased depends heavily on the maturity of the individuals and the organisation, necessitating a gradual approach, supported by organisational and skill development measures. Empowerment is closely linked with effective talent management, proper delegation, regular feedback and the appropriate macro-management by leaders. The more firmly these elements are anchored in the company and the more experienced individuals are in them, the faster and more successful the increase in empowerment will be.

Empowerment cannot be prescribed, and not everyone is inclined to take on more responsibility or is interested in familiarising themselves with new content or tasks. It is important to identify suitable talents and use and develop them in the right way so that empowerment and self-organisation contribute to success rather than to stress and frustration. This necessitates the presence of a 'talent management' approach in the company or, at the very least, a thorough understanding and management of the talents residing in the organisation. There are detailed explanations on the topic of talent management in Enterneering®.


Proper delegation is a key element of successful empowerment. It is important to clearly communicate not only the task but also the expectation of success or outcome and the timeframe for realisation of that outcome. Furthermore, foreseeable obstacles or interactions within the company should be adequately addressed. Depending on experience and maturity, delegation can be of different degrees. For instance, a lower degree of delegation involves assigning a task to an employee to develop a solution proposal, which is then discussed and decided upon with the manager. A higher degree of delegation corresponds to a 'leading by objectives' approach, where only the desired result is explained, the framework conditions are agreed upon and the way of implementation is decided by the employee. However, it is not only the maturity of the employees that is decisive in successful delegation but also the talent and maturity of the manager. Delegating requires letting go and doing so in an appropriately consistent manner. Many leaders tend to micromanage intensively. Overcoming this in the long run is one of the essential prerequisites for successful delegation.


Regular exchange of information is an elementary component of empowerment in self-organised structures. Binding deadlines should be just as firmly anchored as the self-image of spontaneous feedback when needed. Feedback is not one-sided and should not be equated with control or reporting. Feedback within the context of delegated tasks should be characterised by the exchange of mutual expectations, assessments, opinions and suggestions. The aim is also to foster a shared understanding of expectations, requirements and constraints. Successful feedback is characterised by building trust, enhancing transparency and facilitating active expectation management.


Here, macro-management refers to the work done towards empowering the organisation. Empowerment only succeeds when the transfer of responsibility and autonomy is accompanied by the adequate empowerment and equipping of the organisation. Instead of micromanagement, the attention of the leader or the management must be focussed on providing or procuring the right resources (qualification, quality) in the required amount (quantity) and at the right time.


Self-organisation and autonomy do not mean chaos and anarchy! It is essential for every company to strike the right balance and implement a suitable form of organisation. The greater the freedom of decision-making in self-organised teams, the clearer the limits and thresholds for authority to be implemented. Although a large proportion of decisions are made autonomously in teams with a high level of empowerment, entrepreneurs still bear the overall responsibility for them. In addition to a suitable organisational form, this requires the necessary talent among managers and a corporate culture such as that described by Enterneering®. Caution is advised when implementing trendy organisational phenomena. Over-supported or poorly reflected adoption of current or new organisational trends can lead to unintended and expensive downstream challenges, as shown, for example, by the radical shift to an agile operating organisation that has taken place in many companies [🡕].


Related content:

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  • Field Trips/About Trends: Hardcore Agility or Collective Nonaccountability  ❭ ❭ ❭