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Empowered Teams

Much of the modern literature speaks about empowerment. For teams, the idea is that team members have control over the team's performance and behavior. Control is one source of power. Most power derives from the organization's management authority. A team is empowered by virtue of that power that is granted to it by management. A team charter is a very useful device for helping a team and management understand just exactly what the team has power (or is empowered) to do. This can help avoid the problem that one manager observed about empowered teams, "They are like a tiger cub, at first they are eating all the mice and rats, after a year they are eating you."

Information is another source of power. To be effective, High Performance Teams need information, and lots of it. Some who are active in building teams believe that the teams should be told everything that could possibly help them in achieving their objectives. They need to know the financial condition of the organization. They need to know about pending organizational changes. They need to know what is going on in the market they are serving. Some top-managers believe that teams don't need this information or that widespread knowledge of this information could be dangerous for the organization. The opposite is more true. Teams that are trusted with sensitive information know that and take care to make certain that non-team members do not pick it up from them. They value that trust and will not betray it. Teams also need to clearly understand the organization's mission, vision for the future, and direction. Armed with this knowledge the team can much more rapidly achieve desired results. Such knowledge gives the team confidence in its decisions and energy to implement those decisions. Little time is wasted debating whether the proposed decision fits with the organization's direction or may be overturned down the road.

Access to resources is another source of power. A team's ability to succeed will depend in part on how free it is to use precious resources. Most people realize that with enough resources, anything can be accomplished. Yet most organizations are resource constrained. So there is often a very real tension between the team's need for resources to accomplish its objectives and the organization's need to conserve resources. One possible solution is provide the team with guidance on how quickly any substantial resource investment needs to be paid back in term of savings or new business.

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