Creating the Space

Creating the Space

What does empowering our people really mean – certainly more than just saying it out loud.


Anyone with a knowledge of todays organisational and business improvement techniques know that they are supported by two necessary elements. A robust, consistent and well understood, process for improvement and a deep rooted respect for the people involved. The thing that can get forgotten when applying these principles is that these need to be perpetuated from the most senior management.

‘I’d like to create a culture of Continuous Improvement’ is an admirable starting point but after frequent attempts netting short term results and frustrating fall backs, comes the realisation that this doesn’t happen by training all of the staff in lean, agile, six sigma, or similar and telling our employees that they are ‘empowered’.

Sustained improvement is just as much about the environment created as it is the performance metrics focused on.

Those that can alter the environment fastest are those at the top of an Organisation. It is not just Leadership behaviours as I talked about here: also about creating an organisational operating system where the value in thinking, experimenting, failing and learning quickly is promoted with time set aside for this within business as usual conditions. Problem solving and innovation is written into job descriptions and coaches are on hand. I was talking to a business leader just last week and we recalled that apt soundbite from Steve Jobs at Apple – “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do”

This statement relies on both the humility of the Leadership and the understanding that team capacity should include space to innovate and improve.

Organisational improvement is not a programme of work, it is something that you need to weave into the fabric of everyday conditions. If you’re not sure how to do this, ask your teams – they may well be able to help