One of the most difficult and frustrating problems organizations face is identifying the customer. The problem isn’t the classic identification of the customer as the buyer rather it is knowing and understanding the internal customer. The internal customer is the person(s) who use your process, your technology or have to live with your decisions. The end customer cannot be fully engaged, served and fulfilled until the internal customer is engaged, served, fulfilled and enabled.
Enabling employees is difficult to accomplish when management manages with 20th Century philosophies which weren’t inclined to trust employee capabilities or intents. Enablement means any approach which provides means or opportunity to solve problems that directly effect an individuals ability to engage, serve and fulfill an organizational purpose. In other words let the people solve the problems rather than allowing management to think they know enough about the processes employees use to decide what solutions would actual improve said processes.
Here is an example of mismanagement seen in many companies today. Management believe that technology can enhance process productivity and customer experiences. So management thinks they know what technological enhancement need to be made to the “system” and they think they know how best to get the technology built or bought. The problem is who would really know best what technological enhancement need to be made to what process and how to get those enhancement done efficiently? The answer is the customer who uses the technology and manages the process. That would be the employee(s) not management.
Adapted from “The Wall Street Journal Guide to Management” by Alan Murray:. In the old economy a managers job was to make sure people followed orders, organize the work, assign the right people to the necessary tasks, coordinate the results, and ensure the job got done as ordered. The focus was on efficiency. But in the new economy, where value comes increasingly from the knowledge of people, and where workers are no longer undifferentiated cogs in an industrial machine, management and leadership are not easily separated. People look to their managers, not just to assign them a task, but to define for them a purpose. And managers must organize workers, not just to maximize efficiency, but to nurture skills, develop talent and inspire results.
The late management guru Peter Drucker was one of the first to recognize this truth, as he was to recognize so many other management truths. He identified the emergence of the “knowledge worker,” and the profound differences that would cause in the way business was organized.
With the rise of the knowledge worker, “one does not ‘manage’ people,” Mr. Drucker wrote. “The task is to lead people. And the goal is to make productive the specific strengths and knowledge of every individual.”
One of the greatest challenges facing businesses today is the awakening of management to realize that people respond better to being enabled to self manage and solve their own problems. You would be amazed what people can and will do when given the freedom and power to do it. The 21st century employee needs the support of managers that know how to lead not manage.