Q: Is it possible to aim for high quality at a low cost? Doesn’t quality have a price?

– Curious Jones

A: “Empowerment” is a condition in which the employee is given the combined knowledge, skill, authority and sole decision to act within the prescribed limits. With empowerment, the employee takes responsibility for the consequences of his/her actions and for the contribution towards the success of an organization. This is a superior form of employee involvement.

There are two critical examples of “employee empowerment” in the American service industry: the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Walt Disney World. The Ritz Hotel authorizes every front desk employee to spend up to a maximum of $2000 on the spot to resolve a customer complaint. On the other hand, Disney World employees are authorized to replace lost tickets, spilled food, and damaged souvenirs, even if the damage was caused by the guest.

Here, such empowerment is seen as a direct and positive means to satisfy a customer need and to strengthen the employee’s identification with the company vision, mission and values. This way approach, workers get a sense of ownership of the organization.

Is your company ready to empower you? All parties involved should focus on the result and not the risks. The time and effort spent on this system is worth it, if it gets the job done.

R.A.H. Elbo is the managing advisor of Kairos Management Technologies and acting president of Kaizen Institute of the Philippines, both consulting and training companies.