Fogelman College of Business and Economics
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Dean Grover's Message
In the past few issues of the Fogelman Flash and Fogelman Focus, I have espoused some of my philosophies on managing a college.  I have talked about development and execution of long-term strategies, the benefits of cooperation rather than competition and the value of meritocracy.  In this issue of the Fogelman Flash, I talk about the merits of empowerment – a tool that I have used for many of the successes we have had.

Empowering of Individual Units
Simply speaking empowerment means that decisions are made by individuals who are at the level at which they are to be implemented.  If the head of the unit is responsible for delivering, then the unit head should have the power to determine, say in our context, who teaches what courses, how many, and what their contents are; who is hired and who is not; how the activities around a particular initiative are to be organized; and so forth.  Empowering the individual units allows for them to be held accountable – finally resulting in a fair, just and, hence, motivating environment.

But wait, before I further sing the praises of empowerment it is absolutely important to understand that the right person is in place who is to be empowered.  Empowering the wrong person who is either not in synch with the vision or strategy of the organization or is incapable of driving the strategy will result in a disaster for the organization.  

Empowerment is not a dichotomous concept – there are degrees to which a person can be empowered.  It is quite likely that a person may be capable of making decisions at one level but not on another higher level.  Keeping this in mind, I will say that empowering the person to the hilt is a good idea.  Even if the person makes an error by making decision at the edge of her/his capability, it is not bad as it can be a learning experience for her/him.

Motivation & Productivity
The word “empowerment” itself conveys yet another idea - productivity.  Consider the concept of socialism.  People in socialistic societies don’t typically produce much, and the reason they’re not individually productive is because they’re waiting to get something from the higher-ups; their rewards are more linked to lobbying the higher-ups than individual productivity.  And given that the higher-ups have less knowledge about the going-ons at the specialized lower levels, their decisions are susceptible to such lobbying.  On the flip side in an empowered organization, empowerment leads to accountability and reward, this in turn leads to motivation and then productivity. By implementing empowerment, and thereby increasing motivation and productivity among our departments, Fogelman College has experienced a tremendous improvement in teaching, learning and service. Our faculty and staff members work harder because they take pride in the personal accomplishment of such actions.

Individual vs. the Whole
Related to the above thought, is the notion of harnessing individual unit’s accomplishments for good of the whole organization.  An organization such as ours is nothing but a sum of its parts and a chain of links.  If all the parts do well, the organization does well.  If all the links are strong the organization is strong.  This of course begs the question, “what is the role of supervisors who control the parts?”  The answer lies in 1) servant leadership, facilitating the parts to do well; in 2) efficiencies, executing activities that are required by all parts and are subject to economies of scale; 3) selecting the right individuals to head the units; and 4) aligning the individual units to the vision and prodding them to stay the course and, perhaps more importantly, crafting and selling the organizational vision in the first place.

We want people to take pride in their work.  When they do, and when they individually shine, the whole organization shines.

I would like to thank all the faculty and staff who have stepped up to the plate to make their own little programs and units so much better.  The Fogelman College is better for it.  THANK YOU FOGELMAN FOLKS!

Fogelman Flash Home

Dean Grover's Message

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Last Updated: 5/10/13