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Participative Management in Organizational Change
By: Strategies and Tools for Greater Effectiveness

I recently read an article in which the author said, "Senior managers are becoming more accepting of participative management and employee involvement because they (senior managers) are becoming more humanistic." Nonsense!

Anybody who works with senior managers as a management consultant quickly realizes that most managers enjoy the power vested in their positions. Many of these managers are not interested in sharing their power and decision-making authority. Organizational Change (OC) consultants who argue for participative management and employee involvement for humanistic reasons will surely meet resistance.

Nido Qubein, in his audiotapes on marketing professional services, said, "don't appeal to somebody's better nature; he or she may not have one." OC consultants must help managers see how they (the managers) will benefit from participative management and employee involvement.

Participation and involvement of employees at every level of the organization has become critical for organizations to develop and maintain a competitive advantage. The continuously changing demands for new and improved products and services require the utilization of the mental skills and emotional commitment of each organizational member. It has become simply impossible for single managers to "micro-manage" the complex operations they are responsible for. Gone are the days when companies hired and managed "hands."

Employee empowerment (shared responsibility and authority) is now a critical skill for management. Management must facilitate the work processes and development of its employees. The change in the role of managers from controllers to facilitators has been difficult for many managers. This change has created coaching opportunities for OC consultants.

$2,000 Per Day for a Short Walk

One of my earliest, and most valuable, lessons in the importance of participative management and employee involvement came from Rick. Rick is my mentor in consulting.

Rick told me about sitting in on a management meeting of one of his manufacturing clients. The conversation of the management members turned to production problems. They could not figure out why their production output was dramatically below their competitors'. Production numbers were far below the engineering predictions for new equipment. They explained to Rick how they had designed and redesigned the production process, with no success.

After many years of consulting, Rick has a "nose" for this kind of problem. Rick said, "Give me a week; I'll tell you how to fix the problem." Since the management members saw Rick as a consultant for "people problems," they appeared a bit surprised and amused. But the frustrated and somewhat desperate CEO said, "OK, give me a report by next Friday." I should point out that Rick charges $300 per hour or $2,000 per day, plus expenses.

For the next four and a half days, Rick entered the client's breakroom at 8 am, drank a cup of coffee, then walked down the hallway to the production facility. He talked to the machine operators individually and in groups. He talked to supervisors. He even learned how to run the new machines (or at least got familiar with the new machines). On Friday afternoon he put his report on the CEO's desk.

The following week, Rick got a phone call from the CEO who sang Rick's praises as a brilliant consultant. What did Rick's report say? Rick's report simply told the managers what the employees (the people doing the job) thought about how to improve the job.

When he told me this story, I stopped him and exclaimed, "Wait a minute! You charged the company $10,000 to walk down the hallway and get the answers from its own employees? The managers could have done that themselves."

"I suggested that," Rick replied, "the managers ignored that as a possibility."

Was Rick right to collect the $10,000? He ultimately saved the company hundreds of thousands of dollars with the new processing procedures. Arrogance cost that company $10,000! Employee involvement would have saved it $10,000.

About The Author:

Dr. Mike Beitler is the author of "Strategic Organizational Change." Read 2 free chapters of the book right now at

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