In The Workplace

We’re thinking of raising the empowerment level of our people managers to decongest and simplify our administrative work processes and improve our labor productivity at the same time. One department manager suggests that we consider the “one-over-one” approval of employee leaves, work schedules, and other related matters. What do you think? What are the things that we should consider to make such change successful? — Yellow Submarine.
A long time ago, there was a church that patterned its religious practices after those in the early years of America. For one, the pastor was dressed in long coat and knickerbockers and the congregation was divided by gender. Men were seated on the left side of the aisle, while the women sat on the right.
One Sunday, the pastor announced a new collection system taking effect immediately. He asked the “heads of the household” to come forward and place their contributions on the altar. The men rose instantly and to the amusement of the pastor and his entire congregation, more than half of them crossed the aisle to get money from their wives.
In many organizations, there is a clear line of responsibility that separates between the minion boss and the “real boss.” The minion boss gives specific instructions and monitors how certain tasks are being done to their workers without being allowed to disburse any money. One the other hand, the “real boss” holds the purse and controls budget flow, and will not release any money without his signature, no matter how insignificant is the amount.
This takes more than a sizeable chunk of time for the “real boss” who is trapped in many administrative details and may not be able to perform important strategic functions. He can bask in self-importance using the power of the purse, without realizing that it also contributes to a lot of waste, including unnecessary waiting time for all concerned.
More than that, the minion boss is reduced to a mere paper supervisor or manager who has no authority to approve even the most insignificant task, like approving vacation or sick leave of their workers or signing for P500 in petty cash for emergency purchases.
This happens most of the time because of excessive control that has been perpetuated with no one challenging it as an obstacle to efficient people management. Probably, that is one reason why Peter Drucker (1909-2005), known as the Father of Modern Management came up with the maxim: “Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.”
Many organizations are often seen practicing excessive command-and-control that mean even trivial tasks and insignificant amounts of money must pass through several layers of management approval. This happens because of incorrect interpretations of what a management job entails. To correct this common issue, top management must empower people supervisors and managers through the implementation of a one-over-one approval.
But, what exactly is one-over-one approval? It means that a supervisor or manager must be primarily responsible in supervising his workers. Nothing more than that. However, he must be given “almost” complete authority to act as an empowered line executive as he is the only one tasked to manage, monitor, guide and evaluate the work performance of his workers.
This includes coaching the workers on how to perform better at work, train them and discipline them, when necessary. Correlated to this, the line supervisor or manager must determine the right work schedule to meet the exigencies of service and produce the best quality work, according to the company’s standards, budget and timeline.
The line supervisor or manager need not elevate matters to his boss, unless the former is on leave, on official business elsewhere or incapacitated. Another exception to this general rule is when a situation calls for a double or multiple approval like in the case of an employee seeking an extended vacation leave without pay to visit an ailing family member somewhere or to complete his graduate studies or to review for the bar examination.
If the supervisor or manager is responsible for the output of his workers, then it follows that the same supervisor or manager must be given the right authority to perform his task which includes the signing of the workers’ attendance record, approving their leave applications, processing training needs, among other related administrative concerns.
This is called “decentralization” or giving exclusive authority to a line supervisor or manager so that he can perform his task in accordance with his knowledge, ability, and independent judgment. By “independent judgment,” I mean, he’s not required to secure further approval. This approach is necessary to ensure proper training of people who are second-in-command.
Such a decentralization strategy may be limited depending on industry practice and practical application where line executives are allowed to sign each transaction in accordance with certain budgetary limits.
Increasing labor productivity and simplifying work processes are a lot easier to do if all line executives are given one-over-one responsibility. Seeing them perform such tasks as a matter of policy and practice creates a dynamic system for any organization.
ELBONOMICS: If you’re not stressed out, you’re not carrying your share of the load.
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