How Agile is Rebalancing Power

Have you ever had a boss who rejected your idea?  What can you do about it? Pretty much nothing.

Unhappy with the company direction?  What can you do about? Pretty much nothing.

You are assigned to work on something that you think is a waste and possibly detrimental to the company.  What can you do about? You get where I’m going with this.

For a long time, people have been at the mercy of their employers.  “If you don’t like it, I’ll find someone who does!” That’s been the mantra of employee management.  Sure, people with hard-to-find-skills have it a little better because it’s in the best interest of the employer to keep them, but being coddled with perks is not the same thing as having a voice.

I have wondered for a long time about how we could rebalance the power in organizations.  Then I realized, we’re already doing it! Agile is rebalancing the power.

Empowerment isn’t it.  It’s not about team ‘empowerment’ because when leaders empower you, they still hold the power.  If someone can empower you, they can disempower you just as easily.

Teams have a collective voice.  The real gem here is that teams can speak with a collective voice.  I’ve seen leaders agree to a team’s recommendation in ways they never would with an individual.  Teams and teams of teams can influence upwards. We lost this power when people didn’t work in real teams.

Teams still need to build courage.  It’s much easier to build team courage than it is to build individual courage.  But it’s still a muscle to build. Teams need to build the muscle to question assumptions and not blindly accept what is handed down to them.

The power losers are still winners.  You might be wondering if the higher-ups who lose power will fight this shift.  Some may fight it simply on principle. But most will benefit from it because their organizations will become more profitable and their jobs less frustrating.  When everyone is thinking and acting in the best interest of the company, and bad decisions are mitigated, the company is in a better position overall.

With great power comes great responsibility.  The power is shifting but it’s up to us to embrace and use that power for good.  It’s quite possible that after years of being powerless, teams won’t step up and use the power they have been given.  It’s also possible that they’ll be so angry that they’ll use it to burn down the companies they work for. There is an opportunity to keep the power in balance, but we have to seize it!

How has the balance of power changed in your organization?  Let us know!