The "chatter" has been around for a while, but recently the volume's lifted significantly, and when I speak with vendors, I'm hearing it quite a bit these days. It usually goes something like this: "It's all about getting information out to employees and empowering them to make decisions."
Hmmm . . . perhaps some caution is called for. Maybe we need to think about the implications of that sentiment before we all march down the path of employee empowerment. I don't know about you, but over the years I've had more than a fair share of employees whom I wouldn't trust to make me a tuna sandwich, let alone empower with making business decisions (present staff excluded, of course).
That's one of the problems of this so-called "Information Age": we think that just because we can generate a pile of information, we have to share it or give it to someone else. In fact I think we run the risk of creating a swag of loose cannons who end up giving away the keys to the castle when they should be sticking to their post and guarding the moat.
Even worse, I suspect all this so-called empowering information is going into some black hole somewhere because for the life of me I can't find a real, live empowered employee. I think they're an urban myth. They certainly aren't answering the phone because these days all I get are IVRs. And while they apparently have e-mail accounts, they must be using them for chain letters or transferring money from Nigerian bank accounts because I'm getting no response.
At least that's my recent experience. The story you are about to hear is true - call it "Son of Fuchsia Thong Bikini".
Recently my husband and I went overseas, and while I had to get back home, he was travelling on to the US to see his family. Being one to never miss an opportunity to pull out the old Amex, I did a fair bit of shopping on the Internet and had everything delivered to my mother-in-law's. One of my purchases was a "Tankini" (that's a two-piece bather for those of us who must forgo a fuchsia thong bikini for reasons of gravity) from Eddie Bauer.
Well, a week ago my husband gets back and he's got the "tank" with him, but there's no "kini" to be found. Now a fat lot of good that's gonna do me. While I've not been doing much topless sunning lately (due to the aforementioned gravity), I have always accepted the standard definition of "where the sun doesn't shine".
Of course, I did the right thing and immediately blamed my husband for failing to pack the kini bit. But he's a trooper and insisted every purchase had been duly accounted for and packed - and he was right. I checked the order confirmation from Eddie Bauer and what had happened was that the kini was out of stock.
So where the hell was the empowered employee here? It certainly didn't take a mental giant - with more information - to make a wild guess that perhaps the tank sans kini was worthless - well, unless you're Courtney Love. The people at Eddie Bauer had my contact details: both phone and e-mail address in case they thought I was in fact Courtney Love using an alias, but they opted not to contact me.
But here's the clincher: the kini is now in stock. I e-mailed Eddie Bauer (three times), hoping in the spirit of good customer service that they might offer some resolution.
Haven't heard from anyone yet. I bet they're all in the warehouse kitchen making tuna sandwiches. So much for empowerment - I hope one of them gets food poisoning.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.