Page 1: Introduction
This case study focuses on the way in which ICI, one of the UK’s best known companies, has maximised the potential of its people in recent times. ICI has established some clear guiding principles which provide an object lesson for any business which seeks to be effective in today’s competitive business climate.
A simple definition of organisational culture is 'the way we do things around here.' Visit any workplace and you quickly begin to form an impression of what the organisation cherishes and values. This may be revealed by the way in which you are greeted when you step through the door, how organised or disorganised the working environment is, the way people treat each other and so on. An important part of this organisational culture is the relationships which exist between people at different levels. Traditionally, large companies in the UK were characterised by a 'tall' organisational structure with several layers of command and a 'top down' approach. Communications generally flowed down from managers, through supervisors, to ground level workers.
Today, all this has changed and nowhere more so than at ICI’s operating units throughout the world. At ICI, the new philosophy is to move decision making increasingly away from the centre, to individual businesses and in individual businesses to individuals and teams.
What is empowerment?
The term empowerment in an organisational context is used to mean the increased participation by employees in their organisation. Empowerment is regarded in management theory as a means of encouraging initiative and entrepreneurialism in an organisation‘s members.
Empowered employees will be best able to help the organisation to meet its objectives. Provided employees understand the objectives of an organisation and are encouraged to help the organisation to meet these objectives, then they will be able to help the organisation by introducing their ideas and solutions to problems.
In the next illustration you can see that empowered employees can start with all sorts of ideas which then bubble up within the organisation to help it achieve its values and goals. This will only work provided that the organisation has a clear enough structure to enable new ideas to bubble up.