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Changing Software Development: Learning to Become Agile by Allan Kelly

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10.3. Empowerment

Empowerment means giving authority or power to other people so that they can act independently. It's important because it puts the power to act into the hands of the people who need it, the people who face problems every day, who know what the problems are and who know the most about them. The people who are working most closely on the development of software need to be able to incorporate their knowledge and experience into that development.

Empowerment gives people trust and allows them to learn and to change. Not to empower them means that you want to limit them and perhaps control them in some way. In empowering someone, you're delegating some of your authority; that is, you are giving something up. And you give it up in the belief that those who you're empowering will become more powerful, and will make more effective use of the power than you would have done.

Empowerment has become something of a cliché in modern business: it sometimes seems that everyone is empowered. Unfortunately, it's too easy to claim that people are empowered without actually giving them power. As the above definition says, empowering people means giving them authority. There's more to empowering individuals and teams than just saying 'You are empowered'. Really empowering people requires more than just talk.

In simply talking about empowerment but not actively empowering people, you run the risk of apportioning responsibility without providing the power to take action. Not only is ...

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