Unraveling the “Who’s Responsible?” Riddle

Arthur M. Freedman

AS AN INTERNAL and external consultant to a fairly diverse range of decision-making client groups, I have time and again encountered the situation in which the members of the client system depotentiate themselves. That is, they give up or do not accept the power inherent in assuming responsibility for themselves (and for the consequences of their own actions or inactions.

A classic story I heard—which may or may not be true—illustrates depotentiation and its consequences: A new PR person at an (unnamed) electronic component manufacturing subsidiary of an international corporation decided that he would like to quote the President of the parent organization in the $5.00 ...

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