Creating a sense of ownership has been a gained battle for me at Rogers.In 1986 the idea was mooted following a strategic brain storming with Eric Mafat of  the planning  department and the plan was rolled out in 1988.

I recall articles written by Bob Nelson I read, which encapsulated my road map to enhance the sense of ownership at all levels. It was thrilling working thereon and I had great satisfaction deploying the strategy. The guys acted as if they owned the SBU’s where they were working. This was particularly satisfactory when the large Air Cargo organisation was reorganised in autonomous smaller SBU’s and smaller SSU’s – support service units.

My motto was small is magic, and small is empowering. SME.

I regretted that later  after I left this division, the new management policy was based on economy of scale.

Eight Factors of Ownership

We have identified eight factors for creating a sense of ownership. These elements empower and motivate people in any size or type of organization, although they are perhaps easier to cultivate in smaller organizations.

1. Having the thrill of the flame. When workers are highly connected to the products, processes and services of the organization, they are “close to the flame.” They have a passion and excitement about their jobs and what the organization is trying to do. This is easiest to do when all employees can easily understand, relate to, and agree with what the organization is trying to achieve. Thus, it becomes important to have clear, simple and widely communicated goals.

When a business is started, this passion exists for the entrepreneurs. As the company grows and as the management and ownership of the company are separated, it becomes more difficult to keep the flame blazing. A growing organization becomes a more diverse and complicated entity, due in part to having more people, locations and products.

In large organizations, the connection to the flame must be systematically made through communication and delegation. Work units need to be small and autonomous so that people understand how they fit into the organization and so that they feel they play an integral role in the company.

2. Understanding personal impact on profit and loss. Every person in the organization needs to understand how his or her job and department relate to the profit and loss of the organization. This involves knowing how you directly or indirectly help the organization to generate income—that is, how what you are doing relates to how the company self-perpetuates itself through further earnings. Understanding the current profit-and-loss nature of the business gives employees a sense of pride when they know they can do things better or cut expenses and thus make more money for the organization.

To give people a greater sense of profit and loss, make sure they know the financial priorities of the organization and use that information as a criteria for making decisions. Emphasize current data over year-end data. Having timely information allows employees to have influence more frequently and to feel more direct involvement in the business.

3. Having autonomy and independence. People feel autonomous when they feel supported in what they do, recognized for who they are, and treated with respect. Individuals have the right to live their lives and be themselves in the organization. They have the right to do what they need to do to be effective and productive without being constrained—as long as they do not negatively affect job performance, client relationships, or invade other people’s rights.

Related to independence is the degree of risk that comes from being given responsibility and authority to make things happen. In the best-run companies, you can take risks. There are no rigid guidelines, only parameters for getting things done. There is room for you to innovate and come up with new ideas and an open environment for listening to new ideas.

Risk is an important element of an ownership system. In new and small companies, people take a lot of risks. There isn’t a lot of “covering up” or systems in place to minimize risk. People are encouraged to take appropriate risks to get their jobs done.

4. Being self-reliant. Related to autonomy and independence is self-reliance. People who have a sense of ownership have a lot of control over themselves that extends beyond the organization. They tend not to be guided by reams of rules and regulations, but instead prefer to have self-responsibility. They are treated as adults, with a sense of fairness and equity by the management of the organization, yet also with a distinct individuality.

Well managed organizations encourage employees to have more control, accountability and responsibility for what they do. In such companies, people are motivated to understand the programs, products and processes and to assume more self-accountability and responsibility—and thus become more self-reliant.

5. Having pride of association. When pride exists in the organization, people are more committed to what they are doing. When pride exists, people understand what the organization stands for, its values and fair dealings; they feel highly committed to what they are doing; they have enough information to do it well; they are accountable for their actions; and they look forward to going to work everyday.

While such pride is particularly evident in organizations where you can see and experience the product, it may also be evident in service organizations. Nordstrom, for example, demonstrates high commitment to the client through outstanding service and employee empowerment. Nordstrom’s employees are expected to use their best judgment to help the organization reach its stated goal of providing exceptional service to every customer.

6. Being able to influence others. Having the ability to influence others means that you can make things happen both inside and outside the organization. You develop a personal network based upon your ability to influence people—not just because of your official organizational title or position.

Your ability to influence determines, in large part, what you can get done. In your department, for example, your ability to positively influence others to be excited about achieving the department’s goals is a significant part of effective team building. Outside of your immediate area, there is a network in the organization of who you are, what you have accomplished and how you make things happen. This serves both as a means to obtain results, but also as a way to develop positive working relationships that will be of further value to you in the future. Outside of the organization, you have a resource and contact base that you can draw upon to help meet organizational needs.

7. Having personal accountability. Personal accountability means defining your job in such a way that you are accountable for it; you can take pride in it; and you are very responsible for it. Getting work done is driven by an internal forces and motivations when it is very clear who is responsible for results. Risk is allowed and encouraged because individuals are held accountable for their actions. Yet penalties within the organization are consistent with risk taking. Individuals who fail at various tasks have to be handled carefully so that there is not a nitpicking about mistakes. The overall perception in the organization must be that risk taking is encouraged and that the individual is still valued even if he or she fails at a task.

8. Recognizing individuals and giving credit. If you want to build a sense of ownership in your organization, start recognizing people individually for outstanding achievement. Since you want to encourage workers to have high association with the organization, recognize them when they excel. Recognition is best when it is individualized. Specifically use the person’s name in a group setting, write individual letters of recognition and make specific references in communication media.

Recognizing people in print is important because is it so very personalized. In the movie industry, for example, everyone involved on a movie is mentioned in the film’s credits. An innovative form of individual recognition is found at Esprit in their use of employees to model clothes. By the photos are the names of the employees and their job in the company.

In addition, organizational successes need to be celebrated in a corresponding manner to the size and level of the success. A new contract signing might serve as an ideal opportunity to gather everyone who assisted with making the contract possible for a thank-you lunch, whereas the exceeding of annual profit goals by the company might call for a day of off-site celebration by all employees.