Empowerment Effort That Came Undone (HBR Case Study)
For teaching purposes, this is the case-only version of the HBR case study. The commentary-only version is reprint 95111Z. The complete case study and commentary is reprint 95111. George Marlow, a manufacturing vice president at SportsGear, had been looking forward to this month's companywide meeting. Martin Griffin, SportsGear's CEO, was going to announce a new era of empowerment at the company. And as Martin gave his speech, he seemed to fill the entire auditorium with his enthusiasm. But Harry Lewis, a SportsGear veteran of more than 20 years, was not so sure. "What in the world does empowerment mean?" he asked. And indeed, Harry's concerns proved well founded. George led the team from manufacturing that was to be the test case for implementing empowerment at SportsGear. The team began the project in high spirits, eager to accomplish its goals. But when the time came to present their reports, the members were shocked: Martin was called away from the meeting, and the department heads formed a wall of resistance. It appeared that the team's efforts had been a waste of time. Can empowerment work at SportsGear? In 95111 and 95111Z, J. Richard Hackman, Elios Pascual, Mary V. Gelinas, Roger G. James, and W. Alan Randolph offer advice on this fictional case study.