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April 2001
Volume 8 • Number 2


Empowerment in Total Quality: Designing and Implementing Effective Employee Decision-Making Strategies

by Zoe S. Dimitriades, University of Piraeus

The barrage of changes outside and inside contemporary business organizations adopting total quality management (TQM) principles has resulted in a trend toward the empowerment of their employees. This development means that employees, usually working in teams, are now given the responsibility and authority to make quality improvement decisions that can enhance the satisfaction of internal and external customers. This extension of traditional job roles necessitates a clear understanding of what employee empowerment actually is, and how it can be managed effectively. In this paper an attempt is made to provide a conceptual definition of empowerment and to offer an implementation strategy for TQM managers.

Keywords: employee involvement, human resource management, participative management, total quality management


Dramatic changes in work organization have taken place in the past decade. Traditional hierarchies and functional structures are being reduced. Downsizing and delayering are common practice. At the same time, increasing emphasis is being placed on enhanced employee involvement, team decision making, and various partnership arrangements. Behind these changes is the enormous challenge of new competition arising from globalization, deregulation, and technological advances, which is forcing business organizations to be more responsive to customers (Fonda and Rowland 1995). To achieve this challenging goal, quality organizations must develop more effective decision-making strategies via employee empowerment.