strategy+business | Empower to transform

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In brief

1. The power of empowerment

When workers have power and choice, they are happier, more committed to your organization, and less stressed. They’re also better at their jobs, more likely to go the extra mile, and more innovative.

So, what’s the problem? It’s tricky to measure empowerment, and it’s too late when someone walks out the door. As part of PwC’s latest global workforce survey, researchers investigated four academically recognized dimensions of empowerment—autonomy, impact, confidence, and meaning—to see the degree to which these dimensions were both important to people and present in their work lives.

Empowered workers feel a sense of autonomy, influence, confidence, and meaning at work. And it shows.

In brief

1. The power of empowerment

2. Meaning matters

3. Transformation’s secret sauce

Don’t Glengarry it

When undertaking systemic change or facing uncertainty, remember: your employees aren’t just along for the ride—they’re the engine of transformation.

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Source: PwC’s 2022 Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey

You’ve long heard the refrain: transform, transform, transform. And in the face of real-time concerns about inflation, geopolitical turmoil, and an economic slowdown, it’s more urgent than ever. The list of short- and medium-term priorities is intimidating: protect revenues, spot and seize opportunities, make the right investments to seed growth, embrace new processes, decarbonize your business. Underneath all that, you recognize that long-run success will require reimagining (among other things) your purpose, operating model, and even your business model. But hold on, aren’t you forgetting something?

Your people.

The fact is, organizational and workforce factors are central to the success of business transformations, and business survival. Making the right moves with your people—and avoiding the wrong ones—enables change and improves business performance. This issue of strategy+business highlights three such moves, all revolving around a single, overarching imperative: empowering people.

First, make sure your business provides the fundamental building blocks of empowerment: Do your workers have a sense of agency and choice? Do they feel like their work makes a difference? Are they compensated fairly?

Second, know the resignation warning signs. Among those, one stands out: the lack of a sense of meaning and belonging at work. That’s a factor that PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2022 revealed to be nearly as important as money among employees considering leaving a job.

Finally, enable transformation by creating an organizational culture that empowers workers to speak up, collaborate effectively, and be OK with pivoting when an initial plan doesn’t work out. A handful of case studies—and a smart practice from a recent PwC-authored book, Beyond Digital—shows how leading companies harness the power of organizational culture to transform.

Take action

Empowered workers run on autonomy, impact, confidence, and meaning. They are not only happier but perform better at their jobs.

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1. Empowerment has four dimensions

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Three of the top four factors employees consider when looking for a new job relate to finding a sense of meaning and belonging at work.

2. Meaning really matters

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Seek organizational solutions—like the company that created 15-minute ‘tiered huddles’ to empower employees to speak up, collaborate, and focus on what matters.

3. Huddle up to switch gears

In depth

Further reading

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TELL ME MORE

In spring 2022, PwC surveyed 52,000 workers across 44 countries and territories. Among the questions were a
dozen intended to tease out the degree to which workers feel empowered—or not. The questions covered four areas:

Power up

CLOSE

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I can choose when I work
(days and/or hours).

I can choose where I work
(in-person, hybrid, remotely).

I can choose how I do my
work in a way that suits me.

The work I do has a significant impact on my team’s performance.

I am fairly rewarded financially
for my work.

My manager considers my viewpoint when making decisions.

I can exceed what is expected
of me in my job role.

I can be creative/innovative
in my job.

I have a clear plan to advance my career with my current employer.

I find my job fulfilling.

I can truly be myself at work.

My team cares about my well-being.

Autonomy

Impact

Meaning/
belonging

Confidence/
competence

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©2022 PwC. All rights reserved. PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details. Strategy+business is published by certain member firms of the PwC network. Articles published in strategy+business do not necessarily represent the views of the member firms of the PwC network. Reviews and mentions of publications, products, or services do not constitute endorsement or recommendation for purchase. Mentions of Strategy& refer to the global team of practical strategists that is integrated within the PwC network of firms. For more about Strategy&, see www.strategyand.pwc.com. No reproduction is permitted in whole or part without written permission of PwC. “Strategy+business” is a trademark of PwC. Cookie Policy
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Empowerment

The result was a simple ‘empowerment index’ where 0 is the least empowered and 100 is the most. What does it show? In terms of a statistical composite, the most empowered worker is a male millennial or gen Z manager in the technology sector who splits his time equally between in-office and remote work. The least empowered worker is a gen X or boomer female working in an office full time—most likely in government, retail, or healthcare.

Who’s empowered? Who’s not?

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Workers in tech, media, and telecom scored the highest on our empowerment index, followed by financial services employees. The relative lack of autonomy (and lower pay) in both retail and government work could explain why workers in those industries scored the lowest.

Power centers

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VIEW THE DATA

Women were less empowered than men in our index, largely due to a gap in perceived autonomy between the two groups. Corporate leave and other policies can help—but only if men embrace them, too. The ‘double burden’ of work and domestic responsibilities still affects women the most.

VIEW THE DATA

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It’s the autonomy, stupid

Managers may or may not be good at empowering their workers, but it doesn’t stop them from feeling empowered themselves. Management-level respondents scored almost one-third higher on our empowerment index than non-managers—the biggest gap we observed between any groups. Managers should make understanding and closing this gap a priority.

VIEW THE DATA

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High on hierarchy?

Where you work matters. Although the scores spanned a relatively narrow band, we found full-time in-person workers were less empowered than peers who enjoy an equal mix of in-person and remote working.

VIEW THE DATA

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Location, location, location

Meaning/
belonging

Confidence/
competence

Impact

Autonomy

Workers in tech, media, and telecom scored the highest on our empowerment index, followed by financial services employees. The relative lack of autonomy (and lower pay) in both retail and government work could explain why workers in those industries scored the lowest.

CLOSE

Power centers

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Where you work matters. Although the scores spanned a relatively narrow band, we found full-time in-person workers were less empowered than peers who enjoy an equal mix of in-person and remote working.

Location, location, location

CLOSE

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Managers may or may not be good at empowering their workers, but it doesn’t stop them from feeling empowered themselves. Management-level respondents scored almost one-third higher on our empowerment index than non-managers—the biggest gap we observed between any groups. Managers should make understanding and closing this gap a priority.

High on hierarchy?

CLOSE

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Women were less empowered than men in our index, largely due to a gap in perceived autonomy between the two groups. Corporate leave and other policies can help—but only if men embrace them, too. The ‘double burden’ of work and domestic responsibilities still affects women the most.

It’s the autonomy, stupid

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CLOSE

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Dive deeper: Empowering women in the workplace

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Portrait illustration of Tanuj Kapilashrami

Portrait by Noli Novak

—Tanuj Kapilashrami, October 2022

If we want to continue to be able to retain and attract our best talent, we’ve got to think about employment much more holistically…flexibility, career development, and growth opportunities, the kind of support that we can give them to upskill themselves to continue to remain relevant in the world of work.”

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Hear the group head of HR at Standard Chartered on leading in a time of heightened worker expectations

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Source: PwC’s 2022 Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey of 52,190 workers across 44 countries and territories

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Dive deeper: What 52,000 people think about work

Compared with respondents who say they are staying put, employees who are likely to leave are least likely to find their jobs fulfilling or to feel they can be their true selves at work.

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Show me more

In spring 2022, PwC surveyed 52,000 workers across 44 countries and territories. Among the questions were a
dozen intended to tease out the degree to which workers feel empowered—or not. The questions covered four areas:

Power up

CLOSE

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Employees who lack meaning and a sense of belonging at work are more likely to quit.

2. Meaning
matters

Most important factors when considering a change in work environment

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One of the strongest determinants of empowerment is meaning. Do your people find their job fulfilling? Can they be themselves at work? Does their team truly care about their well-being? Although money is important, three of the top four reasons people consider leaving a job relate to finding a sense of meaning and belonging at work.

Organizations have a role to play in helping employees be more engaged, motivated, and productive. Start by reducing workplace frictions through better processes and improved decision-making; foster an inclusive culture where people can be their authentic selves at work; and make sure the pay is fair. It’s not all soft stuff—pay equity matters.

Why people quit—and what to do about it

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Watch: PwC’s Bhushan Sethi on the three warning signs an employee is likely to quit.

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Dive deeper: Culture: Transformation’s invisible enabler

Daily tiered huddles—structured, 15-minute meetings of multidisciplinary teams—help empower Cleveland Clinic caregivers to speak out about issues of quality, patient safety, experience, and resource utilization. Issues that can’t be resolved by a particular team are escalated to more senior teams—tier by tier—within hours. In this way the teams communicate with one another to improve collaboration and focus the organization’s attention on what matters. The hospital’s huddles have helped improve everything from workplace safety to quality of care. They are credited with reducing patient falls by 15% between January 2017 and August 2019.

What are tiered huddles?

In their book, Beyond Digital: How Great Leaders Transform Their Organizations and Shape the Future, PwC’s Paul Leinwand and Mahadeva Matt Mani recognize the need for employees to have a sense of ownership about where the company is headed—to be part of the solution and, when possible, connect their purpose to the company’s purpose. They cite the example of Cleveland Clinic, which uses a practice called tiered huddles.

Too many leaders approach business transformation with vague adjectives, abstract nouns, and a buzz saw of buzzwords—as if hoping their own sheer enthusiasm for change will convince employees. By contrast, savvy executives recognize the need to harness organizational culture, the invisible enabler allowing positive change to take root organically. Read on for company examples highlighting three principles for harnessing organizational culture to help big transformation efforts succeed.

Successful transformations often require culture change to make the improvements stick. At the heart of culture change are new behaviors that tend to empower people and teams.

3. Transformation’s secret sauce

Peter Brown
Joint Global Leader, People and Organization, Partner, PwC UK

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Contact us

Paul Leinwand
Capabilities-Driven Strategy and Growth for Strategy&, part of the PwC network, Principal, PwC US

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Luna Corbetta
Workforce Transformation, Principal, PwC US

Email

Bhushan Sethi
Joint Global Leader, People and Organization, Principal, PwC US

Email

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Chaitali Mukherjee
People and Organization, Partner, PwC India

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Mahadeva Matt Mani
Transformation Platform for PwC and Strategy&, Principal, PwC US

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Seven imperatives for moving beyond digital

Further reading: Go deeper on empowering to transform

Culture: Transformation’s invisible enabler

Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2022

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In the tumult of transformation, it’s easy to see your workforce and organizational culture as mere maintenance concerns. But your people can be your most crucial assets in times of change—if you empower them. Autonomy, impact, confidence, meaning: research shows that these are the pillars of worker empowerment. When companies create the organizational conditions for empowered workers to make a difference, everyone wins. Invest in empowerment, and your people become drivers of change instead of passengers.

—Studs Terkel

Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread.”

In conclusion

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1

Start with “so what?”

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tell me more

tell me more

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2

Link to specific behavior changes

tell me more

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3

Don’t fear Plan B

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Start with “so what?”

A multinational pharma company sought to transform its business processes and systems. Although company leaders knew that long-term success required changing the existing culture, they didn’t know how the culture affected the specific aspects of the business that most needed changing.

An assessment identified spots where cultural challenges were most damaging to business outcomes—for example, the poor collaboration between functional teams delayed the start of clinical trials and ultimately hurt the product pipeline and speed to market. Once the company recognized this weakness, it could now prioritize its efforts and link improvements to specific business outcomes—the larger “so what?”—with clear measures of success. Part of the solution was to focus on the way the teams interacted on a daily basis.

CLOSE

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Headshot of Luna Corbetta

Changing a culture requires changing behaviors, but don’t overload employees. Focus on critical ‘target’ behaviors that tee up measurable results. This was how a pharma generics manufacturer approached production deviations—a problem it had always dismissed as unaddressable human error. It used root-cause analysis to prioritize two target behaviors:

Leaders committed to “actively working with teams to free up capacity for problem-solving—and to respect that time.”

Team members committed to “proactively raising recurring issues and bringing solutions to the table for team-based problem-solving.”

These behaviors were reinforced through supporting mechanisms, including leaders more regularly visiting worksites, encouraging capability-building in problem-solving techniques, and visibly rewarding and celebrating success—all of which contributed to a reduction in repeat manufacturing deviations.

CLOSE

processed svg close icon

Link to specific behavior changes

Measures that work in one geography or business unit may not work in another, so respond to what’s in front of you rather than what you expect (or hope) to see. Incremental progress beats forcing major changes in a hurry. And monitor results consistently.

Recently, our PwC colleagues paused their culture work for a multinational company—part of a large-scale transformation program—when it became clear that one business unit was a source of significant risk. Rather than plow ahead with company-wide changes, they focused on the unit, carefully listening to its team members so that everyone was clear on what was needed. The upshot? The company’s leadership team realized it needed to take a step back and improve its own performance before doing anything else.

CLOSE

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Don’t fear Plan B

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Culture change should never be an afterthought to operational transformation. It must be rooted in business context and rationale—an integral element of the journey from transformation assessment to performance measures.

1. Connect culture to the business “so what?”

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Business outcomes clarify the macro context for culture change, but employees also need to understand the micro aspect—what needs to change in their daily work and in how they function as a team. Zero in on a few critical behaviors that allow for the widest adoption and biggest impact.

2. Translate the change down to specific frontline team behaviors

As with any change effort, it’s crucial to have a plan in place at the outset. But expect that the plan will change. What works in one regional market or business unit may not work others, so act in response to the reality at hand rather than the reality you expect to see.

3. Create a plan
(but expect it to evolve)

Smart practice: Huddle up!

Portrait by Noli Novak

—Tom Mihaljevic, CEO of Cleveland Clinic

Running a hospital is like flying a spaceship through an asteroid field: problems come whizzing at you one after another.… [W]e manage this barrage through a method called tiered huddles.”

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Portrait illustration of Tom Mihaljevic

Source: “Tiered Teams Solve Problems in Real Time,” consultqd.clevelandclinic.org

Moreover, the huddles have greatly increased the sense of community and belonging among caregivers—while reinforcing that the executive leadership team supports them. In one instance, a huddle identified a stressful situation unfolding in real time: a patient’s family was taking its stress out on the caregiving team. The issue made it all the way to CEO Tom Mihaljevic, who quickly met with the caregivers in person to show his support and thank them for their professionalism in challenging circumstances. He then went with the team to help resolve the issue with the family—listening, empathizing, and, all the while, having his team’s back.

Bigger benefits

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Dive deeper: Seven imperatives for moving beyond digital

Want to empower your team? A classic film reminds us what not to do.

Don’t Glengarry it

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It’s the 30th anniversary of the film version of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, a brutal parable of business as a dog-eat-dog competition driven by desperation and grounded in fraud. Although it’s tempting to think of the business culture it depicts as a fictionalized artifact of another era, it’s worth remembering that mismanagement and desperation go hand in hand—and are most apparent during hard times. The film reminds us of two of the many ways not to lead.

Don’t pit your team members against one other
Blake, a bullying emissary from headquarters played with satanic energy by Alec Baldwin, highlights the dangers of making the office a zero-sum game in his now-famous description of the company’s new sales contest: “First prize,” he explains, “is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.”

Don’t put compensation above everything
In another moment of Blake’s riveting monologue, he taunts Dave Moss, played by Ed Harris, by mocking his inferior income. “You see this watch?” Blake says. “That watch cost more than your car. I made $970,000 last year. How much you make? You see, pal, that’s who I am, and you’re nothing.”

Do this instead
Managers keen to avoid their “inner Blake” can learn from a recent PwC article that describes how a large asset manager wanted its employees to shift away from focusing strictly on their own responsibilities and adopt a more team-based, can-do approach. If colleagues were unable to complete their tasks (due to a pandemic-related lockdown, family emergency, or other exigency), other members of the team would step in. Leaders helped foster this shift by prioritizing team goals rather than individual performance. To celebrate the changes, company leaders encouraged team members to upload stories that showed this principle in action; more than 500 were shared on an enterprise-wide microsite and highlighted on all-hands calls.

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Dive deeper: Lessons in mismanagement

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©2022 PwC. All rights reserved. PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details. Strategy+business is published by certain member firms of the PwC network. Articles published in strategy+business do not necessarily represent the views of the member firms of the PwC network. Reviews and mentions of publications, products, or services do not constitute endorsement or recommendation for purchase. Mentions of Strategy& refer to the global team of practical strategists that is integrated within the PwC network of firms. For more about Strategy&, see www.strategyand.pwc.com. No reproduction is permitted in whole or part without written permission of PwC. “Strategy+business” is a trademark of PwC. Cookie Policy
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Illustration of take on tomorrow logo

The new podcast from strategy+business, which convenes a global community of solvers to tackle the world’s most important problems

Like what you’ve heard?

go to page icon

EXPLORE

Illustration of stacked colored blocks

Check out The Leadership Agenda for more sharp, actionable insights from PwC curated to help global leaders build trust and deliver sustained outcomes

Like what you’ve seen?

go to page icon

EXPLORE

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null
null

Autonomy
I can choose when I work (days and/or hours).
I can choose where I work (in-person, hybrid, remotely).
I can choose how I do my work in a way that suits me.

Autonomy

Autonomy

Autonomy

VIEW THE DATA

data icon

In brief

Empowerment

Meaning

Secret sauce

Don’t Glengarry

VIEW THE DATA

data icon
null

It’s the 30th anniversary of the film version of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, a brutal parable of business as a dog-eat-dog competition driven by desperation and grounded in fraud. Although it’s tempting to think of the business culture it depicts as a fictionalized artifact of another era, it’s worth remembering that mismanagement and desperation go hand in hand—and are most apparent during hard times. The film reminds us of two of the many ways not to lead.

Don’t pit your team members against one other
Blake, a bullying emissary from headquarters played with satanic energy by Alec Baldwin, highlights the dangers of making the office a zero-sum game in his now-famous description of the company’s new sales contest: “First prize,” he explains, “is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.”

Don’t put compensation above everything
In another moment of Blake’s riveting monologue, he taunts Dave Moss, played by Ed Harris, by mocking his inferior income. “You see this watch?” Blake says. “That watch cost more than your car. I made $970,000 last year. How much you make? You see, pal, that’s who I am, and you’re nothing.”

Do this instead
Managers keen to avoid their “inner Blake” can learn from a recent PwC article that describes how a large asset manager wanted its employees to shift away from focusing strictly on their own responsibilities and adopt a more team-based, can-do approach. If colleagues were unable to complete their tasks (due to a pandemic-related lockdown, family emergency, or other exigency), other members of the team would step in. Leaders helped foster this shift by prioritizing team goals rather than individual performance. To celebrate the changes, company leaders encouraged team members to upload stories that showed this principle in action; more than 500 were shared on an enterprise-wide microsite and highlighted on all-hands calls.

CLOSE

close icon

VIEW THE DATA

data icon
null
null
null
null
null
null
null
null
null

A multinational pharma company sought to transform its business processes and systems. Although company leaders knew that long-term success required changing the existing culture, they didn’t know how the culture affected the specific aspects of the business that most needed changing.

An assessment identified spots where cultural challenges were most damaging to business outcomes—for example, the poor collaboration between functional teams delayed the start of clinical trials and ultimately hurt the product pipeline and speed to market. Once the company recognized this weakness, it could now prioritize its efforts and link improvements to specific business outcomes—the larger “so what?”—with clear measures of success. Part of the solution was to focus on the way the teams interacted on a daily basis.

Changing a culture requires changing behaviors, but don’t overload employees. Focus on critical ‘target’ behaviors that tee up measurable results. This was how a pharma generics manufacturer approached production deviations—a problem it had always dismissed as unaddressable human error. It used root-cause analysis to prioritize two target behaviors:

Leaders committed to “actively working with teams to free up capacity for problem-solving—and to respect that time.”

Team members committed to “proactively raising recurring issues and bringing solutions to the table for team-based problem-solving.”

These behaviors were reinforced through supporting mechanisms, including leaders more regularly visiting worksites, encouraging capability-building in problem-solving techniques, and visibly rewarding and celebrating success—all of which contributed to a reduction in repeat manufacturing deviations.

Measures that work in one geography or business unit may not work in another, so respond to what’s in front of you rather than what you expect (or hope) to see. Incremental progress beats forcing major changes in a hurry. And monitor results consistently.

Recently, our PwC colleagues paused their culture work for a multinational company—part of a large-scale transformation program—when it became clear that one business unit was a source of significant risk. Rather than plow ahead with company-wide changes, they focused on the unit, carefully listening to its team members so that everyone was clear on what was needed. The upshot? The company’s leadership team realized it needed to take a step back and improve its own performance before doing anything else.

In brief

Empowerment

Meaning

Secret sauce

Don’t Glengarry

In brief

Empowerment

Meaning

Secret sauce

Don’t Glengarry

In brief

Empowerment

Meaning

Secret sauce

Don’t Glengarry

In brief

Empowerment

Meaning

Secret sauce

Don’t Glengarry

In brief

Empowerment

Meaning

Secret sauce

Don’t Glengarry

back to top icon

If we want to continue to be able to retain and attract our best talent, we’ve got to think about employment much more holistically…flexibility, career development, and growth opportunities, the kind of support that we can give them to upskill themselves to continue to remain relevant in the world of work.”

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image
image
image

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Running a hospital is like flying a spaceship through an asteroid field: problems come whizzing at you one after another.… [W]e manage this barrage through a method called tiered huddles.”



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