Empowerment and Innovation


Empowerment and Innovation

Managers, Principles and Reflective Practice

9781847204998 Edward Elgar Publishing
Martin Beirne, Formerly Professor of Management and Organisational Behaviour, Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow, UK
Publication Date: 2007 ISBN: 978 1 84720 499 8 Extent: 144 pp
Calling upon a wealth of research material, this book relates the various debates behind employee empowerment to a broad range of practical scenarios, charting opportunities as well as constraints and drawing insights from a rich combination of settings and sources across industry, commerce and the public sector.

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Employee empowerment is one of the most widely touted and potentially potent concepts in modern management. It raises fundamental questions about the nature and scope of management and organisation, and about the respective roles and responsibilities of front line practitioners. The terms for a viable collaboration between employers, managers and employees also come under scrutiny.

Calling upon a wealth of research material, this book relates the various debates behind employee empowerment to a broad range of practical scenarios, charting opportunities as well as constraints and drawing insights from a rich combination of settings and sources across industry, commerce and the public sector.

Connecting theory to practice, and adopting a polemical as well as an analytical position, the book speaks directly to researchers and policymakers, and especially to current and aspiring managers, who favour a fresh approach to work and employee relations. It will appeal to those who regard empowerment as a progressive rather than a casual reference point for managerial activity.
Critical Acclaim
‘The book contains some excellent research and analysis of the field. It is academic, yet would be quite valuable as a reference piece and also as a teaching text. . . Some excellent analysis occurs in the area of corporate culture, particularly within the ambit of empowerment and the impact of cross-cultural issues. . . The book is a very good teaching and research resource and certainly lends itself to transferability in the learning and development field of organisations. It is clearly a strong resource for those wishing to substantiate initiatives in the area of empowerment.’
– Geoffrey N. De Lacy, Australian Human Resource Institute

‘An impassioned argument in favour of active and genuine employee participation at work, not simply as part of the long tradition of attempts to humanise work in capitalist societies but also as the only way forward for effective management. The approach is rooted in a social realism which fully recognises the reality of power and hierarchy and the contradictions that arise when this is challenged: empowerment, says Beirne, is a “precarious project”. This is however a courageous book that attempts to bring together the large body of critical analysis of the inadequacies of mainstream people management practice with the disquiet and uncertainty of many practising managers. The book’s argument is that critique does not have to result in rejectionism – if we learn from the research and connect it with a practical engagement, there can be a better way.’
– Chris Baldry, University of Stirling, UK

‘This book asks (and answers) one of the most important but difficult questions of contemporary studies of work: Is meaningful work experience for the majority possible, given all the constraints and realities of organization life that critical social science tells us about? Martin Beirne argues centrally that the new ground on which the struggle for human work currently needs fighting is that of empowerment – and addresses convincingly the critical arguments that this ground has already been incorporated and neutered. This answer comes via “a panoramic view of the evidence” in alternative work design, user involvement in IT, and culture change. In each of these specific areas Beirne explores, in great detail, a range of empirical research and traces the historic course of debates (the debates themselves are great vehicles for showing the practical difficulties and constraints of workplace reform). He provides a template for an engaged type of academic research – the “full cycle” of research – which informs workers as well as critical academics. But perhaps the main audience is managers interested in participation and fairness at work and seeking ways of marrying human values and job performance. The reflective manager is offered models of managing for empowerment derived from innovative sources and directions in the media and community art.’
– Robin Fincham, University of Stirling, UK

‘This well-written book presents a mature, wide-ranging and sophisticated account of empowerment, married to an incisive examination of major developments and shortcomings of attempts to empower employees or for employees to empower themselves. Indeed, by engaging with self-empowering initiatives beyond the workplace Beirne successfully extends the narrative to shine a light on the often-obscured potential of working people to engineer positive change in their lives. The lessons for managers and politicians, who along with students of employment relations, would benefit from reading this book, are clear but hardly likely to reassure those for whom empowerment is simply a motivational balm to be used to smooth and soften the exploitation found within employment relationships.’
– Jeff Hyman, University of Aberdeen, UK
Contents: Foreword 1. Anticipating a New Era of Consensus Management? Part I: Contemporary Developments 2. Practical Teamworking: New Lyrics for an Old Tune? 3. Technology and User Empowerment 4. Culture, Management and Innovation Part II: Support Structures and Reflective Practice 5. Sustaining a Voluntary Commitment 6. Public Policy and Regulatory Initiatives Bibliography Index
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