In May Peter Huller wondered if it's ever possible to give employees too much autonomy ("Managing Autonomy," [Article link]).
There are three steps in developing an autonomous workforce. First, the management must clearly define exactly what it wants the enterprise to look like when it reaches its next level of success and what autonomous really means. Next all stakeholders must recognize, accept, and commit to the notion that handing off responsibility isn't a quick fix. Finally, a thorough analysis of current company conditions must be undertaken. Mutual trust and understanding of job duties make the transition much easier.
James E. Mittler
J. E. Mittler & Co.
Never! Lack of autonomy is perhaps the most common reason for employee turnover; it's voiced in complaints that management is too burdensome, that responsibilities are limited, that growth potential is nil. Managers generally are afraid to provide any degree of autonomy to employees because it destroys the carefully balanced pecking order that constitutes the majority of workplace structures. After all, if employees had autonomy, who would managers boss around? Employees need to feel a sense of direction in their work -- and a sense that there's a real chance for growth within the company.
Open City Communications
New York City
One reader wanted to know where to get accounts-receivable financing when you own no inventory ("Blues of a Broker," March, [Article link]):
You can try a borrowing strategy called purchase-order financing (POF). It's easy if you have the right combination of conditions surrounding your sales orders: sufficient gross profit, good credit or insurable customers, and a reasonable time lag between purchasing and collection. POF lets you take on incremental or first-time business, develop a new product, or deepen the market for an existing product without the additional burden of financing your inventory. The receivables created may be used by your POF source or by a bank or factor to throw off cash to operate the business.
Editor's note: For more on the financing of purchase orders, see "Money for Raw Materials," Banking and Capital, October 1993. n