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Manufacturing Roles

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Obligation—The Load for Which Power Is the Energy

A. Obligation is a difficult concept to grasp. While power has been thoroughly researched, little attention has been given to obligation. The duty of accepting one's obligation is only vaguely understood. The following definitions will help explain the concept.

1. Obligation is an activity directed toward the sat­isfaction of needs presented by others. By address­ing himself to the needs of others, one is respond­ing to obligation. The less choice one has in this matter, the greater is his obligation.
2. Obligations are duties. Many of these duties are the result of needs generated by the group of which we are a part. Experience indicates that often times duties are enforced by fear of reprisal or promise of reward.
3. Obligation is a task to be carried by the followers or the leader. Because power is needed for change, obligations become those elements which would not change without it. Work, as we know it, can be classified as an obligation.

B. Obligations are accumulated in various ways. They are accepted by an individual to meet his needs or the needs of others.

1. The dependent nature of man leads to one source of obligation. Man's needs have become so complex that he must depend on others for fulfillment. The acceptance of obligation is the usual price he must pay for need satisfaction provided by another individual.
2. A major source of obligation is the result of social exchange. To acquire power, an individual must be prepared to accept obligation. In some cases, the acceptance of obligation is an investment promising future pay-offs in power.
3. Customs and traditions play an important part in the assignment of obligation. Precedents become the rule which only the brave feel competent to violate. The longer a group is in existence, the stronger the obligations associated with its mode of operations.
4. The most visible, and perhaps compelling, source of obligation is rules, regulations, and laws with which we must continually contend.


While power and obligation are the basis for role selection, it is necessary to understand the superordinate (leader) roles and the subordinate (follower) roles individually prior to examining the role interactions. The roles will be defined in terms that relate to power and obligation.

A. Superordinate roles.

1. Authoritarian. The authoritarian confronts his people and often creates conflicts. He tends to be autocratic in behavior and subjective in thinking. This person seeks out problems, blames others, and maintains control by being a "no-sayer."
a. The Authoritarian has a strong character, and prides himself on his decisiveness. His idea of a well functioning organization is based on strong leadership and submissive subordinates.
b. The Authoritarian keeps POWER and gives away OBLIGATION.
2. Permissive. The Permissive manager assumes that his subordinates need help and shielding from a hostile world. The does not want to appear bossy or snobbish, and has a strong need to be liked by his subordinates. This person is a problem seeker, self-blamer, and a "yes-sayer."
a. The Permissive manager is subjective and directs his frustration at himself and the system. How­ever, he is soconcerned with pleasing people that he fails to make important decisions. Because of this position, the Permissive manager hopes his subordinates will take the responsibility that he is unable to assign.
b. The Permissive manager gives away POWER and keeps OBLIGATION.
3. Equalitarian. The Equalitarian or Participator emerges as a "cool operator." He is rational, objective, and seeks solutions. Because his behav­ior is less extreme, he tends toward less dramatic results. This role is not blame-oriented and di­rects frustration at the situation, not people.
a. The Equalitarian is a secure person and avoids manipulative behavior. His focus is the achieve­ment off organizational goals utilizing his employ­ees as useful parts of the work environment.
b. The Equalitarian is able to create a sense of OBLIGATION in his employees and gives away enough POWER to complete the duty.

To be Continued

For balance of this article, click on the below link:
Lean Manufacturing Articles and go to Series 02


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