OCS Content:
2. Rights and Responsibilities

Ownership Associates announces the November, 2005, sale of the Ownership Culture Survey™ to the National Center for Employee Ownership.

The NCEO, a nonprofit organization serving employee-ownership companies since 1980, is now the sole source for the survey items. Companies interested in employee-ownership surveys should contact the NCEO or visit the survey resources page on the NCEO website.

Ownership is not a concept whose full scope of meaning can be captured in a concise definition. When we consider many people’s perceptions of collective ownership in a business enterprise, this already complex picture quickly becomes more complex. We attempt to describe this complexity by using six major dimensions that collectively constitute an employee’s sense of ownership: Decision Making, Information and Learning, Organizational Fairness, Accountability, Work and Pay, and Entrepreneurship.

In each of these six dimensions, a system of rights and responsibilities defines the workings of an ownership culture. And those rights and responsibilities do not end with the factual declarations of legal documents. In fact, they exist largely in the realm of perceptions by workers and managers about the ownership idea. Rights consist of the claims, or at least the perceived claims, that a member of an organization can make on the organization. Responsibilities are the claims, or perceived claims, that the organization can make on a member.

Our model contends that for each right that a member has or eventually gains in an ownership environment, he or she should accept a parallel or corresponding responsibility. If, for example, I believe I have the right to have my input considered in decision making--the right to have "voice"--then I must accept the responsibility to exercise that right responsibly: deferring to experts when necessary, giving adequate thought to issues I will help decide, etc.

The six dimensions are described below, with reference to both rights and responsibilities.

1. Decision Making
Decision Making Rights and Responsibilities

2. Information and Learning
Information & Learning Rights and Responsibilities

3. Organizational Fairness
Organizational Fairness Rights and Responsibilities

4. Accountability
Accountability Rights and Responsibilities

5. Work and Pay
Work & Pay Rights and Responsibilities

6. Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship Rights and Responsibilities

An implication of our theory, which has been supported at all companies which have taken the survey, is that rights and responsibilities are positively correlated. In other words, one good way to encourage people to accept more responsibilities is to allow them more rights.

This is, of course, an oversimplification: there are countless elements specific to each company and each person that determine willingness to take on more responsibility. In addition, one should consider the balance between a right and its paired responsibility before acting to increase either. Although increasing rights tends to increase responsibilities, if the right is already more strongly felt than the responsibility, increasing it further is unlikely to help and may hurt by heightening the imbalance between the two.

There is one further level of detail. Some of the rights and some of the responsibilities have “sub-rights” or “sub-responsibilities.” For example, the Right to Know can be broken down into two distinct sub-rights: the first is the right to information about the company and its performance in the market; the second sub-right asserts that employees should receive feedback about their individual and workgroup performance.

OCS Content: 3. Ownership Context