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Ownership is a Verb

The standard definition of ownership is

own·er·ship    /ˈōnərˌSHip/


  1. the act, state, or right of possessing something.

Ownership is a Verb

Types of Ownership

In the business world, there are two types of ownership.

I’m not talking about types of corporation formations and the actual ownership, as described in the definition of ownership above.  In business, you have 1) the ownership of the business and 2.) the ownership of the processes.

First, ownership of the business is the financial arrangement whereby someone literally has financial ownership of the business rights.  This is the traditional business owner who is financially liable to pay business expenses such as salaries and leases, and because of that liability, has the right to all profits from the business.

The second ownership is ownership of the processes.  This ownership is for laborers of the business who have been tasked with the responsibility of certain parts of the business.  For example, an employee may be tasked with the responsibility of operating a hamburger franchise. This employee “owns” the responsibility of making that franchise successful.

A second example is a group of employees given the responsibility of producing software to solve a specific problem that a business could then market to a wider clientele.   This group is the owner of the process to produce the software.  They are responsible for its successful completion.

The two different types of owners have many similarities.  They both own something that is theirs.  One owns a financial interest in a business; the second owns an interest in a successful process.

Both have financial interests.  The first is the success of the business results in a financial reward.  The second is the success of the process results in continued employment and potential financial rewards through participating in a growing business and receiving the bonuses and accolades associated.

The Problem

The problem with both typed of ownership is the same.

They become nouns.

The owners become inactive.  The business owner sits back and waits for business to come in and profits to fill up their bank account, all the while the employees do the work.

The process owner also becomes inactive.  They treat their responsibility as just a job for a paycheck.  They wait for others to do the work, are ready to blame someone else for any failure, and invest as little effort into the success as possible.

Ownership is a Verb

Both owners fall into the trap of believing the standard definition of ownership.  For success, however, we need to see ownership as a verb, as something that requires actions, decisions, and motivation.

Ownership is not given; it is earned, and must continually be earned.

Encouraging Ownership

Here are several ideas on how to teach and promote ownership.

  1. Use deserving titles. The label of ownership needs to be changed to something that is more descriptive and desirable. Both business owners and process owners need labels that are descriptive of their responsibility and convey their inherent clout in the organization.
  2. Measure what matters to customers. Everything needs to be measured relative to how all actions affect the customers.
  3. Establish collaborative relationships. Leadership starts at the top, and all owners need to know that all executive offices above them are providing their full support. And are willing to partner with each owner to make them successful.
  4. Promote Learning. All owners need to know that continued learning is key to their success.

The Bible

God’s Word is all about action.  John 13:17 says.

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

2 Chronicles 31:21 also says.

“And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered.”

God did not provide his promises so we could sit back and reap the rewards.  We are to act on what he has commanded.

Ownership is the same.  Regardless if you are a business owner or given ownership of a process, ownership requires your action to be successful.