Work Planning and Control: Approver vs. authorizer
As the Work Planning and Control project has progressed, we’ve discovered that there is a lot of confusion between “approving” work and “authorizing” work. If you look up the word “authorize” in a thesaurus, one of the synonyms is “approve.” This might be part of the problem.
When referring to and executing Work Planning and Control at Argonne, these words have very distinct meanings — and those distinctions are very important.
In the context of work planning and control, the person acting in the approver role approves the work control package. The authorizer authorizes the workers to execute the work. The authorizer is typically someone in a supervisory role who is responsible and accountable for analyzing risk and authorizing workers to perform the work.
Consider what happens between the time you take your seat on a commercial airliner to when the plane takes off from the runway. While at the gate, a team of maintenance engineers and ground crew inspect and prepare the aircraft. When they give the go-ahead, the pilot can close the cabin doors and leave the gate; this is approval.
Once on the runway, the pilot awaits a signal from the air traffic controller. The air traffic controller assesses the flight paths of nearby planes, checks to assure runways are clear and for any alerts may be in effect. When the air traffic controller announces, “Cleared for takeoff,” the pilot can then enter the runway and begin the flight. This is authorization.
Both roles — approver and authorizer — are critical to safe flight.