Company-Wide Participation in Air Products

Company-Wide Participation in Air Products

Enid Mumford (Manchester University, UK)
Copyright: © 2003 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-118-6.ch011
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Abstract

Most socio-technical system design has been used to create participative, high quality, people-friendly systems for specific projects or parts of the work environment. This was true of the early coal mine experiments when a number of experimental working faces were redesigned for multiskilled groups. It was also true of the redesign of the car-assembly shop floor in Sweden and of most of my own socio-technical design efforts. Even the Digital Equipment XSEL project, which affected the entire US company, was restricted to the configuring activity of members of the sales force. Frank Heller tells us that this narrow focus was never intended by the socio-technical pioneers. They had a much wider vision. Eric Trist, the originator of the approach, envisaged a top-down model which looked at the environment in which an organization operated, then at the design of the organization as a whole, and only then considered the primary work system (Emery & Trist, 1965). Some of the early exponents of the approach were able to put this broad philosophy into practice. Einer Thorsrud, the Norwegian chairman of the International Quality of Working Life Group, made one of his research interests the Norwegian shipping industry. Professor Lou Davis, director of the Quality of Working Life Program at the Graduate School of Management, University of California, Los Angeles, and a visiting fellow at the Tavistock Institute in London, had as one of his early projects the socio-technical design of a greenfield site for a new US company, and at a later date, the Digital Equipment Corporation in Boston used a similar philosophy for one of its new plants (Davis, 1971). Socio-technical design has also always rested on two essential premises. The first is that in all organizations there are multiple combined social and technical systems in operation. Men, and women, have to relate with each other and carry out sets of tasks within an organized work situation that usually contains some kind of technology. In most of industry, the social cannot work without the technical and vice versa. Technical is defined here as sets of tasks as well as machines. The second premise is that every socio-technical system is embedded in an environment. This environment is greatly influenced by culture and values and provides both constraints and opportunities. To understand a work system or an organization or a technology, one must also understand the environmental forces that operate on it (Davis, 1971). The earlier researchers saw the environment as acting on and constraining the lower-level systems—the company and the workplace. It was not seen as something that socio-technical principles could influence (Heller, 1997). But socio-technical design has never stood still. While its boom period was the seventies and early eighties, with economic pressures causing its decline in the early nineties, it is now back and accelerating forward on two fronts. The first is the involvement of large numbers of employees in helping to create a total organization redesign. This is usually directed at large systems change that has to be introduced quickly. This kind of approach to change goes under a number of different names, for example, high-performance work systems, sustainable production, shared purpose organizations, the conference model and many others. The second is ensuring that any environment affected by technology is both people-friendly and capable of performing the functions desired of it. This does not yet have a name. Frank Heller (1997) suggests socio-technology to cover the required characteristics of joint optimisation, socio-technology and oecology (ecology).

Complete Chapter List

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Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Enid Mumford
Managing change of any kind requires effective problem solving. This is especially the case when the change involves designing and implementing new... Sample PDF
The Problems of Managing Change
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Chapter 2
Enid Mumford
In order to understand the present and predict the future we need to learn from the past. A major part of this book will examine how ideas derived... Sample PDF
Socio-technical Design: Its Early History
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Chapter 3
Enid Mumford
As the case studies in the chapters that follow are all examples of participative organizational and systems design, I will now describe the... Sample PDF
Participation in Practice
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Chapter 4
Enid Mumford
The book now introduces some case studies on organizational design and asks you to think what you would do if you were a manager, researcher or... Sample PDF
Analysing Problem Situations: The Dock Workers of Liverpool
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Chapter 5
Enid Mumford
Once you have obtained a reasonably good understanding of the problem to be tackled, the next step is to decide what to do and how to do it. This... Sample PDF
Work Design in the Coal Industry
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Chapter 6
Enid Mumford
The last two case studies showed the importance of understanding a problem before embarking on its solution and the need to develop an appropriate... Sample PDF
Considering Structure: Different Organizational Solutions in Automobiles
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Chapter 7
New Problems in Banking  (pages 109-129)
Enid Mumford
In the last three case studies there has been a logical progression through the management of change, considering first the definition of the... Sample PDF
New Problems in Banking
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Chapter 8
Enid Mumford
This chapter moves away from a concentration on the “what” to do and focuses on the “how” to do it. An important strategic decision at the start of... Sample PDF
Involving Employees in Design: Rolls Royce
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Chapter 9
Enid Mumford
This chapter and case study address two important design problems. The first is the challenge presented by the task of developing systems that... Sample PDF
Designing an Expert System
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Chapter 10
Enid Mumford
One very important group we have not discussed in detail before is senior management. It is they who take the important company decisions on what to... Sample PDF
Senior Management, Decision-Making and Design
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Chapter 11
Enid Mumford
Most socio-technical system design has been used to create participative, high quality, people-friendly systems for specific projects or parts of... Sample PDF
Company-Wide Participation in Air Products
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Chapter 12
Enid Mumford
Shell provides an excellent example of an international group that for many years has used socio-technical values and approaches to help the... Sample PDF
Quality and Environmental Issues in Shell International
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Chapter 13
Enid Mumford
Participative systems design has, in the past, been seen as a positive group process of thinking through needs and problems and arriving at... Sample PDF
Designing for Problem Prevention
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Chapter 14
Enid Mumford
The philosophy of this book is that problem solving and the management of change will be facilitated by participation. By participation is meant... Sample PDF
Designing for an Uncertain Future
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Methods and Tools
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