Senior Management, Decision-Making and Design

Senior Management, Decision-Making and Design

Enid Mumford (Manchester University, UK)
Copyright: © 2003 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-118-6.ch010
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Abstract

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 do, how to do it, and what they intend the consequences of their decisions to be. Their role is critical to successful change. It is their definition of business objectives that will shape the change programme, and it is they who will have the final say in how to manage this. Decisions on whether to take a participative approach will depend on their personal values and on whether they believe the democratic involvement of their staff will increase the likelihood of success. This does not mean that they will necessarily be the initiators of participative design. In my experience, this initiative often came from senior members of the systems group who saw it as leading to more successful systems design with a higher level of acceptance. But they always had to give their approval to this approach and ideally some would become part of the project steering group. The companies I worked with all had senior managers who were willing to involve their staff in design, but they often defined “involvement” in different ways. The Swedish automobile company Volvo redesigned its work structures to make production work more multiskilled and more satisfying for employees, and this decision came initially from the most senior management, although agreement to the approach was sought from everyone in the company. Senior management also approved the approach in the bank and in Rolls Royce, where an excellent and very helpful steering group was formed. Surprisingly the one firm where there were problems was Digital. Digital from its inception was very democratic as this was the personal philosophy of Ken Olsen, its founder. However, it did not succeed in getting senior sales management involved in the XSEL project. The reasons for this were interesting. Although the operational members of the sales force were a very powerful group and enthusiastic about their new role in design, senior sales managers were not a part of the XSEL design process. They had little technical knowledge and did not really understand what was taking place, and their primary interest was always an increase in sales figures. This was especially true of the sales directors, and Bruce strove for a long time to get a senior sales sponsor for the project. When he eventually did so, he found that this individual had little understanding of what was taking place and unrealistically asked for immediate results in a software design process that required a considerable amount of time to complete. This was an example of senior management that never fully understood the nature of the problems that their subordinates were trying to solve. The IT developments of the nineties brought with them many new decisions and difficulties for senior management, some of which were quite new. This knowledge gap led to many unanticipated consequences of change, and these could easily become risks. A group particularly affected by risk was, of course, senior management itself, who had to protect the firm from the results of what were often earlier errors of judgment. Ulrich Beck (1992), the German sociologist, tells us that we are now living in a risk society. We must be aware of this and able to respond effectively to it. Another very serious problem for Digital senior sales management was the eventual rejection of the XSEL expert system by the Digital sales force because it was too complex and time-consuming. This meant that the large financial savings that had originally been forecast were never achieved. However this was not a total loss as the company had learned a great deal about the participative design of large systems, and this now became company policy for all major projects.

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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