Social Technical Systems: Principles of work redesign



hi I'm Betty Barrett I'm the director of social technical assistance program here at the University of Illinois and I'm talking about the early development of socio technical systems and how that is used as a form of work organization these scripts have been produced by myself and by other nija Sarma who's been helping with them the the socio technical systems view one employee in the workplace was very different from any of the methods that were previously prevalent we know that is it is an antithesis of the scientific management in many ways scientific management approach the work process like a mathematical problem like an equation that had to be solved using the fixed set of formula people were considered to be variables and that productivity and output the work was scrutinized to the minutest detail and each task became a set of exact motions that workers were to repeat precisely each time well this a lot of supervisor to know how many parts the worker could make each hour it also made the work repetitive at nine mind-numbing one attribute that distinguishes socio technical systems from scientific management and allows it to evolve over time is its applicability to multiple layers of analysis the three levels of analysis the the primary are individual work system the whole organization system and the macro social phenomena enabled practitioners to integrate their practices systematically the socio technical systems approach advocates a greater degree of autonomy and an employee's work design or tasks than scientific management at the individual levels STS principles set the stage for an ongoing body of workplace change initiatives like qwl Kaizen and work redesign these new initiatives grew out of various pilot experiments conducted in different parts of the world like Britain Norway Sweden the United States and Canada these experiments were conducted because experts believed that autonomous groups in an organization were learning units and held the key to better productivity over time most organizations have experimented with or implemented group or team-based work employers came to understand that is necessary to involve employee groups in order to design more effective workplaces these experiments led to the introduction of work redesign and the quality of work life programs in many places in slide 1 we see six principles of work redesign these principles are aimed at creating work that is effective for the worker as well as the employer work redesign based on these characteristics provides a basis for a flexible workforce and a continuously learning organization the six principles are the need for the content of a job to be reasonably demanding and to provide some novelty so that you're not doing repetitive work over and over again throughout the day the need to be able to learn on the job and to go on learning so that you as a worker remain aware and begin to see each opportunity that comes along to make a change or to make an improvement the need for an area of decision-making that the individual can call his or her own so a place where an employee can actually make a difference by making the decision the need for a certain degree of social support and recognition in the workplace for the value of what he or she does so that they feel as though their work is valued and has a place in the entire organizational processes that make them special or make them unique the need to be able to read relate the work and what is produced to his or her social life so it has meaning and affords dignity you can go home at night and say you know I did these things today and that made me that was an important job or important work and finally the need to feel that the job leads to some sort of desirable future in other words you're not just going to be doing the same job for the rest of your life but you will have an opportunity to grow and to use the expertise that you're gaining to move into another kind of job or to continue learning a different way while work redesign is centered on job improvement qwl extends to the overall working environment the work family interface and psychological acts aspects of a workplace proponents of quality of work life programs wanted to shift relations in the workplace away from the more adversarial activities that can dominate a union and management relationship they hope to create a more direct communication and to increase worker autonomy the end goal was to create effectiveness for the employer and the organization while encouraging a more satisfactory environment for the workforce after World War two quality efforts based on these principles that flourished in the defense plants transitioned into the post-war environment the Japanese embraced these quality principles to to great effect American industry focused more on low cost production and quickly meeting the needs of a newly emerging emerging consumer class as the Japanese began to lead the way in high quality products US manufacturers began to explore a series of quality efforts qwl total quality management Six Sigma and the ISO standards a universal element of each of these activities is the active engagement of the workers who will run the work as a system using their expertise to drive improvements in Japan the Toyota Motor Car Company was developing the Toyota Production system which became the model for lean manufacturing efforts globally the TPS was built on team based work with an emphasis on Kaizen or continuous improvement that focused on the reduction of waste throughout the manufacturing system the Japanese demanded much from their workers but also provided them with employment Security and recognition for their contributions the TPS the Toyota Production system would not work without the active participation of the workforce the systemic nature of lean manufacturing was not always understood by those who tried to implement it and other quality initiatives success was hindered by efforts to implement one portion of the entire process or by efforts to maintain management control rather than shift to a system that supported greater autonomy among the workers the patterns of scientific management were difficult to overcome as were the drivers of a system that focused on reduced cost and saw labor as a cost




Comments
  1. I'm not sure the TPS could be considered a worthy representation of either QWL or job redesign, since the Kaizen quality control systems were forced through a bonus system, and were anything but built on autonomy. If anything, TPS is built more on the principles of neo-fordism, and happily applies scientific management, with a sprinkle of "japanese flair", which, as was said in this video, the antithesis of job redesign.

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