Job and Work Design: Organizing Work to Promote Well-Being and Effectiveness
Publication Year: 1998
Subject: Human Resource Management (general)
This book equips readers with a sound understanding of research, theory and the practical aspects of job design. It critiques the theory and research which provide the foundations of our current understanding of job design, pointing to a need for methodological improvements and a broader conceptual focus. The authors examine recent innovations in manufacturing technologies, techniques and philosophies and how these affect work design, research and practice. They also look at wider trends in manufacturing and elsewhere, such as teleworking, downsizing, the development of a contingent workforce and the changing composition of the workforce. The volume describes how the redesign of work has implications for wider organizationa
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 1: Early Job Design Principles, Practice, and Research
- Early Intellectual Influences
- From Strategy to Tactics
- The Diffusion of Job Simplification
- Early Research
- From Research to Practice
- Chapter 2: The Heyday of Job Design Research, 1950 to 1980
- The Two-Factor Theory
- The Job Characteristics Model
- The Sociotechnical Systems Approach
- From Theory to Practice
- Chapter 3: A Critique of Existing Theory and Research
- Methodological Issues
- Broadening the Focus
- Chapter 4: Extensions and Complementary Theoretical Approaches
- Demand-Control Model of Strain
- Action Theory and Job Design
- An Interdisciplinary Perspective on Work Design
- Models of Group Effectiveness
- Chapter 5: Modern Manufacturing and the Work Design Agenda
- Modern Manufacturing Initiatives
- Work Design Implications
- Chapter 6: Workplace Transformations and a Workforce in Transition
- Information Technology and New Forms of Work
- Organizational Transformations
- The Changing Composition of the Workforce
- Chapter 7: Redesigning Work (Part 1): Wider Organizational Considerations
- Aligning the Wider Organizational Context
- Considering the Implications for Multiple Stakeholders
- Chapter 8: Redesigning Work (Part 2): Managing the Change Process
- The Principle of Participation
- Phases in Structured Work Redesign
- Methods and Tools to Support Work Redesign
- An Effective Change Agent
- Unanswered Questions
- Chapter 9: Conclusions
Advanced Topics in Organizational Behavior[Page ii]
The Advanced Topics in Organizational Behavior series examines current and emerging issues in the field of organizational behavior. Written by researchers who are widely acknowledged subject area experts, the books provide an authoritative, up-to-date review of the conceptual, research, and practical implications of the major issues in organizational behavior.
Editors: Julian Barling, Queen's University Kevin Kelloway, University of Guelph Editorial Board: Victor M. Catano, Saint Mary's University Cary L. Cooper, University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology Daniel G. Gallagher, James Madison University Jean Hartley, University of Warwick Denise Rousseau, Carnegie-Mellon University Paul Spector, University of South Florida Lois E. Tetrick, University of Houston
Copyright © 1998 by Sage Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Job and work design: organizing work to promote well-being and effectiveness / by Sharon Parker and Toby Wall.
p. cm.—(Advanced topics in organizational behavior)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-7619-0419-0 (acid-free paper)
ISBN 0-7619-0420-4 (pbk.: acid-free paper)
1. Work design. I. Wall, Toby. II. Title. III. Series.
658.5′4—ddc21 \ 98-8932
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
06 07 08 09 10 9 8 7 6 5
Acquiring Editor: Marquita Flemming
Editorial Assistant: Frances Borghi
Production Editor: Wendy Westgate
Editorial Assistant: Denise Santoyo
Typesetter: Rebecca Evans
Cover Designer: Candice Harman
To our families[Page viii]
These are exciting times for those concerned with job and work design. More than ever before, companies are introducing new forms of work organization, often involving major changes in the nature of peoples' jobs. The opportunity to create more fulfilling and effective work is considerable; but so too is the danger of making it worse. Rarely, however, are these new forms of work organization labeled “work design.” Rather, they have much more evocative names, such as “high performance work groups,” “empowerment,” and “total productive maintenance,” to name just a few. Nevertheless, usually driven by the need to make better use of employee skills, these initiatives all involve the reconfiguration of work roles. Work redesign is thus very much at the heart of today's organizations.
When we were asked to write this book, therefore, we felt that the time was right. Despite the relevance of work design today, and the consequent resurgence of interest in it, the few books that focus explicitly on this topic are now quite dated. It is an appropriate time to take stock of and consolidate what we already know about job and work design and, just as importantly, to identify what we might need to know in the future. We hope to prevent those who are implementing or investigating modern initiatives from “recreating the wheel,” but equally we want to stimulate innovative inquiry and application.
We believe this book will be useful for lecturers, researchers, and practitioners in industrial-organizational (or occupational/work) psychology, organizational [Page x]behavior, human resource management, human factors, ergonomics, and related disciplines. The book will be particularly appropriate for postgraduates studying in these fields, including Masters of Business Administration students. The final two chapters in particular aim to provide more practical advice for those involved in redesigning work, such as managers, consultants, and applied researchers.
We are grateful for the help and feedback we have received from colleagues and the series editors on drafts of the book. More generally, we wish to record our appreciation of our colleagues at the Institute of Work Psychology, past and present, who in working with us over the years have helped shape our ideas, and who have made our own jobs so rewarding.
Introduction: Setting the Scene[Page xi]
Recently, we were contacted by senior managers from a company that manufactures photographic film and paper. The company was making a multimillion-dollar investment in new computer-based technology to coat the “raw” film and paper with appropriate chemical solutions. Managers were confident that the new technology—by removing various manual tasks—would enhance the safety of the process and improve operational efficiency. Ultimately, they believed that the technology would give the company a clear competitive edge.
Although the managers recognized that jobs and roles would need to be reconfigured in some way, they were uncertain about how best to organize the work in support of the new technology. Some elements of the work, of course, would be determined by the nature of the product and the new technology. But these were relatively minor constraints on work organization. The managers appreciated that before them was a seemingly limitless range of options. This was reflected in the many questions that they had formulated to structure their thinking and on which to seek our opinion.
Those questions included:
- How should the remaining tasks involved be combined to form jobs?
- Should a strategy of specialization or of multiskilling be adopted? [Page xii]
- How much responsibility should operators be given for managing the new technology?
- Should the new work design be based on individual jobs or on teams?
- What impact would decisions made in each of these respects have on productivity, on the well-being of employees, or on their ability and willingness to accept future changes in technology or products?
- How should work redesign be implemented? What training would employees need, and what changes to human resource practices (e.g., payment schemes) and information systems would be needed, if any?
- Should the technology itself be reconfigured or altered to support the new work design?
The need to consider such questions about the design of work is not new. Collective enterprise entails a division of labor that raises questions about how to distribute tasks and responsibilities among employees, both whenever jobs are formed and whenever there is a change in the means or requirements of production, be this a consequence of technological, market, or social forces.
What is new, however, is that organizations are becoming more proactive in considering alternative forms of job design to those traditionally taken for granted. More and more companies are formulating lists of questions such as those above. This trend is reflected in a burgeoning of new popular terms, such as empowerment, high-involvement working, and high-performance work teams, that promote particular kinds of job designs. As Littler suggested in 1985, recent market changes have “forced many Western corporations to re-examine their philosophy of job design and control from a solid ‘down to earth’ perspective—that of profits” (p. 21). Job design is thus becoming an increasingly important topic, one that deserves fresh attention.
Our aim in this book is to document and evaluate research and practice on job design, addressing the sorts of questions listed above. Thus, we seek to map out the state of existing knowledge on how choices in the design of jobs affect attitudes and behavior at work. At the same time, we go beyond the present to ask what are the issues in job design for the future.
Six considerations characterize our approach. First, we place our primary emphasis on the design of jobs in industry. This is not to say that issues of job design do not arise in relation to office, managerial, professional, or other kinds of work. They clearly do, and we give examples of these. However, we focus mainly on industry because this is the context from which most contemporary ideas on job design have developed, about which we have most expertise, and in which we believe that there are particular challenges and opportunities for the future.[Page xiii]
The second aspect of our approach is that we take an historical perspective. This is essential to understand job design properly. As Davis and Taylor (1972) observed, “The history of the origin of jobs has a powerful grip on the present, for this historical residue is the present conventional wisdom in the world of work” (p. 21). Thus, we consider the influence of historical factors on contemporary job design.
Third, we emphasize the essential link between research and practice. By its very nature, job design research takes much of its agenda from practice. Jobs are designed by people for people, and choices that are made for those designs, whether deliberate or unthinking, are the subject matter of research. So this is not an area in which research follows its own “pure” agenda remote from the “real world” but one in which applied issues are to the fore. This does not mean, however, that it is all one-way traffic, for research also contributes to practice.
Fourth, we adopt a principally psychological viewpoint. Job design has attracted the interest of social scientists from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds, including sociology, labor process theory, industrial relations, and economics. We draw on these contributions. However, our main emphasis is on the literature of industrial and organizational psychology.
Fifth, consistent with the evolution of both practice and research in job design, our approach reflects a development from a relatively narrow conceptualization of the problem domain to a broader one. This is presaged by the title we have chosen for the book. We use the term job design to signify the narrower focus and work design to denote a broader perspective that links the job to its wider environment.
Finally, we take a critical look at existing research. We focus not only on what is known about job design but on what needs to be discovered. The latter need arises both because of inconclusive findings from current research and because of changes in work that give rise to new issues and variables to consider.
These six features are evident in the structure of the book. Thus, in the next two chapters, we trace the development of job design practice and research over three centuries. We start in Chapter 1 by documenting the early intellectual developments that arose during the Industrial Revolution and that were to shape job design practice to the present day. Our focus is on the simplification or deskilling of jobs, and we describe the early research to which that practice gave rise, as well as some of the early efforts to redesign work. In Chapter 2, we concentrate on a 30-year period, from around the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s, when research on job design was particularly vigorous and when the main theoretical approaches that remain relevant today were generated. We describe how [Page xiv]these approaches led to two key practical developments, job enrichment and autonomous work groups.
In the following two chapters, we reflect more generally on job design research and theory. In Chapter 3, we critique the theory and research that provide the foundations of our current understanding of job design, pointing to a need for methodological improvements and a broader conceptual focus.
In Chapter 4, we present complementary approaches from the wider literature that inform job design research and help to broaden its theoretical focus.
We then focus on developments taking place within modern organizations and begin the move away from the narrow focus on job design to a broader notion of work design. Thus, in Chapter 5, we consider recent innovations in manufacturing technologies, techniques, and philosophies and how these affect work design research and practice. We argue that much as the Industrial Revolution determined the work design agenda of its day, so what has been called “the second industrial revolution” (Halton, 1985) calls for a new and expanded agenda. This theme is continued in Chapter 6, in which we look at wider trends in manufacturing and elsewhere, such as teleworking, downsizing, the development of a contingent workforce, and the changing composition of the workforce, that raise further issues for work design.
Because up to this point the focus of the book has been very much on the “what” and “why” of work design, in Chapters 7 and 8 we consider practical issues surrounding “how” to redesign work. Our aim in these chapters is to alert readers to some of the complex issues that need to be considered, rather than to prescribe the “one best way” (for which early approaches to job design have been so rightly criticized). In Chapter 7, we describe how the redesign of work has implications for wider organizational systems (such as human resource and information systems) as well as implications for multiple stakeholders (e.g., shop floor, supervisors, support staff, management, unions). In Chapter 8, we suggest some ways to manage effectively the process of work redesign, including the key stages involved in redesigning work, some useful tools and methods, and the critical role of a change agent.
In the last chapter, entitled “Conclusions,” we present just that—some final thoughts that draw together our arguments in the book regarding the past and future of work design theory and practice.
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