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CHAPTER TWO: The function of work in human life

Lisl Klein Karnac Books ePub

The book New Forms of Work Organisation was published in German in 1975 and in English in 1976. The piece reproduced here was part of the Introduction, and was an attempt to set the issues out at a general level.

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Issues of human welfare can be ranged along a continuum: from I those most internal to individuals—concerned with their most personal needs and development in life—to those which are external to them—concerned with political and social organization in the world around them. The way in which work is organized has relevance at many points on this continuum.

At the individual, personal level, work is a main means of achieving economic viability and adult status in the Western world, of expressing and developing the personality, and of relating to society. At an intermediate level, the way in which people spend their working lives—that is most of their waking lives—helps to shape their perceptions and attitudes and therefore in turn has cultural and social consequences. At the level of the wider society, the forms taken by the division of labour have led to structural and class alignments, to the creation of political “worker” or “labour” parties in a number of European countries, and to the development of trade union movements with varying degrees of political as well as economic power. In the future, it is likely to become the subject of international politics as well, first because of the development of multi-national employers, and second because, in a variety of ways, the more prosperous nations are exporting some of their tasks to the less prosperous nations.

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CHAPTER FIVE: The human implications of rationalizing work

Lisl Klein Karnac Books ePub

During the 1950s and 1960s, a programme of industrial sociological research was funded in Britain as part of the Marshall Plan. It was a condition of the grants that the research should have some bearing on productivity. Work-study techniques were very popular at the time, as part of the process of rationalizing industrial production, and for five years I was involved in a research project to examine “the human implications of work study”. The team consisted of Stuart Dalziel, John Snelling, and myself. Nowadays this research would be called ethnog-raphy. It took the form of detailed, intensive studies of two firms—one in which these techniques were being newly introduced and one in which they had been established for some time (Dalziel &Klein, 1960; Klein, 1964). From various outputs from the research, I have based this chapter on a paper in which the two firms are compared (Klein , 1962).

While work-study techniques may sound outdated, they have in fact much in common with—one might say recently re-emerged as—the newer-sounding “business process re-engineering”. And although batch production manufacturing may not now be very common, the principle of target-setting, measurement, and payment by results, described here in a manufacturing setting, has strongly re-emerged in contemporary working life, in many other settings.

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CHAPTER 5: Some episodes from the field

Lisl Klein Karnac Books ePub

Some episodes from the field

This paper presents four episodes from action-research experience, illustrating the relationship between “knowledge-into-use” and “the dynamics of action". They represent a learning process: in the first two, research was still in some sense dominant in a way that did not sufficiently accommodate the dynamics of action; in the last two, the two frameworks have become much more integrated.

A researcher’s first step into consultancy

One essential for consultancy is “starting from where the other is". The episode described here happened at a time when I had not yet taken this on board in all its implications. It took place at the end of the control systems research described in chapter 2. We had used the tracer study method, three researchers each tracking a product or batch of products through a company, from beginning to end. My “tracer” had been a batch of soap, tracked through all the processes that impinged on it in a manufacturing plant of a large multinational company. In the course of the study, good relationships had developed with the people in the plant, and at the end of it I was asked to come back as a consultant. I had never done consultancy before. Two meetings were held with the senior management group, which went very well. Then, during the second meeting, one of them asked, “If we reorganize the packing line in the way you suggest, to improve the nature of the jobs, shall we be tapping untapped motivation—shall we get more production as well?” I said “I don’t know, let’s try"—and the whole thing collapsed. Visibly. You could see it die, and it could not be revived.

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CHAPTER EIGHT: Contribution to the design of a new confectionery factory

Lisl Klein Karnac Books ePub

This was a project about contributing to the design of a new factory from the point of view of job satisfaction and work design. It is an edited, fuller version of a project account that was first published in Klein and Eason (1991).

I am sometimes credited with introducing autonomous work groups into the Colchester factory of Trebor Sharp Ltd. Reader, I didn't.

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Background to the project

Tlrebor Sharp was a family firm, manufacturing sweets and confectionery. The company had a history of solid growth, T and employed some 3,000 people. At the time the project began, it had four factories. In 1977, it was decided that one of these, in London, could not be adequately refurbished within the existing building and site and should be replaced by an entirely new factory elsewhere.

Trebor was a company whose management had a strong philosophy and drive, both to “do the right thing” as far as the social aspects of industry were concerned, and to be innovative in these matters. It may have had to do with the fact that it was a family firm, which led the top levels of management to have a more than temporary and career-level involvement with the company; and with the fact that the products themselves were relatively traditional and stable, and not subject to major innovation.

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CHAPTER TWELVE: The production engineer's role in industrial relations

Lisl Klein Karnac Books ePub

The 1970s were a time of difficult industrial relations in Britain. They were also a time of strong interest in questions of work satisfaction and job design throughout Europe. Having started in Norway in the 1960s, the ideas were most widely emulated and developed in Sweden. The car company, Volvo, designed and built a manufacturing plant for autonomous group working, and the publicity around this probably did more than anything to draw attention to the ideas. In the UK, a Work Research Unit was set up in the Department of Employment, and even the characters in Coronation Street talked the language of work satisfaction.

The professional engineering institutions became interested. This chapter gives the edited text of a lecture given in 1977 at a conference of production engineers, which was later published in their journal (Klein, 1978). Today, I would say for production engineer also read IT system designer.

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Production process design

I want to discuss first some aspects of the design of produc-I tion processes and later their connection with industrial relations.

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