34 Slices
Medium 9781855753488

CHAPTER FOUR: Luddism for the twenty-first century

Lisl Klein Karnac Books ePub

This was a keynote speech at the thirtieth birthday symposium of HUSAT, the Human Sciences and Advanced Technology Research Institute at Loughborough University, in 2000. Because of HUSAT's location in the Midlands, and because of the nature of the occasion, a reference to Luddism seemed appropriate. It turned out to be more relevant than at first suspected (Klein, 2001).

I introduced my speech by saying that I hoped the audience would not mind if I began with something of a history lesson, as I thought that if I was going to talk about Luddism, I ought to find out what it is.

The history of Luddism

Machines being introduced into textile manufacture at the turn of the eighteenth century could do the work of men, M certainly more quickly and often more accurately and predictably. And machinery could be tended by women and children, who cost less than men. But Luddite machine-breaking activity was only one of several kinds of disturbance and rebellion in the years of the Regency. It was a period of minor rebellions and risings of the poor and desperate, one of the most disturbed and riotous in English history. In 1812 there were not only food riots but waves of collective direct action to control food prices—that is, people refusing to pay the prices asked and paying only the prices which they considered fair, described by Hobsbawm as collective bargaining by riot (Hobsbawm, 1952). This was happening in places as far apart as Falmouth, Bristol, Sheffield, Nottingham, Bolton, and Carlisle. In May that year the Prime Minister, Spencer Percival, was assassinated in the lobby of the House of Commons.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855753488

CHAPTER SIXTEEN; And finally-some reflections on institutions and policy

Lisl Klein Karnac Books ePub

Without reiterating all the arguments, there seems no reason to doubt that work remains central to human existence. The legacy of the idea that “the job” is an out-of date concept (about which, in any case, one hears much less today) is that we know employment today to be highly diverse, not that people's need for meaning has changed. What varies is how available work is, where and how it is carried out, the degree of protection available to those who do it, how it is rewarded, the technologies and laws and practices that shape its nature—in other words, the political, economic, managerial and technical contexts that shape both people's overall work experience and the actual tasks that they carry out. Within these varying contexts it is possible to influence the nature of work in directions that help rather than hinder human development and the satisfaction that people can gain from their work. Quite often this happens by chance in any case—satisfaction and development may be found in many jobs. But enough is known for this not to have to be a matter of chance. It is not more knowledge that is needed, but institutional will.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855753488

CHAPTER ONE: Introduction: the context. A perspective on work organization in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries

Lisl Klein Karnac Books ePub

In 2006, the winner of the Best Actress award in the Hollywood I Oscars said, “I just want to matter and live a good life and make work that means something to somebody.” In 2003, a young woman who had just landed an exciting, well-paid job that she had very much wanted, was already looking beyond it and said, “It will look good on my CV afterwards.” In 1944, a German refugee servant girl could see nothing beyond her situation and found comfort in a hymn, “Lord of the pots and dishes”. In their very different circumstances, and with their very different perspectives, all of them were looking for meaning in their work.

Work has always been central to human existence, though its content as well as its meaning for individuals and their societies continue to change and evolve as historical, technical, and economic circumstances change. In this chapter I present some of the background to the papers in this volume, which arose at various times during the second half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century. It is, of course, impossible to be comprehensive, and it would be foolish to try. I provide some indications of context where I know about it. That means that the more detailed historical background tends to have a European and British focus. It also means that I need to give some of my own background, to explain both why this has been such a preoccupation—not as an interesting topic for academic study, but as a vital aspect of human and social life—and how the papers arose.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855753822

CHAPTER 2: Prescription and rationality in management control

Lisl Klein Karnac Books ePub

This is an example of research that can be used, not in the sense of applying findings directly to other situations, but of highlighting mechanisms (in this case, control systems) that will be at work in other situations. It also generated a method—the tracer study—that has turned out to be useful in practice.

In the 1950s, the industrial sociologist Joan Woodward had conducted research in a hundred firms in Essex to see whether those that followed the precepts of current management teaching were more successful than those that did not. Instead of finding that successful firms had features of organization in common, however, the research found a relationship between technology, organization, and success: if one ranged the firms on a scale of production technology—from unit production through small-batch, large-batch, and mass production, to process production at the complex end of the scale—there were forms of organization common to these production processes. Successful firms tended to adhere to these forms of organization, unsuccessful ones to deviate from them. The research also found that at the two ends of the scale, in unit production and process production, it was possible to make predictions from the technology about behaviour in the firm, whereas in the middle of the scale it was not (Woodward, 1965).

See All Chapters
Medium 9781855753488

CHAPTER TEN: Work organization in branch banking

Lisl Klein Karnac Books ePub

It was not all manufacturing. For seven years during the 1970s I had a consultancy contract with one of the four clearing banks in the UK, and Ken Eason has reminded me that this included some work on the organization of the work of a branch. While the overall consultancy has been briefly written up before (Klein &Eason, 1991; Chapter Six), this piece of work did not feature in that account and is described here for the first time. Ken and I did the work together, and have written this account together.

***

Introduction: a study of branch banking

After a merger and a strong wave of computerization, the Domestic Banking Division of one of the UK clearing banks thought that customer service might have suffered, and set up a Customer Service Working Party. I was invited to be a member of this working party, but, in order to be of help, thought it necessary to understand more about domestic banking first. A study of branch banking was commissioned, and a team of five researchers spent a week in each of four branches—one in central London, one in a London suburb, one in a provincial city, and one in a small country town. One of the things we learned concerned the division of labour between the manager and the sub-manager of a branch: the main job of the manager was to make lending decisions; the hallmark of a good banker is to be a good lender, and that was where training was focused. The sub-manager ran the office. This included organizing the work of the office and allocating tasks among staff. However, that was not seen as “real” banking. Sub-managers tended to be marking time until they could get back to “real” banking, they hoped, through being promoted to manager. Training played a big role in branch life, but it was training in banking. It seemed that sub-managers were not trained in management and did not think of themselves as responsible for effective work organization.

See All Chapters

See All Slices