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CHAPTER 7: Problems of application in the social sciences—contingency and organization structure, or “organization development”

Lisl Klein Karnac Books ePub

There is a difference in approach that has dogged the “applied social science” or “applied behavioural science” scene for decades. I first came across it—indeed, experienced it—in a major way during my time in Esso, when the parent company introduced a team of American organization development (OD) consultants (chapter 4). The resulting controversy led to the ending of the Esso experiment. At that time I attributed it largely to cultural differences between American and European approaches, including an emphasis on normative rather than research values. Whatever the merits of that explanation at the time, it would not be accurate now. First, there is now a great deal of OD activity in Europe: for example, the seven case studies contributed by German collaborators towards the collection of cases in Klein and Eason (1991) were all of an OD type. Second, OD now covers a wider range of activities than it did at that time, some of them overlapping with an approach that includes structural or situational factors. And third, there is a good deal of research on OD itself.

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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).

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CHAPTER 9: Problems of context: a fiasco

Lisl Klein Karnac Books ePub

The book about working as a social scientist in Esso came out in 1976. It was a very detailed case study, and it seemed obvious that the way to take the subject further would be to document other attempts (of which there were by then quite a number) and compare them to see what could be learned. The writing of the Esso case study had been funded by the Social Science Research Council, and when it was published, the chairman of the SSRC wrote a very nice, unsolicited review. So I was optimistic about taking the subject further. I was working in the Tavistock Institute at the time; Ken Eason was a colleague and friend who had taken part in some of the Esso work and who was now at Loughborough University. Together we decided to try for a research grant to collect and compare examples of social science being applied in organizations. This paper tells the story of that attempt. It is the edited report to the SSRC on a feasibility study and has not been published before.

The attempt to get this work funded failed. Any researcher suffers bids that fail, and I have had my share of grant applications being turned down. But there is something different about this one and what it demonstrates about the institutional difficulties of relating research and practice. I knew that the climate among the academics on the SSRC’s committees was changing, and that “usefulness” was going out of favour; but I did not realize just how far the change in direction had gone.

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CHAPTER 13: Elements of practice 2: infrastructure and institutionalization

Lisl Klein Karnac Books ePub

This is the second part of the joint paper with Ken Eason. As a result of the complexity of the skills involved in practice, practitioners—including ourselves—have been preoccupied with the need to explore the nature of these skills and develop them. They have tended to neglect the other two essential elements of successful practice, namely infrastructure and insti-tutionalization.

Infrastructure

We believe that the issue of infrastructure has so far been missing in discussions of the subject of practice. It is important, not because our pet concerns are otherwise not as successful as they might be, or because the world has to be kind to social scientists, but because of the waste that is involved when genuine attempts, jointly initiated, turn out not to fulfil the hope and promise that launched them. This may be the place to point out that there is a distinction between the system of entry and the system of continuing work or intervention. It is at the stage when the shift from entry to intervention is taking place that matters of infrastructure begin to be important.

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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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