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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 NINE: Work organization in the design of a new canning plant: plant design, job design, and industrial relations

Lisl Klein Karnac Books ePub

This project concerns a social science contribution to the design of a new high-speed canning plant. The project as it developed had two strands: one concerned plant and job design, and the other concerned industrial relations. At first these were quite distinct. Later they came, for a time, closer together—the project can, in a sense, be seen as a history of trying to bring plant and job design and industrial relations into relationship with each other.

Some effects of the social science intervention were inconclusive and hard to pin down, leading to some uncertainty about whether the glass was eventually half full or half empty. However, one breakthrough that it achieved was clear and important: it demonstrated to a group of managers and trade union representatives who would not have believed it, and who were in any case locked in combat, that they could design a job and could do it according to criteria on which they could achieve reasonable agreement.

Only an abbreviated version of this account has been published before (Klein &Eason, 1991).

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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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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 4: The Esso story

Lisl Klein Karnac Books ePub

In 1965 I joined Esso Petroleum UK as “social sciences adviser". This paper is based on a lecture given in 1971, summarizing that project and pulling out some of the issues it raised; the full story was written up as a book (Klein, 1976).

I am calling it a “project” now, though it was not intended to be a project but, rather, the beginning of a new function in the organization. Although I did not articulate until later the importance of infrastructure and institu-tionalization for the use of social science (see chapter 13), it was already very much in my mind. This is witnessed by the point made to the Esso Board about the need to make this a “routine, ordinary, even boring” part of what goes on.

Origins and beginning of the Esso experiment

For five years, from 1965 to 1970, I was in a role in Esso called “social sciences adviser". It was the time of the Heyworth Committee, which was looking at the organization of research and teaching in the social sciences, and which had led to the setting up of the Social Science Research Council (Department of Education and Science, 1965). The Secretary of the Heyworth Committee, Albert Cherns, started a unit in Loughborough University concerned with the utilization of social science research, and it was at about the same time that Esso decided to launch an experiment in making use of the social sciences inside a company. The impetus came from the company’s employee relations (ER) adviser, a man who knew about the work of the Heyworth Committee and had given evidence to it. He also knew some of the social science community of that time. The people in the social sciences who were interested in utilizing them were a relatively small group, who knew each other and had rather similar kinds of approaches.

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