34 Slices
Medium 9781855753488

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: The management of innovation: from platitudes to reality in job design

Lisl Klein Karnac Books ePub

This chapter is part of a paper given in 1980 at a conference on robotics, with the overall title “The management of automation”.

The keynote speaker at the conference was the Chairman of British Steel. His speech was intended to be light-hearted, and he drew a happy, futuristic picture of how robots would relieve housewives of mundane tasks like cooking. In the discussion, I suggested that cooking might actually be experienced as enjoyable: I had recently, for the first time, made an apple strudel. The task had taken two hours, had been exhausting, and had given enormous pleasure. After that, much of the conference discussion centred on the question of apple strudel, and I began my own talk with You take half a pound of flour …

* * *

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like you to help me celebrate an anniversary. In January 1981 it will be twenty-five years since I joined, as a junior research assistant, a research project on the Human Implications of Work Study, which was carried out in the then Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. The assumptions behind the project were: productivity was low; work study helps productivity; people on the shop floor tend to resist work study; if you understand more about that resistance, you may be able to overcome it.

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Medium 9781855753822

CHAPTER 12: Elements of practice 1: vision and competence

Lisl Klein Karnac Books ePub

This was a joint paper with Ken Eason. After the fiasco described in chapter 9, a study of social science utilization was funded by the Anglo-German Foundation.1

It was this project that made it clear to us that there are two distinct frameworks involved in the practice of social science in organizations— knowledge-into-use and the dynamics of action—and that the practitioner needs to have both. We collected case studies consisting of the following:

•  Fourteen cases in organizations—passenger and freight transport; banking; electrical products; precision engineering; confectionery; food processing; freight import and export; oil (marketing); motor components; motor industry (guest workers in Germany); motor industry (supervision); distribution; news technology; rubber.

•  Five practitioners—a research assistant in a trade-union research department; an in-house OD adviser; an organization theorist; a psychoanalytically oriented organization consultant; the manager of psychological services in a public service organization.

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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.

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Medium 9781855753822

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 3: Theories of organization—a framework for diagnosis

Lisl Klein Karnac Books ePub

A first formulation of the framework presented here was included in Putting Social Science to Work (Klein & Eason, 1991). In the form of talks it has continued to evolve over time. One version of it is used during the Bayswater Institute’s regular Working Conferences, to help participants make sense of their experience. The version below is an amalgamation of the various threads: it is still in the form of a talk, in which the listener or reader is invited to join in the learning process. It has not been published in this form.

I find myself constantly using this framework as an aid to diagnosis. I don’t explicitly set out to do that—it just keeps happening. The paper includes two examples of using it.

Theory is about explanation. We all have a powerful need to make sense of our environment. The environment consists of an infinite number of bits of information, and unless we arrange these for ourselves in some meaningful way, we cannot function. We all need to have some basis for believing that the floor will not melt when we put a foot on it. Whether it is a theory about the properties of wood and stone, or a statistical theory that since the ground did not melt the last six thousand times it is unlikely to melt the next time, or a theory that the angels will look after us—without some theoretical basis for putting one foot in front of the other, we are paralysed.

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