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Work Design

Work Design

Work design has been researched and applied extensively in organizations. Recently, organizations have tended to combine work design with formal structure and supporting changes in goal setting, reward systems, work environment, and other performance management practices. These organizational factors can help structure and reinforce the kinds of work behaviors associated with specific work designs We will examine three approaches to work design. First, the engineering approach, which focuses on efficiency and simplification, and results in traditional job and work group designs. Second approach to work design rests on motivational theories and attempts to enrich the work experience. The third and most recent approach to work design derives from socio-technical systems methods, and seeks to optimize both the social and the technical aspects of work systems.
The Engineering Approach:

The oldest and most prevalent approach to designing work is based on engineering concepts and methods. It proposes that the most efficient work designs can be determined by clearly specifying the tasks to be performed, the work methods to be used, and the work flow among individuals. The engineering approach is based on the pioneering work of Frederick Taylor, the father of scientific management. He developed methods for analyzing and designing work and laid the foundation for the professional field of industrial engineering. The engineering approach scientifically analyzes workers' tasks to discover those procedures that produce the maximum output with the minimum input of energies and resources. This generally results in work designs with high levels of specialization and specification. Such designs have several benefits: they allow workers to learn tasks rapidly; they permit short work cycles so performance can take place with little or no mental effort; and they reduce costs because lower-skilled people can be hired and trained easily and paid relatively low wages. The engineering approach produces two kinds of work design: traditional jobs and traditional work groups. When the work can be completed by one person, such as with bank tellers and telephone operators, traditional jobs are created. These jobs tend to be simplified, with routine and repetitive tasks having clear specifications concerning time and motion. When the work requires coordination among people, such as on automobile assembly lines, traditional work groups are developed. They are composed of members performing relatively routine yet related tasks. The overall group task is typically broken into simpler, discrete parts (often called jobs). The tasks and work methods are specified for each part, and the parts are assigned to group members. Each member performs a routine and repetitive part of the group task. Members' separate task contributions are coordinated for overall task achievement through such external controls as schedules, rigid work flows, and supervisors. In the 1950s and 1960s, this method of work design was popularized by the assembly lines of American automobile manufacturers and was an important reason for the growth of American industry following World War II. The engineering approach to job design is less an OD intervention than a benchmark in history. Critics of the approach argue that the method ignores workers' social and psychological needs. They suggest that the rising educational level of the workforce and the substitution of automation for menial labor point to the need for more enriched forms of work in which people have greater discretion and are more challenged. Moreover, the current competitive climate requires a more committed and involved workforce able to make online decisions and to develop performance innovations. Work designed with the employee in mind is more humanly fulfilling and productive than that designed in traditional ways. However, it is important to recognize the strengths of the engineering approach. It remains an important work design intervention because its immediate cost savings and efficiency can be measured readily, and because it is well understood and easily implemented and managed.

The Motivational Approach:

The motivational approach to work design views the effectiveness of organizational activities primarily as a function of member needs and satisfaction, and seeks to improve employee performance and satisfaction by enriching jobs. The motivational method provides people with opportunities for autonomy, responsibility, closure (that is, doing a complete job), and performance feedback. Enriched jobs are popular in the United States at such companies as AT&T Universal Card, TRW, Dayton Hudson, and GTE. The motivational approach usually is associated with the research of Herzberg and of Hackman and Oldham. Herzberg's two-factor theory of motivation proposed that certain attributes of work, such as opportunities for advancement and recognition, which he called motivators, help increase job satisfaction. Other attributes that Herzberg called hygiene factors, such as company policies, working conditions, pay, and supervision, do not produce satisfaction but rather prevent dissatisfaction—important contributors because only satisfied workers are motivated to produce. Successful job enrichment experiments at AT&T, Texas Instruments, and Imperial Chemical Industries helped to popularize job enrichment in the 1960s. Although Herzberg's motivational factors sound appealing, increasing doubt has been cast on the underlying theory. Motivation and hygiene factors are difficult to put into operation and measure, and that makes implementation and evaluation of the theory difficult. Furthermore, important worker characteristics that can affect whether people will respond favorably to job enrichment were not included in his theory. Finally, Herzberg's failure to involve employees in the job enrichment process itself does not suit most OD practitioners today. Consequently, a second, well-researched approach to job enrichment has been favored. It focuses on the attributes of the work itself and has resulted in a more scientifically acceptable theory of job enrichment than Herzberg's model. The research of Hackman and Oldham represents this more recent trend in job enrichment.

The Core Dimensions of Jobs:

Considerable research has been devoted to defining and understanding core job dimensions. Figure 50 summarizes the Hackman and Oldham model of job design. Five core dimensions of work affect three critical psychological states, which in turn produce personal and job outcomes. These outcomes include high internal work motivation, high-quality work performance, satisfaction with the work, and low absenteeism and turnover. The five core job dimensions—skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback from the work itself—are described below and associated with the critical psychological states that they create.

Figure 50 Skill Variety, Task Identity, and Task Significance:

These three core job characteristics influence the extent to which work is perceived as meaningful. Skill variety refers to the number and types of skills used to perform a particular task. Employees at Lechmere's, a retail chain in Florida, can work as warehouse stock clerks, cashiers, and salespeople. The more tasks an individual performs, the more meaningful the job becomes. When skill variety is increased by moving a person from one job to another, a form of job enrichment called job rotation is accomplished. However, simply rotating a person from one boring job to another is not likely to produce the outcomes associated with a fully enriched job. Task identity describes the extent to which an individual performs a whole piece of work. For example, an employee who completes an entire wheel assembly for an airplane, including the tire, chassis, brakes, and electrical and hydraulic systems has more task identity and will perceive the work as more meaningful than someone who only assembles the braking subsystem. Job enlargement, another form of job enrichment that combines increases in skill variety with task identity, blends several narrow jobs into one larger, expanded job. For example, separate machine set-up, machining, and inspection jobs might be combined into one. This method can increase meaningfulness, job satisfaction, and motivation when employees comprehend and like the greater task complexity. Task significance represents the impact that the work has on others. In jobs with high task significance, such as nursing, consulting, or manufacturing something like sensitive parts for the space shuttle, the importance of successful task completion creates meaningfulness for the worker. Experienced meaningfulness is expressed as an average of these three dimensions. Thus, although it is advantageous to have high amounts of skill variety, task identity, and task significance, a strong emphasis on any one of the three dimensions can, at least partially, make up for deficiencies in the other two.


This refers to the amount of independence, freedom, and discretion that the employee has to schedule and perform tasks. Salespeople, for example, often have considerable autonomy in how they contact, develop, and close new accounts, whereas assembly-line workers often have to adhere to work specifications clearly detailed in a policy-and-procedure manual. Employees are more likely to experience responsibility for their work outcomes when high amounts of autonomy exist.
Feedback from the Work Itself:

This core dimension represents the information that workers receive about the effectiveness of their work. It can derive from the work itself, as when determining whether an assembled part functions properly or it can come from such external sources as reports on defects, budget variances, customer satisfaction, and the like. Because feedback from the work itself is direct and generates intrinsic satisfaction, it is considered preferable to feedback from external sources. Skill variety, task identity, and task significance jointly determine jobs meaningfulness. These three dimensions are treated as one dimension in the Motivation Potential Score formula, or MPS: Motivation Potential Score (


) =

Job Meaningfulness




Job Feedback

The first variable in the formula, job meaningfulness, is a function of skill variety, task identity, and task significance. Thus the formula can further be refined:

Motivation Potential Score (MPS) = [Skill Variety + Task identity + Task significance] x Autonomy x Job Feedback

3 A score of near zero on either the autonomy or job feedback dimension will produce an MPS of near zero. Whereas a number near zero on skill variety, task identity or task significance will reduce the total MPS, but will not completely undermine the motivational potential of a job. We can predict employee’s psychological state from this formula. High scores in Skill variety, task variety, and task significance result in the employee’s experiencing meaningfulness in job, such as believing the work to be important, valuable, and worthwhile. A high score in the autonomy dimension leads to the employee’s feeling personally responsible and accountable for the results of the work. A high score in the job feedback dimension is an indication that the employee has an understanding of how he or she is performing the job. Self managed teams (to be discussed later) have high scores on all the five core job dimensions.

Individual Differences:

Not all people react in similar ways to job enrichment interventions. Individual differences—among them, a worker's knowledge and skill levels, growth-need strength, and satisfaction with contextual factors— moderate the relationships among core dimensions, psychological states, and outcomes. "Worker knowledge and skill" refers to the education and experience levels characterizing the workforce. If employees lack the appropriate skills, for example, increasing skill variety may not improve a job's meaningfulness. Similarly, if workers lack the intrinsic motivation to grow and develop personally, attempts

to provide them with increased autonomy may be resisted. Finally, contextual factors include reward systems, supervisory style, and co-worker satisfaction. When the employee is unhappy with the work context, attempts to enrich the work itself may be unsuccessful.

Application Stages:

The basic steps for job enrichment as described by Hackman and Oldham include making a thorough diagnosis of the situation, forming natural work units, combining tasks, establishing client relationships, vertical loading, and opening feedback channels.

Making a Thorough Diagnosis:

The most popular method of diagnosing a job is through the use of the Job Diagnostic Survey (JDS) or one of its variations. An important output of the JDS is the motivating potential score, which is a function of the three psychological states—experienced meaningfulness, autonomy, and feedback. The survey can be used to profile one or more jobs, to determine whether motivation and satisfaction are really problems or whether the job is low in motivating potential, and to isolate specific job aspects that are causing difficulties.

Forming Natural Work Units:

As much as possible, natural work units should be formed. Although there may be a number of technological constraints, interrelated task activities should be grouped together. The basic question in forming natural work units is "How can one increase 'ownership' of the task?" Forming such natural units increases two of the core dimensions—task identity and task significance—that contribute to the meaningfulness of work.

Combining Tasks:

Frequently, divided jobs can be put back together to form a new and larger one. In the Medfield, Massachusetts, plant of Corning Glass Works, the task of assembling laboratory hotplates was redesigned by combining a number of previously separate tasks. After the change, each hotplate was completely assembled, inspected, and shipped by one operator, resulting in increased productivity of 84 percent. Controllable rejects dropped from 23 percent to less than 1 percent, and absenteeism dropped from 8 percent to less than 1 percent. A later analysis indicated that the change in productivity was the result of the intervention. Combining tasks increases task identity and allows a worker to use a greater variety of skills. The hotplate assembler can identify with a product finished for shipment, and self-inspection of his or her work adds greater task significance, autonomy, and feedback from the job itself.

Establishing Client Relationships:

When jobs are split up, the typical worker has little or no contact with, or knowledge of, the ultimate user of the product or service. Improvements often can be realized simultaneously on three of the core dimensions by encouraging and helping workers to establish direct relationships with the clients of their work. For example, when a typist in a typing pool is assigned to a particular department, feedback increases because of the additional opportunities for praise or criticism of his or her work. Because of the need to develop interpersonal skills in maintaining the client relationship, skill variety may increase. If the worker is given personal responsibility for deciding how to manage relationships with clients, autonomy is increased. Three steps are needed to create client relationships: (1) the client must be identified; (2) the contact between the client and the worker needs to be established as directly as possible; and (3) criteria and procedures are needed by which the client can judge the quality of the product or service received and relay those judgments back to the worker. For example, even customer-service representatives and data-entry operations can be set up so that people serve particular clients. In the hotplate department, personal nametags can be attached to each instrument. The Indiana Bell Telephone Company found substantial improvements in satisfaction and performance when telephone directory compilers were given accountability for a specific geographic area.

Vertical Loading:

The intent of vertical loading is to decrease the gap between doing the job and controlling the job. A vertically loaded job has responsibilities and controls that formerly were reserved for management. Vertical loading may well be the most crucial of the job-design principles. Autonomy is invariably increased. This approach should lead to greater feelings of personal accountability and responsibility for the work outcomes. For example, at an IBM plant that manufactures circuit boards for personal computers, assembly workers were trained to measure the accuracy and speed of production processes and to test the quality of

finished products. Their work is more ''whole/' they are more autonomous, and the engineers who used to measure and test are free to design better products and more efficient ways to manufacture them. Loss of vertical loading usually occurs when someone has made a mistake. Once a supervisor steps in, the responsibility may be removed indefinitely. For example, many skilled machinists have to complete forms to have maintenance people work on a machine. The supervisor automatically signs the slip rather than allowing the machinist either to repair the machine or ask directly for maintenance support.

Opening Feedback Channels:

In almost all jobs, approaches exist to open feedback channels and help people learn whether their performance is remaining at a constant level, improving, or deteriorating. The most advantageous and least threatening feedback occurs when a worker learns about performance as the job is performed. In the hotplate department at Corning Glass Works, assembling the entire instrument and inspecting it dramatically increased the quantity and quality of performance information available to the operators. Data given to a manager or supervisor often can be given directly to the employee. Computers and other automated operations can be used to provide people with data not currently accessible to them. Many organizations simply have not realized the motivating impact of direct, immediate feedback.

Barriers to Job Enrichment:

As the application of job enrichment has spread, a number of obstacles to significant job restructuring have been identified. Most of these barriers exist in the organizational context within which the job design is executed. Other organizational systems and practices, whether technical, managerial, or personnel, can affect both the implementation of job enrichment and the lifespan of whatever changes are made. At least four organizational systems can constrain the implementation of job enrichment:

1. The technical system.

The technology of an organization can limit job enrichment by constraining the number of ways jobs can be changed. For example, long-linked technology like that found on an assembly line can be highly programmed and standardized, thus limiting the amount of employee discretion that is possible. Technology also may set an "enrichment ceiling.” Some types of work, such as continuousprocess production systems, may be naturally enriched so there is, little more that can be gained from a job enrichment intervention.

2. The personnel system.

Personnel systems can constrain job enrichment by creating formalized job descriptions that are rigidly defined and limit flexibility in changing people's job duties. For example, many union agreements include such narrowly defined job descriptions that major renegotiation between management and the union must occur before jobs can be significantly enriched.

3. The control system.

Control systems, such as budgets, production reports, and accounting practices, can limit the complexity and challenge of jobs within the system. For example, a company working on a government contract may have such strict quality control procedures that employee discretion is effectively curtailed.

4. The supervisory system.

Supervisors determine to a large extent the amount of autonomy and feedback that subordinates can experience. To the extent that supervisors use autocratic methods and control work-related feedback, jobs will be difficult, if not impossible, to enrich. Once these implementation constraints have been overcome, other factors determine whether the effects of job enrichment are strong and lasting. Consistent with the contingency approach to OD, the staying power of job enrichment depends largely on how well it fits and is supported by other organizational practices, such as those associated with training, compensation, and supervision. These practices need to be congruent with and to reinforce jobs having high amounts of discretion, skill variety, and meaningful feedback.

The Sociotechnical Systems Approach:

The sociotechnical systems (STS) approach currently is the most extensive body of scientific and applied work underlying employee involvement and innovative work designs. Its techniques and design principles derive from extensive action research in both public and private organizations across diverse national cultures. This section reviews the conceptual foundations of the STS approach and then describes its most popular application—self-managed work teams.

Conceptual Background:

Sociotechnical systems theory was developed originally at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in London and has spread to most industrialized nations in a little more than fifty years. In Europe and particularly Scandinavia, STS interventions are almost synonymous with work design and employee involvement. In Canada and the United States, STS concepts and methods underlie many of the innovative work designs and team-based structures that are so prevalent in contemporary organizations. Intel

Corporation, United Technologies, General Mills, and Procter & Gamble are among the many organizations applying the STS approach to transforming how work is designed and performed. STS theory is based on two fundamental premises: that an organization or work unit is a combined, socialplus- technical system (sociotechnical), and that this system is open in relation to its environment.

Sociotechnical System:

The first assumption suggests that whenever human beings are organized to perform tasks, a joint system is operating—a sociotechnical system. This system consists of two independent but related parts: a social part including the people performing the tasks and the relationships among them, and a technical part comprising the tools, techniques, and methods for task performance. These two parts are independent of each other because each follows a different set of behavioral laws. The social part operates according to biological and psychosocial laws, whereas the technical part functions according to mechanical and physical laws. Nevertheless, the two parts are related because they must act together to accomplish tasks. Hence, the term sociotechnical signifies the joint relationship that must occur between the social and technical parts, and the word system communicates that this connection results in a unified whole. Because a sociotechnical system is composed of social and technical parts, it follows that it will produce two kinds of outcomes: products, such as goods and services; and social and psychological consequences, such as job satisfaction and commitment. The key issue is how to design the relationship between the two parts so that both outcomes are positive (referred to as joint optimization). Sociotechnical practitioners design work and organizations so that the social and technical parts work well together, producing high levels of product and human satisfaction. This effort contrasts with the engineering approach to designing work, which focuses on the technical component, worries about fitting people in later, and often leads to mediocre performance at high social costs. The STS approach also contrasts with the motivational approach that views work design in terms of human fulfillment and can lead to satisfied employees but inefficient work processes.

Environmental Relationship:

The second major premise underlying STS theory is that such systems are open to their environments. As discussed earlier, open systems must interact with their environments to survive and develop. The environment provides the STS with necessary inputs of energy, raw materials, and information, and the STS provides the environment with products and services. The key issue here is how to design the interface between the STS and its environment so that the system has sufficient freedom to function while exchanging effectively with the environment. In what is typically called boundary management, STS practitioners structure environmental relationships both to protect the system from external disruptions and to facilitate the exchange of necessary resources and information. This enables the STS to adapt to changing conditions and to influence the environment in favorable directions. In summary, STS theory suggests that effective work systems jointly optimize the relationship between their social and technical parts. Moreover, such systems effectively manage the boundary separating and relating them to the environment. This allows them to exchange with the environment while protecting themselves from external disruptions.

Self-Managed Work Teams:

The most prevalent application of the STS approach is self-managed work teams. Alternatively referred to as self-directed, self-regulating, or high-performance work teams, these work designs consist of members performing interrelated tasks. Self-managed teams typically are responsible for a complete product or service, or a major part of a larger production process. They control members' task behaviors and make decisions about task assignments and work methods. In many cases, the team sets its own production goals within broader organizational limits and may be responsible for support services, such as maintenance, purchasing, and quality control. Team members generally are expected to learn many if not all of the jobs within the team's control and frequently are paid on the basis of knowledge and skills rather than seniority. When pay is based on performance, team rather than individual performance is the standard. Figure 51 is a model explaining how self-managed work teams perform. It summarizes current STS research and shows how teams can be designed for high performance. Although the model is based mainly on experience with teams that perform the daily work of the organization (work teams), it also has relevance to other team designs, such as problem-solving teams, management teams, cross-functional integrating teams, and employee involvement teams. The model shows that team performance and member satisfaction follow directly from how well the team functions: how well members communicate and coordinate with each other, resolve conflicts and problems, and make and implement task-relevant decisions. Team functioning, in turn, is influenced by three major inputs: team task design, team process interventions, and organization support systems. Because these inputs affect how well teams function and

subsequently perform, they are key intervention targets for designing and implementing self-managed work teams.

Figure: 51 Team Task Design:

Self-managed work teams are responsible for performing particular tasks; consequently, how the team is designed for task performance can have a powerful influence on how well it functions. Task design generally follows from the team's mission and goals that define the major purpose of the team and provide direction for task achievement. When a team's mission and goals are closely aligned with corporate strategy and business objectives, members can see how team performance contributes to organization success. This can increase member commitment to team goals. Team task design links members' behaviors to task requirements and to each other. It structures member interactions and performances. Three task design elements are necessary for creating self-managed work teams: task differentiation, boundary control, and task control. Task differentiation involves the extent to which the team's task is autonomous and forms a relatively self-completing whole. High levels of task differentiation provide an identifiable team boundary and a clearly defined area of team responsibility. At Johnsonville Sausage, for example, self-managed teams comprise seven to fourteen members. Each team is large enough to accomplish a set of interrelated tasks but small enough to allow face-to-face meetings for coordination and decision making. In many hospitals, self-managed nursing teams are formed around interrelated tasks that together produce a relatively whole piece of work. Thus, nursing teams may be responsible for particular groups of patients, such as those in intensive care or undergoing cancer treatments, or they may be accountable for specific work processes, such as those in the laboratory, pharmacy, or admissions office. Boundary control involves the extent to which team members can influence transactions with their task environment—the types and rates of inputs and outputs. Adequate boundary control includes a welldefined work area; group responsibility for boundary-control decisions, such as quality assurance (which reduces dependence on external boundary regulators, such as inspectors); and members sufficiently trained to perform tasks without relying heavily on external resources. Boundary control often requires deliberate cross-training of team members to take on a variety of tasks. This makes members highly flexible and adaptable to changing conditions. It also reduces the need for costly overhead because members can perform many of the tasks typically assigned to staff experts, such as those in quality control, planning, and maintenance. Task control involves the degree to which team members can regulate their own behavior to provide services or to produce finished products. It includes the freedom to choose work methods, to schedule

activities, and to influence production goals to match both environmental and task demands. Task control relies heavily on team members having the power and authority to manage equipment, materials, and other resources needed for task performance. This "work authority" is essential if members are to take responsibility for getting the work accomplished. Task control also requires that team members have accurate and timely information about team performance to allow them to detect performance problems and make necessary adjustments. Task control enables self-managed work teams to observe and control technical variances as quickly and as close to their source as possible. Technical variances arise from the production process and represent significant deviations from specific goals or standards. In manufacturing; for example, abnormalities in raw material, machine operation, and work flow are sources of variance that can adversely affect the quality and quantity of the finished product. In service work, out-of-the-ordinary requests, special favors or treatment, or unique demands create variances that can place stress on the process. Technical variances traditionally are controlled by support staff and managers, but this can take time and add greatly to costs. Self-managed work teams, on the other hand, have the freedom, skills, and information needed to control technical variances online when they occur. This affords timely responses to production problems and reduces the amount of staff overhead needed.

Team Process interventions:

A second key input to team functioning involves team process interventions. As discussed earlier teams may develop ineffective social processes that impede functioning and performance, such as poor communication among members, dysfunctional roles and norms, and faulty problem solving and decision making. Team process interventions, such as process consultation and team building, can resolve such problems by helping members address process problems and moving the team to a more mature stage of development. Because self-managed work teams need to be self-reliant, members generally acquire their own team process skills. They may attend appropriate training programs and workshops or they may learn on the job by working with OD practitioners to conduct process interventions on their own teams. Although members' process skills generally are sufficient to resolve most of the team's process problems, OD experts occasionally may need to supplement the team's skills and help members address problems that they are unable to resolve.

Organization Support Systems:

The final input to team functioning is the extent to which the larger organization is designed to support self-managed work teams. The success of such teams clearly depends on support systems that are quite different from traditional methods of managing. For example, a bureaucratic, mechanistic organization is not highly conducive to self-managed teams. An organic structure, with flexibility among units, relatively few formal rules and procedures, and decentralized authority, is much more likely to support and enhance the development of self-managed work teams. This explains why such teams are so prevalent in highinvolvement organizations. Their different features, such as flat, lean structures, open information systems, and team-based selection and reward practices, all reinforce teamwork and responsible self-management. A particularly important support system for self-managed work teams is the external leadership. Selfmanaged teams exist along a spectrum from having only mild influence over their work to near-autonomy. In many circumstances, such teams take on a variety of functions traditionally handled by management. These can include assigning members to individual tasks, determining the methods of work, scheduling, setting production goals, and selecting and rewarding members. These activities do not make external supervision obsolete, however. That leadership role usually is changed to two major functions: working with and developing team members, and assisting the team in managing its boundaries. Working with and developing team members is a difficult process and requires a different style of managing than do traditional systems. The team leader (often called a team facilitator) helps team members organize themselves in a way that allows them to become more independent and responsible. She or he must be familiar with team-building approaches and must assist members in learning the skills to perform their jobs. Recent research suggests that the leader needs to provide expertise in self-management. This may include encouraging team members to be self-reinforcing about high performance, to be self-critical of low performance, to set explicit performance goals, to evaluate goal achievement, and to rehearse different performance strategies before trying them. If team members are to maintain sufficient autonomy to control variance from goal attainment, the leader may need to help them manage team boundaries. Where teams have limited control over their task environment, the leader may act as a buffer to reduce environmental uncertainty. This can include mediating and negotiating with other organizational units, such as higher management, staff experts, and related work teams. Research suggests that better managers spend more time in lateral interfaces.

These new leadership roles require new and different skills, including knowledge of sociotechnical principles and group dynamics, understanding of both the task environment and the team's technology, and ability to intervene in the team to help members increase their knowledge and skills. Leaders of selfmanaged teams also should have the ability to counsel members and to facilitate communication among them. Many managers have experienced problems trying to fulfill the complex demands of leading self-managed work teams. The most typical complaints mention ambiguity about responsibilities and authority, lack of personal and technical skills and organizational support, insufficient attention from higher management, and feelings of frustration in the supervisory job.

Characteristics of Self-managed Work Teams:

Self-managed work teams may be used organization-wide, at a work site composed of a number of work teams, or within just a few work teams. But to whatever degree they are used, there are several characteristics that are common to all self-managed work team sites.

The structure of the organization or work site is based on team concepts.

There are few managerial levels in the plant or work site structure and few job descriptions.

There is an egalitarian culture and a noticeable lack of status symbols.

There are no management dinning rooms, no assigned parking places, and no special furniture or décor for manager’s offices. There is no special dress code; if uniforms are required, everyone, including the plant superintendent wears the uniform.

A work team has a physical site.

There are functional boundaries that members can identify.

The number of people in a team is kept as small as possible.

Typical size range from five to fifteen members.

Work teams order material and equipment

. They set goals, profit targets, and also rewards for the team members. They have a voice in who is hired and fired.

Team members have a sense of vision for their team and their organization.

A vision provides direction and energizes team behavior to accomplish goals.

There is strong partnership between team members and management.

If there is a labor union, the union is also a member of the partnership.

Team members are different enough.

Members learn because of variety of viewpoints, backgrounds, cultural experiences and training.

Information of all types is openly shared.

The information system needs to be well developed and available to all members. Members are knowledgeable in accounting and statistical concepts for decision making.

Team members should be skilled and knowledgeable in their areas.

Team members should have good interpersonal skills and a desire and ability to work with others.

Training, and specially cross-training, is a major requirement of self-managed teams.

The success of a team depends on its members being skilled and knowledgeable in a variety of areas, including technical skills, finance and accounting, competition in the marketplace, and group process.

Team managers are knowledgeable of customers, competitors, and suppliers.

The primary emphasis is to focus on customers. From the team’s standpoint, a customer is someone within the organization or external to the organization that uses the team’s product/service.

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