Discuss the meaning, purpose and approaches of job design with suitable examples. Describe how job design is carried out in your organisation or an organisation you are referring to.
A systematic attempt to design work was first made in the wake of emergence of machine technology and mass production system immediately after industrial revolution in Western Europe. Since then several experiments in this field have been carried out at different times by different enterprises around the world. In India too as elsewhere, the need to bring about changes in the way work is organized has a risen from the following socio-economic conditions:
(1) Organisations, today, are increasingly getting automated and using new technology to attain the organizational objectives of increased efficiency. This has had a corresponding effect on a greater specialization, simplification, standardization and routinisation of a larger number of jobs.
(2) Transfer of technology from a developed country to our own along with the associated organization of work which may not fit with the prevailing socio-cultural framework of India may have an adverse effect on the social structure and system of values of the people.
(3) Organisations have become larger and more bureaucratic in their functioning. This has resulted in increased authoritarianism and inflexibility of management. Decision-making is becoming more and more centralised.
(4) Even as organizations have continued to increase in size, became mechanistic, and more task-oriented etc. the people working in the organization re younger, highly skilled, better educated and therefore want to be involved in decisions affecting them and their work. They are today less willing to accept routing, monotonous work and look for opportunities to utilise and develop their potentialities. Thus, it appears that the way most organization function is in conflict with the needs and expectations of the people working in them. This failure to adequately match the needs of the organisation from an efficiency point of view with the needs of employees on whom the organisation depends are reflected in increased alienation. Poor performance, absenteeism, disputes etc.
In view of such problems, it is believed, that ways of structuring jobs and managing organisations that worked earlier may not work now, simply because the people who work in such organisations will no longer put up with them. An important question facing organisations, thus, relates to how they can achieve a fit between persons and their jobs so as to obtain both high work productivity and a high quality organisational experience for the people who work in them. The answer lies in the way work is organised and managed in organisation.
The traditional approach to the organisation of work has been one of rationalisation, involving the specialization and subdivision of tasks, the minimizing and standardising of skills and the development of methods of management prediction and control.
The approach has a long history beginning from the writings of Adam Smith who in the “Wealth of Nations” had analysed the division of labour in a pin factory.
“One man draws out the wire, another straightens it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head: to make the head requires two or three distinct operations: to put it on is a peculiar business, to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into a paper, and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which in some manufactories, are all performed by distinct hands, though in others the same man will sometimes perform two or three of them”.
Of all the principles of management expounded by the classical theorists, the principle of ‘division of labour has the greatest implication for how the work is designed in organistions. The principle specifies that maximum work efficiency will be achieved if jobs are simplified and specialised to the greatest extent possible. In other words, people in an organisation, be they workers or managers, will function more efficiently if they perform the same specialized functions repeatedly rather than spreading their energies on a number of complex tasks.
The importance of the division of labour principle was also argued by Max Weber, in his model of bureaucratic work organisation. According to him the bureaucratic model of work organisation was the most efficient form of work organisation in which impersonality and rationality are developed to the highest degree. Bureaucracy, in Weber’s analyses, describes a form or design of work organsiation which assures predictability of the behaviour of individuals in the organisation. To achieve the maximum benefits of the form, Weber believed that certain design strategies must be adopted, specifically:
(1) All tasks necessary for the accomplishment of goals are divided into highly specialized jobs. Similar argument in favour of the division of labour principle was put forward, namely, that job holders could become expert in their jobs and could be held responsible for the effective performance of their duties.
(2) Each task is performed according to a consistent system of abstract rules to assure uniformity and coordination of different tasks.
(3) Members of the organistion obey the law of the organisation because it is their duty and because those who administer it are superior in technical knowledge. It is also legitimized by the fact that it is delegated from the top of the hierarchy. A chain of command is thereby created.
(4) Each official in the organisation conducts business in an impersonal formalistic manner, maintaining a social distance with subordinates and clients. This rationality and impersonality can be seen as protection against arbitrary and abusive rule, a way of making his life in the organisation more predictable and stable and less dependent on the personal whims of an arbitrary leader. In turn, the member is expected to do his duty.
(5) Employment is based on technical qualifications and promotions on seniority and achievement.