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Manage With Design

A more powerful way to manage people-dependent work

The adaptive response (or "discretionary") part of work that creates most of a company's economic value is only rarely designed. More typically, management assumes that people-dependent performance is due solely to the innate effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of individual workers. In fact, research demonstrates that most workers control less than 20% of the factors that determine their individual performance. Most factors that determine worker performance are determined by the work design.

What passes for work design in most companies is a casual matter of pulling-together a job description comprised of lists of duties, responsibilities, objectives, and employee requirements — a task often completed by someone not actually familiar with the work and its real challenges. It is just assumed that all other internal forces impacting this work are either naturally supportive, or if not supportive are worthy of whatever obstruction to performance they create.

This approach creates unnecessary costs, most of which are unmanaged:

  • wasted management time spent on avoidable workforce problems
  • wasted worker potential resulting from unintented yet unrecognized constraints
  • wasted organizational costs associated with worker engagement, turnover, and replacement issues
  • wasted market opportunities (e.g, customer satisfaction, new business)

Times the 10, 100, 1,000, or 10,000 workers in the role, the potential of even a 5% or 10% increase in performance can be substantial, while 20% to 30% is more typical.

Are workforce problems simply work-design failures?

Amazed by several wildly successful "at-bats" redesigning work with humaneering, some clients in the Humaneering Institute's private-beta field trials wondered if the workforce management challenges they were resolving were in fact dysfunctions created by ineffective work design. They noted that as the causal forces were replaced with alternatives more aligned with the biopsychosocial dimensions of work and biopsychosocial nature of people, the problems quickly disappeared.

They wondered if more effort to create an effective work design at the time a job is created would maximize the job's performance potential and minimize the requirement for day-to-day managing. In other words, workforce problems are work-design failures. Moreover, they wondered if managers should respond to such problems, not by focusing on the individuals involved, but by making improvements to the work design?

DesignedWORK is now working individually and confidentially with companies to test this thinking. If you want to consider the potential to manage with design in your company, please contact DesignedWORK for additional information.

Want to improve your operations and financial results?

Contact DesignedWORK for a proposal of our proprietary work-design consulting services, or learn more about our new program of humaneering technology-transfer services.