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:
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.
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.
Utilize NEW methods for increasing the productivity of work dependent on people -- sales, services, creative, technical, professional, and other forms of knowledge work. Apply to high-population frontline roles for widespread gains in economic value and increased efficiency. Email us to arrange a demonstration.
This 2002 article by our managing partner is credited as the "tipping point" in securing financial support for institutional development of humaneering technology.