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Autonomous work group an essential ingredient for effective organising?

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Autonomous work group an essential ingredient for effective organising? Following the needs of many businesses to adopt alternative forms of work design this paper tries to explain and make some sense about the effectiveness of autonomous work groups in organising. It will be argue the thesis that such groups have been, are and will be effective in some definite organisational setting. The assumptions underpinning this idea will be explored along the dialectic forming three sections. To understand this concept it seems important introduce notions of individual, group and explain why they are so central from an organisational point of view. Thus, the first part of this paper will present some psychological effects resulting through their interaction of these actors Moreover, being the idea of autonomous work group part of a complex system, it will be restrictive analyse its characteristics without locate it among others concepts produced by sociotechnical researchers. Thus, a broader analysis of sociotechnical system (STS) will be part of the second section. Difference between what STS aimed to achieve, what they really achieved, and/or what they are achieving today is still discussed. This lack of unanimous consensus lets the debate open to several interpretations, and offer the opportunity to explore and address few issues related to the self-managing groups. Hence, the last side of this paper will address a discuss about the role of management, the subordination of human criteria to the dictates of efficiency, the application to both linear and non-linear systems, and a movement toward a self-leading team type. The magnitude of such topic and the number of interesting studies surrounding this area offer to the author a dilemma regarding what should be treated and what should not. Obviously, having this script humanistic approach major evidence is given to people in organisation, and respectively team members, and management. Moreover, analysing the way in which the system adapted itself during the second half of the last century, it will be argued that organisations designed or redesigned in respect of human criteria in certain industries and environments, can reach a competitive advantage respect those that will not do it. ...read more.


This self-regulation, interdependence and self-governance, draw attention to decisions that ca be delegated to work groups that, in function of these, are defined as autonomous work group. In some industries has been discovered that higher levels of productivity and quality can be achieved giving clusters of tasks to a work group (Findlay et al, 2000; Barker 1999; Knights and McCabe 2000; Muller 1992; Sewell 1998); such 'autonomous work groups are then made responsible for producing entire product such a radio, an engine' (Schein 1994). The idea was to group several workers -organised in multifunctional structure with flexible job rotation, in a spatially and organisationally limited production unit, share a common task that is divided into interdependent sub task, and assume share responsibility over the long term. Among its criteria can be notice boundary maintenance (Moldaschl & Weber 1998:360). What sociotechnology group tried to achieve through the implement of autonomous work group is a way of simultaneously satisfying psychological and task needs (Buchanan 2000:29). In other words, a whole group is provided the opportunity to design and manage a total integrated task, thus permitting workers to fulfil their social and self actualising needs within the context of the work situation' (Herbst 1962 in Schein 1994:195). Nevertheless being the role of management present to some extents, it is more correct to speak about semi autonomous work groups. Among the variety of semi-autonomous work group, it is useful to adopt the three forms identified by Brown (2003). The composite fully multi skilled -as in the Tavistock Institute Coal Mining studies where miners learnt and performed diverse task; the matrix form -as in Fiorelli's idea of quality circle where a group of people, having different specialised functions, overlapped competences (1998); and the network where individuals are far but frequently in contact to each other through information technologies such as teleconferencing to exchange knowledge - from which the ongoing 'knowledge management team' (Bell, Blackler and Crump in Fulop & Linstead 1999:228). ...read more.


Its democratic principles and the democratic way in which tasks are thought and accomplished, seems to make this system the most appropriate within those political environment in which principles of democracy are used. This thesis seems reinforced from the growth of lean systems and consequently from practices as Just in Time, Business Process Re-engineering, or Total Quality Management in those organisational setting where work design diverse from human centred. On the base of both the literature proposed, and the assumption resting on this paper, an important feature seems emerge. For those organisations pursuing human relations and democratic policies, autonomous work group permits both individual and organisations to pursue their own interests. Not just offering the opportunity to decrease alienation filling their social needs to the former, and to reduce practice such as of absenteeism, sabotage, and achieve that commitment and loyalty, to the latter. Rather it seems the best compromise between capitalism and working class since the first industrial revolution to nowadays. An effective tool capable to improves and re-defines the boundaries of the psychological contract and consecutively boosts productivity and reduces costs. To create effective self-managing groups become central the role of top management in planning and develop a long-term program made of continuous investment in work design research, and in staff and management programs (Pearson 1992). It will allow a deep understanding about the dynamics of members' needs, a constant design, a re-negation of the task requirements, and to avoid both mismanagement, and the establishment of repetitive alienating tasks. Finally, to figure out this sophisticated topic, a broader research should analyse the interrelation and influences of related issue such as: identifications; role of control; ideology of team, politico-economic and socio-cultural peculiarity of the society; in which the organisation will decide to implement self management group working. Within this system, autonomous work group seems to be not a problem to be solved, rather a solution to deal today with the confluence of tensions resulting from yesterday's decisions. 2 ...read more.

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