Lawrence Green on IT and Work Organisations


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Lawrence Green's presentation for the Knowledge Economy and Information Society course, on changing work and organisation of work in Information Society

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Lawrence Green on IT and Work Organisations

  1. 1. Knowledge Economy & Information Society (2007/8) Lecture Six Organisations, Employment and Work in Information Society Ian Miles and Lawrence Green 3 rd March 2008
  2. 2. Overview <ul><li>Organisational transformation – factors, trends & and perspectives – what is driving change in organisations and the nature of work? </li></ul><ul><li>Theorising transformation – explaining change </li></ul><ul><li>The role of ICTs in organisational restructuring & development </li></ul><ul><li>The implications of change for work, employment & occupations – the new ‘information workers’ </li></ul><ul><li>Changing organisations, changing work – summary and conclusions </li></ul>
  3. 3. 1 Organisational Transformation Business Factors & Socio-economic Trends Globalisation Feminisation Innovatory Capabilities Evolving Demand Tertiarisation Organisations & Employers Employees and Work Competition Technology (especially ICTs) Policy & Regulation Alliances & Partnerships Professional Discourses Demographics
  4. 4. Business Factors (1) <ul><li>Technology – a source and object of development and innovation (new opportunities, products and services) </li></ul><ul><li>ICTs – new opportunities for gathering, using and sharing data/information: information as a key resource in innovation…but ICTs used to automate </li></ul><ul><li>Globalisation – the opening-up and merging of markets – mobility of capital, production and labour </li></ul><ul><li>Competition – (a mantra?) intensification of competition based on cost, quality and speed (erosion of public monopolies – marketisation of public sector) </li></ul><ul><li>- customer service and mode & speed of delivery are becoming key factors in competitive advantage </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>Innovation capabilities - acquisition & development of innovation-facilitating skills and attitudes: promotion of perpetual product & process innovation in evolving and re-structured markets (a new mantra – central to competitiveness?) </li></ul><ul><li>Alliances and partnerships – recognition of the networked and inter-linked nature of commercial activity (production, innovation etc.) – vertical disintegration, outsourcing, lean business </li></ul><ul><li>Policy & Regulation – H&S, employee rights etc. (but some relaxation of employment laws)…also, policy as a driver of innovation (R&D supports and environmental protection etc.) Conceptual shifts - ‘modernisation’ agenda in the public sector </li></ul><ul><li>Professional and managerial discourses and trajectories – the role of ideas: champions, narratives, (vogue) business philosophies and professional networks helping to shape organisational strategies and responses </li></ul>Business Factors (2)
  6. 6. Socio-economic Trends <ul><li>Evolution in Demand – new forms of consumption, (disaggregation of demand & changing preferences); new consumers; new channels to market; new products </li></ul><ul><li>Tertiarisation – de-industrialisation and the rise of the services sector (70-80% of UK employment) </li></ul><ul><li>Feminisation – the entry of increasing numbers of women into paid labour (push & pull factors) – segregation remains </li></ul><ul><li>Demographics – an ageing population and an ageing workforce – recruitment (international), retention, and training. Shifting patterns of demand – ‘grey consumers’ </li></ul>
  7. 7. 2 Theorising transformation in organisations and work: conceptualising change <ul><li>Three overlapping approaches: </li></ul><ul><li>The transition from ‘Fordism’ to ‘Post Fordism’ </li></ul><ul><li>The rise of a ‘Post Industrial Economy’ </li></ul><ul><li>The diffusion of ICTs & rise of the knowledge economy </li></ul>
  8. 8. Transformation - postulated trends (1): From ‘Fordism’ to ‘Post Fordism’ <ul><li>Characteristics of Fordism: </li></ul><ul><li>The ‘modernist’ project (early to late middle C20 th ) – the rise of Fordism and Taylorism </li></ul><ul><li>Efficiency, standardisation and productivity – the application of scienctific and rational principles to production </li></ul><ul><li>Factory-based mass production of standardised goods </li></ul><ul><li>Serving mass markets </li></ul><ul><li>Division of labour - fragmentation & control of the labour process </li></ul><ul><li>The payment of (relatively) high wages as a means of stimulating demand (and enhancing labour relations?) </li></ul><ul><li>Fordism: a victim of its own success? </li></ul><ul><li>Disaggregation of demand (increasing affluence?) </li></ul><ul><li>Alienated and disaffected labour </li></ul>
  9. 9. The characteristics of Post Fordism <ul><li>Substituting modernism and Fordism? </li></ul><ul><li>The post-modern project 1970s to present (?) </li></ul><ul><li>Reduced and limited production runs </li></ul><ul><li>Serving niche, specialised and rapidly changing markets </li></ul><ul><li>Disaggregation and fragmentation of demand (new forms of consumption and consumers) </li></ul><ul><li>Flexible production (enabled – in part - by the introduction of computer technologies) </li></ul><ul><li>Key concept - flexible specialisation (Piore and Sabel) </li></ul><ul><li>Flexible employees (numerical and functional flexibility) </li></ul><ul><li>Key concept - responsible autonomy (Kern and Schumann) </li></ul><ul><li>Outsourcing of non-core functions </li></ul><ul><li>Key concept – ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ activities </li></ul>
  10. 10. Transformation - postulated trends (2) Transition to a ‘Post Industrial’ Economy <ul><li>Bell, Soete, Castells… </li></ul><ul><li>Decline of manufacturing – long-run trend in developed economies </li></ul><ul><li>Growth of the tertiary sector – the greater part of new value-added is created in the non-industrial sectors </li></ul><ul><li>Ascendance of ‘knowledge’ - the ability to produce and sell material artefacts is increasingly dependent upon a capacity to acquire and deploy information & knowledge – knowledge is the key ingredient in innovation (from sentive to intellective skills) </li></ul><ul><li>The growth of the ‘information service’ sector - harvesting, storing & supplying data become core economic activities (within and between firms) (Soete) – the rise of KIBS </li></ul><ul><li>The ‘informatisation’ of work - information activities penetrate all economic sectors and activities: ICTs become central to the efficient production of goods and services </li></ul>
  11. 11. ‘ Post industrial’ economy <ul><li>Productivity and competitiveness </li></ul><ul><li>- dependent upon a capacity to generate, process and apply information – networking and sharing </li></ul><ul><li>- knowledge as the key input to innovation - from market research to collaboration with suppliers, to customer interaction (Castells) </li></ul><ul><li>Recursive innovation </li></ul><ul><li>- knowledge production, technological development and innovation become cumulative, mutually influencing and recursive (Castells) </li></ul><ul><li>- emergence of ‘Knowledge Based’ and ‘Learning’ organisations (Senge) </li></ul><ul><li>- emergence of KIBS – servicing knowledge needs: facilitating and supporting innovation </li></ul><ul><li>Globalisation as a driving force </li></ul><ul><li>- fierce and transnational competition demands rapid, continuous, focused and intelligent innovation for firms to stay ahead </li></ul><ul><li>- a new international division of labour </li></ul>
  12. 12. Transformation - postulated trends (3) Penetration and changing role of ICTs <ul><li>Early deployment of IT </li></ul><ul><li>IT as a computational technology (1950s to 1980s) – IT deployed pre-eminently as an automating, cost-cutting and efficiency-leveraging tool </li></ul><ul><li>IT as a centralised (internal) resource – housed in (and guarded by) IT departments </li></ul><ul><li>Mainframe computers used largely for data-processing tasks and control functions </li></ul><ul><li>Recent and contemporary deployment of ICTs (from late 1970s) </li></ul><ul><li>The rise of network computing - organisational and inter-organisational network platforms </li></ul><ul><li>Distributed use of ICTs (technological advance and cheap chips - the arrival of PCs, office systems, intranets and extranets) </li></ul><ul><li>Access to computing facilities and networks for greater numbers of workers </li></ul><ul><li>Use of computing facilities and applications for a greater range of (and new) activities (e.g., research, inventory control, tracking) </li></ul>
  13. 13. Penetration and changing role of ICTs (2) <ul><li>Key trends: </li></ul><ul><li>Rapid Diffusion – distribution has been rapid and comprehensive </li></ul><ul><li>Penetration & reach - ICTs have penetrated many new areas of business (few activities are immune) and many more employees are exposed to technology usage </li></ul><ul><li>Approximately 70% of the UK’s workforce routinely uses some form of ICT </li></ul><ul><li>Transformed (& more sophisticated?) usage </li></ul><ul><li>- from ‘automation and computation’ to ‘communication, networking and the co-ordination of activities’ </li></ul><ul><li>- ‘cost-cutting and efficiency gains’ versus ‘growth and value-added’ via knowledge creation and application in innovation & production processes – quality, speed, improved consumer experience: doing ‘new’ things and doing ‘old’ things better </li></ul><ul><li>ICTs – an ‘informating’ or ‘automating’ role (Zuboff) </li></ul>
  14. 14. Diffusion and Penetration of ICTs <ul><li>Dramatic change – ICT underpins major changes in production processes in most organisations </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitating collection, processing and transaction of information – ICTs at the heart of the Knowledge Economy </li></ul><ul><li>ICTs allow organisations to do ‘new things’ – a major trigger for innovation (also doing ‘old things’ in new ways) </li></ul><ul><li>ICT and technological development in general is key to understanding much of the organisational transformation witnessed in the past 20 years </li></ul>
  15. 15. Organisational change: interlocking trends & factors – what has been going on? 1 Post Fordism; Specialisation & Flexibility 2 Post Industrial Organisation: Knowledge-based 3 Penetration & Role of ICTs: Networking & Communications 4 Socio-economic & cultural trajectories (demographics, feminisation etc.): changing markets, demands, consumers, workers, spaces
  16. 16. Trends and factors in organisational change & the organisation of work: a summary (and critique?) <ul><li>Key influences on change in the past 40 years – dynamic relationships between factors… </li></ul><ul><li>Social, cultural and demographic trends </li></ul><ul><li>Post Fordist practices – flexible production for specialised and perpetually evolving markets… </li></ul><ul><li>but , what is the evidence for PF, where is it encountered and to what extent - co-existence? (Kumar) </li></ul><ul><li>Post industrial organisation and globalisation – the ascendance of the tertiary sector and ‘knowledge’ as a key component in value-added, innovation, and new products & services… </li></ul><ul><li>but , hasn’t knowledge always been at the heart of business processes and innovation? (Loveridge) </li></ul><ul><li>The penetration and changing role of ICTs – distributed computing, networking and communication displace the use of IT as an automating tool… </li></ul><ul><li>but , deployment of ICTs (and value) is a function of wider organisational strategies and choices – some automation </li></ul>
  17. 17. 3 ICTs in organisational structuring & development Many factors are important in organisational change – technology is a central one…however relationships are dynamic and complex <ul><li>Technology </li></ul><ul><li>Technology has implications for employment and working life… but </li></ul><ul><li>the implementation of technologies is connected intimately with organisational and personal choices & company goals and strategies </li></ul><ul><li>Organisations </li></ul><ul><li>Organisational change is a ‘social’ process (one that is manifest predominantly in changing labour practices and work structures)… but </li></ul><ul><li>technology enables new (and eradicates existing) structures and facilitates the evolution of new routines and practices </li></ul>
  18. 18. Technology and ICTs in organisational restructuring & development <ul><li>‘ Technological determinism’ – beware! - ICTs do not simply impact with organisational structures: the deployment and use of technology is connected intimately with organisational choices, strategies and aims (and management styles) </li></ul><ul><li>Implementation: a political process - deployment of technology is a political, negotiated and frequently contested process – power relationships and sectional and individual interests play an important role (symbolism - technology’s ‘emblematic’ role in image building) </li></ul><ul><li>Impacts are ‘indirect’ - impacts of the introduction of new technologies cannot be anticipated or simply ‘read-off’ as ‘causal outcomes’ - effects are mediated by social and organisational factors (and their reporting varies according to whom in an organisation is interrogated!) </li></ul>
  19. 19. Technology and ICTs in organisational restructuring & development (2) <ul><li>Learning & shaping - much learning surrounds the deployment of technology – ‘usage’ and functionality is frequently a negotiated and lengthy process and much technology is ‘re-shaped’ during implementation and early usage phases (eventual modes of use can be very different from those intended at the development stage – especially where users have not been consulted or involved in system design) (Berg) </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Use’ & deployment as an emergent process - eventual forms of usage are an emergent process that is influenced by three key factors: user learning , organisational objectives and technical functionality </li></ul><ul><li>Success factors - rationale, form of implementation, and degree of employee involvement in system design, interact and impact (massively!) with the successful or otherwise deployment of new technologies </li></ul>
  20. 20. Technology & ICTs in organisational restructuring and development (3) <ul><li>The rationale for the introduction of ICTs can vary widely between organisations and between & within sectors: </li></ul><ul><li>Efficiency gains (automation and substitution of human labour) </li></ul><ul><li>Value- and quality-adding (to products and processes) </li></ul><ul><li>Leveraging of (external) image and visibility - a symbolic role </li></ul><ul><li>Internal pressure (perceived need) and ‘political’ lobbying </li></ul><ul><li>Increased communication and networking opportunities (internally and with clients and suppliers) </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Pull through’ into EDI and e-business networks </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitation of new products and processes – doing and making new things </li></ul><ul><li>Access to new markets and delivery channels (especially e-markets) </li></ul>
  21. 21. 4 Work in KE & IS: Implications of organisational re-structuring and ICTs for employment & jobs (1) <ul><li>Emergence of a dual labour market (focus on ‘core’ activity and outsourcing)? </li></ul><ul><li>Functional Flexibility – core & skilled staff </li></ul><ul><li>Skilling – ‘polyvalency’ – a requirement for multi-skilled and adaptable staff – the erosion of traditional craft demarcations </li></ul><ul><li>Responsible autonomy – employees expected to have more creative input and autonomy in production processes (direct management control is reduced for ‘high skill’, core workers) </li></ul><ul><li>Communications - channels of communication between managers and operational staff are opened-up – direct relationships enable rapid feed back and collaborative working </li></ul>
  22. 22. Implications of organisational re-structuring and ICTs for employment & jobs (2) <ul><li>Numerical flexibility and the emergence of ‘atypical’ work – (mainly) non-core & less skilled staff </li></ul><ul><li>Atypical contracts – fixed term (but no longer just for the lower-skilled), ‘zero hour’, performance-related pay and ‘piece work’ </li></ul><ul><li>Atypical employment – self-employment, subcontracting, agency employment…increase in portfolio working </li></ul><ul><li>Atypical time use – part time, flexitime, shift work (but a gender skew) </li></ul><ul><li>Atypical locations – satellite offices, mobile work, telecentres and telework </li></ul>
  23. 23. Implications of organisational re-structuring and ICTs for employment & jobs (3) <ul><li>Delayering </li></ul><ul><li>Downsizing </li></ul><ul><li>- Challenges to middle management as intermediate strata are ‘stripped out’ (a process of down-sizing or ‘right-sizing’ as functions are outsourced, core competencies are foregrounded, and ICTs obviate the need for human oversight and data capture relating to operations) </li></ul><ul><li>… but, loss of tacit knowledge? </li></ul><ul><li>- Move to a network economy & employment profile with more freelancing and contract working </li></ul><ul><li>Flattened hierarchies – ICTs facilitate enhanced and direct communications and data capture relating to operations (via MIS etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Authority and autonomy - new responsibilities for ‘front office’, fieldworkers, and production staff as middle management jobs are shed </li></ul>
  24. 24. Implications of organisational re-structuring and ICTs for employment & jobs (4) <ul><li>Information Workers (1) </li></ul><ul><li>New forms of work - generated by ubiquitous ICTs (in existing and new ‘technology focused’ organisations) </li></ul><ul><li>- Approximately 1 million ICT practitioners in the UK and 17m users of ICT facilities and applications (in a workforce of 29m) </li></ul><ul><li>High skill occupations – software and content development, analysts and programmers, installation of hardware and software, systems administration, computer and communications engineers (high skill ICT workers constitute 3% of national employment) </li></ul><ul><li>Lower-skill occupations – maintenance, data input, operators </li></ul><ul><li>Major areas of concern – </li></ul><ul><li>- skills shortages and skills gaps are impeding business use of ICTs </li></ul><ul><li>- gender bias: women typically occupy the low-skill occupations -decreasing presence as ‘operator’ grades are eroded (via self-service) </li></ul>
  25. 25. Implications of organisational re-structuring and ICTs for employment & jobs (5) <ul><li>Information Workers (2) - Call Centres </li></ul><ul><li>Massive rise in UK call centre working in the past 10 years (250%) </li></ul><ul><li>More than 1m call centre employees in the UK by 2007 (3% of total employment) (DTI 2004) </li></ul><ul><li>5500 CCs in the UK, handle more than 43bn calls per year – financial and retail sectors are major players </li></ul><ul><li>Often located in low-wage/high unemployment regions in the UK but very vulnerable. Increase in off-shore working - remote centres in relatively low wage economies (exportation of jobs to India, Phillipines and South Africa e.g., BT Directory Enquiries service, and remote diagnostics and data analysis) </li></ul><ul><li>Mainly low skill and low pay - great flexibility required (especially for 24 hour operations)…but some exceptions and some ‘professional’ services </li></ul><ul><li>Mundane, ‘scripted’ work - little latitude, autonomy or professional fulfillment </li></ul><ul><li>Irate & hostile customers – long waiting times, ‘options’ gates </li></ul>
  26. 26. Implications of organisational re-structuring and ICTs for employment (6) <ul><li>Benefits & costs of new ICT-dependent and ICT-mediated forms of working – polarised debate </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Deskilling’ or ‘upskilling’ – </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- some deskilling is evident; some tasks in the manufacturing and service sectors have become routinised (Braverman) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- but…upgrading appears to predominate – new processes and the use of ICTs imply upskilling for a majority of workers (98% report no decrease in skill levels in the past four years) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>‘ Job displacement’ or the ‘generation of new employment’ – </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- some jobs destroyed (even in ICT sector) but substitution is evident </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- growth in high level managerial and technical occupations is recorded </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- growth of services has attracted many new workers (some into routine and mundane work) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>‘ Degradation of labour’ versus ‘new forms of (skilled) employment’ – </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- new skill mixes appearing and skill shortages are evident (and ‘soft skills’) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- expansion in professional work (associated with the ICT and knowledge industries) undermines the ‘mass degradation’ thesis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- but some routine tasks have become subject to increased control and monitoring. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A mixed picture in general (according to job & sector) </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. Job content & the experience of work in KE & IS (1) <ul><li>Employment remains central to inclusion – both structurally and psychologically </li></ul><ul><li>Balance - the balance between employment, family and leisure may be stressed for some workers – the ‘dual shift’ may impact negatively with experience or work for some women (cultural expectations and practices are failing to keep pace with changes in the organisation of work and women’s participation – domestic work and 3 rd shift) </li></ul><ul><li>Psychological stress - increasing for some workers as responsibility and accountability is increased (especially where delayering has occurred) </li></ul><ul><li>Progression - opportunities for training and advancement are improving for some groups of workers (but traditional biases are still present) </li></ul><ul><li>Routine and mundane work - common in service occupations (even much ICT work – e.g., data entry - is mundane and repetitive!) </li></ul>
  28. 28. Job content & the experience of work in KE & IS (2) <ul><li>Surveillance - ICT offers myriad opportunities for surveillance and monitoring of performance (the ‘IT Panopticon’, Zuboff) </li></ul><ul><li>Job satisfaction - frequently related to employee involvement in ‘change’ processes, restructuring and the implementation of ICTs </li></ul><ul><li>ICTs: mode of deployment - satisfaction is also related closely to the implementation of ICTs as either an ‘automating’ or an ‘informating’ feature of work </li></ul><ul><li>Health effects – ICTs linked with stress, RSI, and eye complaints (ergonomics or inherent problems in the technology?) – H&S recommendations frequently go unheeded – rapid pace of work and management pressure </li></ul><ul><li>Contracting - peripheral and non-standard forms of work/contracting - a source of insecurity and disaffection for many (a little under 10% of UK workforce employed on fixed-term contracts – legislation has little impact?) Some groups of workers prefer contract arrangements </li></ul><ul><li>Experience of work - closely related to autonomy, remuneration, and security but some professionalised workers report increased alienation (as a result of discontinuous change) </li></ul>
  29. 29. 5 Changing organisations, changing work: summary and conclusions (1) <ul><li>Technologies and forms of work - selected rather than pre-ordained – technology does not drive the organisation of work but is implicated in the development of systems and structures </li></ul><ul><li>Work design - involves multiple players with partial understandings, different objectives and interests and differential access to power and resources – work (re-) design is often contested (see recent disputes, for example, BA) </li></ul><ul><li>Heterogeneity - wide differences in the organisation of work are apparent within and across industrial sectors (despite some overarching trends) – the organisation of work processes is highly heterogeneous </li></ul><ul><li>New organisational forms - some new forms of organisational structure are evident – ICTs play an important role (KIBS, virtual organisations etc.) & increased demands for flexible labour and flexible production methods are common </li></ul><ul><li>Flattened hierarchies – lead to increased responsibility and communication </li></ul>
  30. 30. Changing organisations, changing work: summary and conclusions (2) <ul><li>Knowledge - increasing use of ‘knowledge’ in recursive innovation processes – an common characteristic of contemporary organisations </li></ul><ul><li>Outsourcing - and non-standard forms of contracting have accompanied organisational change in the past 20 years </li></ul><ul><li>Job creation and upskilling (?) - ICTs have implied the emergence and expansion of several occupational groups – ICT does not appear to have led to generalised de-skilling (but a mixed picture in some industries and sectors) </li></ul><ul><li>Experience of work - differs massively between sectors, occupations and workplaces – increased responsibility and skill-demands are reported but mundane and ‘scripted’ jobs remain as a feature of the contemporary labour landscape </li></ul>