What is work redesign?
Work redesign encourages companies to review their current work
processes and organizational human resource policies to ensure that these operations and
practices support the overall strategic mission of the company. It is important to note that work
redesign is more than continuous improvement. It is more than doing things better - it is also about
doing things differently.
Work redesign starts from the top, the company vision. It implores
companies to revisit the fundamentals of their existence. Companies
are encouraged to re-think assumptions and seek renewal within the
With work redesign, companies start to think from their customers'
point of view and examine if their operations and policies allow them
to satisfy customers' needs. The way things are done and the way
people work are scrutinized and improved upon; sometimes totally changed, so as to better
meet customer needs and support the company's mission.
There are many ways to redesign work and for whatever method
employed, the people element is important to ensure the success of
the transformation. Companies, like the Singapore Bus Service (SBS)
and the Westin Hotels, understand this importance and have adopted a
total approach to work redesign. They have made work more
challenging for staff.
For staff at the Westin Hotels, the redesign of the housekeeping
department into self-organised teams has granted them more decision
making power. Work redesign has allowed them to develop in more
than one job area and skill. Westin has since observed significantly
higher quality of work from their staff and speedier response to
customer needs, and received more compliments from hotel guests.
Work redesign critical success factors
As with any business solution, it is essential to understand the
dynamics of work redesign - the pitfalls and critical success factors for
achieving genuine quantum improvements for the long term. All too
often, companies embark on work redesign before truly understanding
what it takes to get there.
Such attempts often result in less than ideal results and staff being
increasingly sceptical about the company's ability to implement
To ensure success for your work redesign, the following are essential:
Employ a total approach to work redesign.
comprises process and job redesigns and will lead to the need to review job assignments,
training plans and compensation structures.
Select processes to redesign based on their value to the bottomline, urgency to business, level of complexity and probability of work redesign success. It is
useless to make dramatic improvements in processes that do not significantly add value or
improve bottom-line results.
Think boldly and do not be constrained by preconceived
notions - imagine designing the process from scratch; new process designs should be
innovative and feasible.
Never neglect the importance of people in work redesign.
Failure to address people issues resulting from work redesign, such as job changes, will
result in disgruntlement.
Involve senior management, stakeholders and those
directly impacted to gain buy-in and commitment, and access to resources
needed for work redesign.
Appoint the best people
A focus on eliminating work, not people
Manage change effectively.
Empower line managers and workers.
Plan the implementation and phase it out.
to serve on the project team and elect a champion to
drive the work redesign. The team should have a combination of process design and human
resource development expertise and experience.
is the key to long-term
benefits. Reconsider every activity in the process and determine the purpose it serves and
The change due to work redesign will be drastic
in terms of culture, paradigm, mindset, systems, jobs, etc. Prepare people for change and
address resistance to change. Maintain open communication channels at all times.
Planning for the work redesign
should generally be top-down, however, the implementation works best bottom-up.
Do not underestimate
the effort needed to execute the work redesign. Establish effective relationships between
work redesign teams and stakeholders by creating a shared vision for change. Develop a
thorough step-by-step implementation plan and formulate milestones. Built in a pilot phase
if necessary. Establish monitoring system, institutionalise results and reinforce them.
Is work redesign for you?
Work redesign can work miracles for your company. However, before
embarking on work redesign, it is important to determine if work
redesign is indeed the solution for your problems.
Root problems of the process are examined. There is a strong
tendency to jump into work redesign without spending enough time
assessing the problems. Be careful to not just examine symptoms but
look deeper for root problems. Only by identifying root problems can
you then determine whether work redesign is your proper solution.
Without first systematically analysing business processes to sort out
symptoms and develop a thorough understanding of the problems,
work redesign is not likely to resolve much.