New Forms of Organization - Synthesis Essay

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1693 Words
Date:  2022-10-26


According to Palmer, Benveniste, & Dunford (2007, p. 1829), the term "new forms of organization" (NFOO) was widely used in Europe in the 1970s. It was a human-centered perspective and part of a movement to humanize labor and democratize the company. At present, organizational renewal is the order of the day because it is understood as one of the essential means for the survival and improvement of business competitiveness in the context of intensified competition in the global economy. Pettigrew et al. (2003, p. 27) states that the European Commission launched the debate on the renewal of the organization of work in 1997, stressing in this connection a set of interconnected features, such as flatter hierarchies, horizontalization of structures, more functional content rich and diversified work, teamwork, centrality of skills, autonomy in performing work, confidence in labor relations, and worker involvement and participation. Miller, Greenwood, & Prakash (2010, p. 351) argue that for most organizations today, it is not about implementing change programs based on values of democratization and humanization in the world of work, but on the prevalence of an efficiency-centric perspective that underlies a new wave of rationalization that is called "flexible rationalization". Maria and Isabel (2010) argue that flexibilization regarding the organization of production structures, organizational arrangements, labor relations, and human resources competencies is intended to give companies the capacity to adapt to change. The term new forms of work organization, used in both political and academic discourses, are ambiguous because it does not distinguish these two perspectives.

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The Green Paper: Partnership for a New Forms of Organization (1997) (as cited by Emily & Valentina 2015, p. 5), released by the European Commission, identifies new ways of organizing work with "flexible enterprise". Thus, although there is no single model for a new organization of work, this concept implies more innovative and flexible structures, based on excellence in competence and the primacy of trust, as well as greater employee participation (Emily & Valentina 2015, p. 1)). This definition, often used in political and academic discourses, blends different approaches to NFOO: the humanistic perspective of European tradition (especially from the Nordic countries) and the perspective centered on Japanese and American inspired efficiency. It is therefore important to distinguish between these two perspectives.

Berardi (2009, p. 23) argues that the human-centered perspective can be seen as the high road of work organization innovation because it targets not only high levels of productivity and high levels of quality of products and services but also high salaries, high levels skills and a high level of quality of life at work. In this way, the emphasis is on the holistic perspective, the division of tasks, the importance of specifically human knowledge and skills, the use of technology as a means to improve skills and competencies, and the autonomy of work teams and individuals. Galani, Sanchez, & Zuniga (2005, p. 281) suggest that case studies of experiences in the European Community indicate that it is possible to reconcile competitive economic performances with the improvement of the quality of life at work and with environmental protection. However, the widespread acceptance of the idea of the diffusion of new principles of rationalization (lean production and business process re-engineering) has receded innovative European experiences inspired by the human factor perspective (sociotechnical model, anthropocentric model or reflexive production).

Child and McGrath (2001, p. 1137) argue that the efficiency-centric perspective can be seen as the low road of organizational innovation for cost reduction and short-term adaptation. Consequently, the emphasis is on the use of technology to replace workers, on the slimming of the organization by outsourcing and relocation of functions that are not part of core business (outsourcing) and just-in-time methods. Decentralization and greater accountability of workers for a range of tasks and functions are aimed at increasing flexibility and reducing costs. Authors such as Gulati, Lawrence, and Puranam (2005, p. 421) and Barrett and Malcolm (2008, p. 248) use the concept of high-performance work organizations, which due to the results in financial and productivity terms is considered as best practice management whose diffusion allows to improve the competitiveness of companies. Some of the more recent studies highlight the negative effects that exist in this system of work, that is, gains in terms of autonomy are largely overcome by intensification of work, insecurity, and stress (Maria & Isabel 2010, p. 242; Miller, Greenwood, & Prakash 2009, p. 275).

Palmer, Benveniste, & Dunford (2007) state that the human factor perspective is rooted in European experience, more specifically in the tradition of the Nordic countries. In fact, in the 1950s an alternative model to the Taylorist-Fordist model was proposed, and interventions were made in the companies in a new perspective that came to be called the "sociotechnical approach" elaborated by researchers (sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists) of the Tavistock Institut of Human Relations in London. In the 1970s, we can speak of a movement to humanize labor and democratize the company, especially in the Nordic countries and Germany. This approach gained increasing acceptance in the US and became known as the "Quality of Life at Work" approach.

According to Hsu, and Hannan (2005), NFOO are characterized by the commitment to promote the high-involvement organization. In the late 1980s, under the FAST program and following socio-technical principles, it was proposed to disseminate the principles of the anthropocentric model as the best way to increase the competitiveness of European industry (Langley & Tsoukas 2010, p.11). Economic and social objectives were closely linked: improving economic performance and improving quality of life at work (Nault & Tyagi 2001, p. 790). Autonomy at work, in this perspective, is inscribed in individualism-emancipation while providing greater freedom and capacity for action to workers.

Whereas in the 1970s the diffusion of new forms of work organization took place in an environment of social reforms, it is currently linked to economic objectives and tends to be instrumental in the service of business competitiveness (Pettigrew 2003, p. 19). Today, as already mentioned, in the context of the intensification of global competition, it is not a matter of implementing change programs based on values of democratization and humanization of the world of work, but of a new wave of rationalization called "Flexible rationalization". According to Ness (2014, p.3), while "the economic crisis of the 1970s encouraged experiments with new forms of work organization, the economic crisis of the early 1990s seems to have led to the cessation of these experiences (Ness 2014, p.12). Innovative experiences based on the humanist perspective on anthropocentric systems4 have been overshadowed by the widespread diffusion of ideas and practices of flexible rationalization.

Nault and Tyagi (2001) believe that the great diffusion of ideas and practices of flexible rationalization is also related to powerful mechanisms and channels of diffusion. The flexible rationalization discourse, in vogue, conquers not only adepts; it is above all a true consulting industry which profits from a number of activities, such as the organization of seminars, the publishing, and dissemination of books and the intervention of companies in order to reorganize and optimize them. According to Miller, Greenwood, & Prakash (2009, p. 792), the BPR (business process re-engineering) program is not confined to the mass dissemination of a discourse through diversified channels (equipment suppliers, consultants, professional associations, management schools, publications, etc.); has also proved to be a big business, estimated at $ 51 billion in 1995.

As Gulti, Lawrence, & Punaram (2005, p. 427), the breakdown of organizations brought about by reengineering has become profitable because it allows for short-term returns to shareholders. It should also be noted that widely publicized "excellent companies" are imitated by thousands of companies that seek to survive and/or win in the battle fought for competitiveness. Hsu & Hannan (2005, p. 483) state that flexible rationalization exalts the subjectivity and autonomy of the individual. According to Berardi (2009), this is an ambiguous process. Berardi calls for an individualistic morality based on the realization of the individual, in his creativity, in his commitment and not in the collective interest or in social values. Individualization of values, the exaltation of subjectivity and individual responsibility are the principles for the mobilization of human resources at the service of companies (Maria & Isabel 2010, p. 347). Management practices increasingly rely on individual responsibility at work, individualization of remuneration, careers, training, information/communication and assessment of personal potential. These practices are presented by their advocates as manifestations of the development of situations and labor relations in the sense of their personalization. However, according to their critics, they are part of a management rationalization strategy that seeks, on the one hand, greater freedom for employees to use their work as a source of competitiveness and, on the other hand, to prevent the collective mobilization of workers that could jeopardize the profitability of corporations (Child & McGrath 2010, p. 1141). The individualism-emancipation that provides greater freedom, autonomy, and capacity for action, therefore, must prevail, but an individualism-fragilization that individual in an isolated being subject to insecurity, disaffiliation and the weakening of the social bond (Miller, Greenwood, & Pakash 2009, p. 275). Flexible rationalization engenders not autonomy, but new power, new controls that are barely visible, as Richard Sennett writes:

Pettigrew (2003, p. 63) argues that by attacking rigid bureaucracy and emphasizing risk, it is argued, flexibility gives people more freedom to shape their lives. In fact, the new order institutes new controls, rather than simply abolishing the rules of the past - but these new controls are also difficult to understand. The new capitalism is an often illegible system of power (Langley & Tsoukas 2010, p. 15). According to Gulati, Lawrence, and Punaram (2005, p. 425), the mutual reinforcement of intensified competitive pressures in global markets and the role of agents and channels of dissemination of organizational innovation are some of the main factors of the prevalence of the perspective focused on economic performance and the retreat of practices inspired by the perspective centered on the human factor, oriented to the conciliation of the economic performance with the quality of life at work.

Ness (2015) argues that today, the emphasis is on networks and virtual organizations as models par excellence of the information society. This model, with its flexible and provisional structures, is considered ideal to achieve an adaptation to the conditions of the instability of a globalized economy and respond to an uncertain and varied demand. According to Maria & Isabel (2010, p. 348) flexible enterprise is understood as a new, decentralized, networked organizational structure that not only requires higher qualifications but also requires broader and more varied co...

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