Minimal critical specification and collective organisational redesign

Johan E. Ravn

Abstract


The purpose of this article is to apply concepts of socio-technical systems thinking (STS), enriched with concepts from more recent organisation theory, to analyse a case of participatory design of core manufacturing processes in a company. The redesign process considered transformation of operational logistics of the installation phase, which is a complex and costly phase. The focus is a test of the concept of minimal critical specification, applied as a principle for work process redesign. In the process under study, managers, supervisors and worker representatives at all levels and functions directly affected took part in the process of redesigning the material flow system and the corresponding control system at the operational level, and the design was put into operation by the company. After a year of operation, the new design was modestly favourably assessed by the organisation. The case shows the possibility and importance of the affected work system’s influence in the development, operationalisation and implementation of a new organisation, and the findings demonstrate how manifold relevant participant knowledge may be incorporated into a workable redesign process. The findings cannot be generalised on the basis of this one case, but we will argue that the case serves as a demonstrator project for the model tested.


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