Participative Design is a methodology for work (re) design developed by the Australian social scientists Fred and Merrelyn Emery and has proven its effectiveness in many countries around the world.
Participative design enables organizations to redesign themselves fast and cost effectively through the involvement of the people whose work is changing. The vehicle to do the redesign is called the Participative Design Workshop (PDW). With clearly understood design principles and simple tools to analyze their situation, natural work groups can redesign themselves in three days. An entire organization should not take longer than a few weeks.
The outcome is a highly flexible, adaptive organization, structured around multi-skilled, self-managed groups, with the capacity to learn itself into solutions continuously.
Most work redesign strategies today impose expert solutions on the organization and often take months just to do the data gathering and diagnostics. A select team of internal and external experts extract data, detailing every measure of input, output, business processes, the reporting relationships and social conditions.
Of course, the people who already know all that are the people that work there! Moreover, they already have ideas, and in many cases strong views, as to how their work sections can be changed for the betterment of themselves, their peers, and the enterprise as a whole. By pooling their initiatives for change, they themselves can redesign their workplace. Having people participate in the design of their own work establishes that every person, from the president to the front-line employee, can be a researcher, learner, teacher and resource. A clear, conceptual understanding of the basic structure of work and what motivates people to put their best foot forward is all you need for this "do-it-yourself" work redesign method.
1. Adequate elbow room for decision making. The sense that people can influence their own work and that, with the exception of specific circumstances, they don't have to ask permission for everything. Enough elbow room to feel empowered but not so much that they just do not know what to do.
2. Opportunity to learn continually on the job. Such learning is possible when people can set goals that are reasonable challenges for them and get timely feedback on results.
3. An optimum level of variety. Through the avoidance of boredom and fatigue, people can gain the best advantages from settling into a satisfying and effective rhythm of work.
4. Mutual support and respect. Conditions where people can and do get help and respect from their co-workers.
5. Meaningfulness. A sense of one's own work meaningfully contributing to society. Also, to have knowledge of the whole product or service. Many jobs lack meaningfulness, because workers see only such a small part of the final product that meaning is denied to them.
6. A desirable future. Put simply, not a dead-end job, but one with a career path which will allow personal growth and increase in skills.
An example is the traditional assembly line, where a worker is limited to a segmented piece of work, and can be easily replaced by another worker (replaceable part) who needs little, if any, training to do the simple tasks.
Through its focus on tasks, the traditional organization is made up of narrowly skilled, replaceable people whose work is closely controlled and coordinated by supervisors one step above the work.
By the nature of its structure, a DP1 organization defeats some or all of the core requirements for productive activity.
Self-managed teams can operate on a variety of levels. They can operate as a team, running a unit as a small business; as a cross-functional project team with participation of customers and suppliers, or as a collaborative venture with other companies.
Self-managed teams are typically responsible for: