Organisation Design, Levels of Work and Innovation

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Why Innovation in Work Design?

A key question being asked by today’s organisational designers is: “how do we design structures and jobs so that we create a culture of innovation?” This is based on the premise that in today’s VUCA context, the most effective and sustainable competitive advantage of most organisations arises from the unique judgement and innovation of their employees.

Levels of Work and Innovation

The Levels of Work model describes discretion at different themes of work, and therefore also a different type of innovation that can be expected according to the discretion given, described as follows:

Theme I (Quality) : As a result of individuals’ being in direct contact with their work and exercising “touch and feel” judgement, the innovation exercised is that of finding faster and more accurate ways of working e.g. an artisan finds a quicker way to fit a broken pipe thus saving time and money.

Theme II (Service) : The use of “accumulating” judgement means that the innovation applied aims at finding the best fit solution for the situation i.e. the flexibility of delivery and customised solutions which result in more efficient outcomes e.g. a medical specialist ignores a common protocol in favour of one which is better suited to the patient’s needs.

Theme III(Practice): The exercise of judgement described as ”connecting” or “linking” results in innovation being applied to the continuous improvement of best practices, often leading to reduced costs and increased output of an operational unit e.g. a manager adopts an improvement on an existing technology which reduces the resources required, increases efficiency and lowers the cost of production.

Theme 4(Strategic Development): the application of “modelling” judgement leads to innovation in the sense of introducing completely new systems to the organisation, as opposed to only building on what is there already. This could, for example, entail determining the feasibility of bringing a new product or income stream into the company.

Theme 5 (Strategic Intent): the use of “weaving” judgement results in innovation that considers total organisational transformation e.g. moving the organisation into a completely different industry in order to preserve longer term sustainability.

Implications for organisation design

By structuring work appropriately and allowing the appropriate discretion for innovation to manifest at different levels of work, the benefits of innovation at every level may be realised, regardless of the business strategy being followed. Structuring according to Levels of work therefore provides a guideline for sustainable organisational innovation, in which the operational levels of work contribute to current effectiveness and efficiency, and where the longer term sustained competitive advantage may be maintained by the Strategic levels of work. –

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