Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' 2 2006, page 9-22.
Sustainable work system development
Sustainable work system development means concurrent development at the individual and collective levels of a work system. Regenerative work characterized by comprehensibility, manageability, and meaningfulness supports the development of individual employees; personally and socially rewarding, rich yet manageable work experiences allow continuous learning of employees. Collective development in its turn grows from collective learning processes in which individual employees share their learning experiences with others and in which the insights of individuals gradually become interpreted and integrated as shared ideas and practices. The paper first presents a conceptual model on sustainable work system development, then reasons why such sustainable development is difficult to achieve in the contemporary working life are explored through several case studies carried out in Sweden and Finland. The imbalanced transition from the bureaucratic operational model to post-bureaucracy is recognized as the main challenge for sustainable development. The increasing competitive pressures on companies have led to the creation of post-bureaucratic work allowing greater autonomy and emphasizing a higher degree of personal responsibility in an employee’s work. However, organizational approaches and practices have not developed along with this change, but continue to follow the logic of authority, impersonality, and predetermination. In the crosswinds of post-bureaucratic work and bureaucratic organizing, the comprehensibility, manageability, and meaningfulness of work are at danger and – at the same time – the collective learning processes become hampered by remaining bureaucratic structures and relations.