The Electronic Discussion on
From the Electronic Discussion on Group Facilitation
In the last several years, organizations and consultants have shown
increasing interest in accelerating the process for redesigning
organizations and implementing change. One of the approaches to
accelerated redesign is Participative Design. But, the term
participative design is not well understood. This paper will clarify
the participative design process.
Participative design is commonly associated with a short (usually 2 days)
workshop in which representatives of the target workgroup analyze their
work system and redesign it. The design of the workshop (developed and
advocated by Fred and Merrelyn Emery) consists of three main components.
First, participants analyze their current work systems according to six
Second, the participants analyze their workflow and design their workunit
according to Design Principle 2". Design principle 2 is characterized by
the democratic, self-governing organizational model, in which there is
multi-skilling, responsibility for control and coordination within the
workgroup itself, payment for skills (both social and technical), and
joint responsibility for goal attainment.
Third, participants prescribe other actions needed to support their new
work system. The activities in this section include: establishing
measurable goals and objectives for the work group, identifying
training requirements and immediate action steps, establishing career
paths or skill blocks for developing the necessary skills, and
explaining how their design will improve the scores on the six criteria
used to initially analyze the work system.
But, participative design is actually a much broader process for
redesigning organizations. The participative design process consists of
many of the steps of a traditional socio-technical systems change process.
It includes a set of activities for preparing the organization for change.
The process requires work with senior management to clarify management
and organizational values and defining the benefits of a more
participative, self-managing work organization. The participative design
is premised on the belief that management has made a clear decision to
operate under design principle 2. The process typically includes visioning
activities, strategy clarification and the establishment of business
Search conference methods are often used in the participative
design process to establish the values, strategies, and objectives.
There are many other fundamental activities that precede the participative
design workshop. These include developing a job protection statement,
working with any union(s) to establish joint ownership of the participative
design process, establishing a budget, obtaining resource to support the
process, creating support structures (Steering Groups, resource groups,
etc.), and creating the overall design of the process. The resources
the process receive training in participative design.
Participative design is a unique organization change process. The
resources supporting the process must understand the process as well as
their role in supporting the process.
The participative design process also includes preparing the leadership
for a new function in the organization. New roles for managers and supervisors
in a design principle 2 environment are explored. Often specific interventions
are designed for supervisors. These interventions explore other value-added
work that supervisors and managers may perform. They provide managers and
supervisors with a sense of security and the challenge of working on more
The education and awareness activities that occur in many traditional
socio-technical systems redesignefforts are also relevant and valuable in
the participative design process. Site visits and readings are valuable to
helping future workshop participants understand different organizational
models that are possible and successful. Attendance at work innovation
conferences further supports these learnings. Need for change workshops
help unfreeze the organization and explore innovative work designs.
The participative design process includes a series of activities which
occur after the participative design workshop itself. Employees who did
not attend the workshop must receive information on the new design. If
multiple design workshops are conducted, a process for integrating the
different designs must occur. Final designs must be agreed to and
implemented. New roles and work processes must be more fully defined.
Employees must brief people outside the workgroup, defining new points of
contacts and explaining new operating requirements or procedures.
A critical focus in implementation is the development and delivery of
training in the critical skills identified by the workshop participants.
Processes need to be created to enable efficient, timely delivery of this
training. Additionally, new compensation systems, required to support
the transition to multi-skilling, must be developed and implemented.
Skill blocks must be developed, certification processes created, and roles
for stewarding the new pay-for-skills systems established .
The initial (Stage 1) participative design workshop focuses on the design
of the work group itself. Significant boundary redefinition and major
changes in functional roles and responsibilities (e.g., the restructuring
from a functional organization to a cross-functional product aligned
organization) are considered at a later time by a deep slice of the
(Stage 2). During the participative design workshop participants identify
suggestions for changing boundaries and changes outside their workgroups,
but these suggestions are outside the boundary of the Stage 1 workshop. The
resource groups and the Steering Group must acknowledge these suggestions
and ensure that they are considered during Stage 2.
During the Stage 2 phase of the participative design process, a deep slice
of the organization considers changes to the existing work group structure.
These are significant changes that cut across the organization and have
more profound impacts. A participative design workshop and process is
conducted to develop the higher level design. Subsequent participative
design workshops for individual work groups my then follow.
Participative design is truly an iterative, on-going design process.
The initial workshop provides workers with a methodology and a structure
for analyzing their work system and designing a more effective work group.
But as markets change, customers and competitors change, and as technology
changes, work groups must continue to adapt. The participative design
process provides workers with a process for continually assessing their
structures and adapting to changes.
In summary, the design process is more broader than the participative
design workshop itself. It consists of a series of change and
implementation actions that must skillfully be managed.