Industrial work groups : the impact of job design, leader support and group processes on initiative and self-organization

University dissertation from Örebro : Örebro universitet

Abstract: From an organizational perspective the issue of which organizational solutions will benefit productivity, efficiency and the innovation process is central. Work groups can be an effective means. The general aim of the thesis from a psychological perspective is to examine work conditions and thereafter investigate how such conditions impact on whether or not work groups redefine stipulated tasks to incorporate initiative-taking and self-organization, thus enabling them to implement meaningful change.Based on action regulation theory, detailed work task analysis is assumed to be worthwhile as it provides data that cannot be captured with interviews or questionnaires exclusively. Data is based on work task analyses and questionnaires administered to work groups at four Swedish industrial organizations. In Study I a theoretical model of the relations of job design, work routines and social routines and reflexivity and learning processes was tested. Results showed that job design and work routines strongly impacted on reflexivity and learning processes. In Study II this model was extended into a theoretical inputprocess- output model to include group initiative and self-organizational activities as outcomes of job design, mediated by group processes. The model provided substantial, but not complete, support. Job design strongly impacts on reflexivity, and reflexivity directly impacts self organizational activities. To explore the importance of leadership support and potency longitudinally for group initiative, in Study III two data collections were included. The findings showed that potency, compared to perceived autonomy and support from leader, was the best predictor of group initiative. Together the studies show that the dimensions of job design, support from leader, reflexivity, and potency as well as cooperation and social support are important for the outcomes of work groups if the organization wants groups to take initiative and engage in self-organizational activities. It is also advocated that job design contains an inherent potential for learning and the possibility to make use of one’s resources. Main findings, strengths, limitations, practical and theoretical implications, directions for future research and when it will be worthwhile to invest in group work are included in the discussion.

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