During the past two decades, many organizations have sought to utilize a number of participative management techniques in order to both motivate their workforce and to make their operations more effective in terms of costs, quality, productivity, and customer service. This study examines one such technique that has gained widespread popularity: job enrichment or job redesign. Written for students and practitioners of human resource management and organizational development, the authors report on the experience with job enrichment and work restructuring in four firms and compare the experiences of two. Throughout, the authors focus particularly on the primary challenge confronted by job redesign advocates within the individual organization: how to diffuse the relevant concepts in such a way that they have a widespread and lasting impact on the performance of the organization.
Using detailed written documentation from the four companies as well as in-depth interviews, the authors describe how each company attempted to diffuse job redesign throughout the organization and identify the lessons for management that can be learned from each case. The reasons for the success or failure of diffusion in each company are examined in detail as are the particular steps taken by personnel within the organization. As the authors demonstrate, the successful spread of new management concepts throughout the organization requires skillful manipulation by internal advocates of the process. The most effective advocates, they argue, have detailed knowledge of the operations of an organization and use this knowledge to develop their innovations.