Anarchy 47/Towards freedom in work

From Anarchy
Jump to navigation Jump to search


in work


The heart of this essay is the idea of free work in fel­low­ship, and it can be il­lus­trated simply from the prac­tice:

  In an elec­trical com­pon­ents fact­ory we had trouble plan­ning for smooth flow of com­pon­ents and bal­an­cing of oper­a­tions. Out­put varied con­sider­ably from one oper­ator to another. Mon­day’s out­put was some 25% lower than out­put on Thurs­day which was the clos­ing day of the bonus week, and work dis­cip­line was only fair. After some study a group bonus sys­tem was de­signed and the out­line, mean­ing and pur­pose of this was put to the group which was then left to dis­cuss it among its mem­bers, (free group dis­cus­sion). The girls agreed to have a trial and they were then in­vited to check the base times set per oper­a­tion, (group par­ti­ci­pa­tion in method). The sys­tem was intro­duced with the quick re­sult that the group mem­bers so or­gan­ised them­selves that the flow of work was greatly im­proved, dis­cip­line im­proved as a result of in­ternal group con­trols, and out­put in­creased by about 12% over that pre­vi­ously at­tained under the indi­vidual piece­work sys­tem. (Here the group took over the local man­age­ment func­tion of in­ternal work pro­gres­sing and, more im­port­ant, that of local man-manage­ment).

  But inter­est­ing though the fig­ures given are, the heart of the mat­ter for me was in the group’s at­ti­tude to a girl called Mary, whose out­put, I pointed out, was some 16% lower than the group av­er­age. I was met with the ant­ag­on­istic group re­join­der that Mary was a nice girl. This pro­foundly true eval­u­a­tion by the group of the worth of qual­ities like kind­ness and good­ness cuts across the mot­iv­a­tional fab­ric of our modern cul­ture, and it is a state­ment of values I have found in nearly all small groups who work closely to­gether. I knew that Mary was un­wit­tingly the “group psy­chi­at­rist”, but were I a poet it would take an epic pen to tell that here was a guid­ing candle­light in the dark waste­land of our
ma­ter­i­al­ist cul­ture. In terms of pro­duc­tion ef­fi­ciency, indi­vidual cost, and export-import bal­ance, Mary is a dead loss whose vir­tues are not en­tered in the com­mer­cial stat­ist­i­cian’s re­ports; but the Mary’s are the sym­bols of the riches of small com­mun­ity liv­ing in which good­ness and kind­ness are highly re­warded, whereas our eco­nomic cul­ture highly re­wards indi­vid­u­al­ist ac­quis­it­ive­ness and ego­centric power and status seek­ing. In terms of indi­vid­u­al­istic cost­ing, based on indi­vid­u­al­ist in­cent­ive schemes, the Mary’s are a costly bur­den, but in terms of over­all group ef­fi­ciency, Mary was a lub­ric­ant factor without which the group could not, would not, have reached and main­tained its state of high pro­duct­ive ef­fect­ive­ness. This ef­fect­ive­ness was a result of a situ­a­tion in which the group shared work and the re­ward of work with en­cour­age­ment of co-oper­a­tion and mu­tual aid, and with group ac­claim of indi­vid­u­al ma­ter­ial and spir­it­ual con­trib­u­tions.

  We use the so­cial-psycho­lo­gical term “group”, but our little group was more than an eco­nomic group dom­in­ated by eco­nomic self-inter­est. Be­cause the group mem­bers con­sciously recog­nised the whole worth of each per­son in the group, there was a fel­low­ship (com­munis), or, it may be said, a fel­low­ship group. Later it will be shown that free work and fel­low­ship are the twin com­pon­ents of indi­vidual growth towards per­sonal matur­ity.

  Tens of thou­sands of kind-hearted Mary’s are vic­tims of our ma­ter­ial­ist cul­ture which of­fers high re­wards for some of the basest of hu­man char­ac­ter­ist­ics and penal­ises some of the best through the stu­pefied at­tach­ment of both man­agers and man­aged to indi­vid­u­al­ist­ic rat­ings and re­wards:

Sweet Mary your production’s poor,
Just dry your tears and go,
For speed and greed are rated high,
But love-for-others, no.
Christ ! Where’s the electrician ?
Our lamps are burning low !

  The il­lus­tra­tion given de­scribes in simple form the group con­tract sys­tem in which the group shares work and the re­wards of work, and has a share in de­ci­sion-making within the local work en­vir­on­ment, a func­tion which hitherto was in the sole field of man­age­ment. The il­lus­tra­tion also touches on the free or in­formal group dis­cus­sion sys­tem which has been in use dur­ing the past fifteen years in a num­ber of com­panies, and in which de­ci­sion-making is shared on a wider level than in the group con­tract sys­tem.

Man Citi­zen and Man Worker

  Deci­sion-making, ac­cord­ing to ortho­dox man­age­ment the­ory is the sole func­tion of man­age­ment; why is it, then, that the prim­ary or non-man­aging worker is not a sig­ni­fic­ant de­ci­sion-maker in work life, but in so­cial life is a re­spons­ible citi­zen who, when he votes for who shall
rep­res­ent him at local and na­tional level, shares in de­ci­sion-making in a co­gent man­ner? Why is it, too, that in work life the chief de­pend­ence is on money re­wards and pen­al­ties to gain be­ha­viour which is con­form­ist to the eco­nomic code of laws, whereas in so­cial life, the large ma­jor­ity of laws are un­writ­ten and de­pend­ence for their oper­a­tion is on free con­sent or morale in the part of the citi­zen? True, the state is lim­it­ing the field of citi­zen free de­ci­sion-making, citi­zen free choice, as cent­ral­ised plan­ning in­creases, but it is never­the­less true that man-worker and man-citi­zen is split schizo­phrenic-wise in a man­ner which in­evit­ably makes for ant­agon­ism be­tween work life and leisure life, and de­grades both. Man-worker is work con­scious (class con­scious?), but as work life is the im­port­ant, money-earn­ing as­pect of living, man-citi­zen oc­cu­pies a sec­ond­ary posi­tion and his work-con­scious­ness enters strongly into so­cial life with con­sequent “anti-social be­ha­viour that seems like black­mail” but, at root, is likely to be un­con­scious healthy pro­test against a schizo­phrenic role in the com­mun­ity.

  Now, there is a school of apo­lo­gist thought which sug­gests that re­spons­ible in­dus­trial demo­cracy is at work when op­pos­i­tion takes place be­tween trade un­ions and em­ploy­ers in col­lect­ive bar­gain­ing [1]. This plaus­ible the­ory has, it seems, con­sider­able sup­port at ex­ec­ut­ive level within the trade un­ions, but it is really a kind of verbal­ism; for while free op­pos­i­tion is a char­ac­ter­istic of demo­cracy, so also is de­pend­ence on in­di­vidual citi­zen morale and the spread of in­di­vidual de­ci­sion-making at the bot­tom as well as at the top of the so­cial struc­ture. A worker who is trained to sit cor­rectly in a chair de­signed to pro­mote max­imum out­put, to move his left arm so and his right arm thus, who is clocked in and out of the works and the lavat­ory while en­gaged on con­tinu­ous, re­pet­it­ive pro­duc­tion in which there is no de­ci­sion-making, is cer­tainly not play­ing a re­spons­ible citi­zen role, even though he has big brother argu­ing against his em­ployer on hours of work and wages. De­pend­ence on big brother man­ager and big brother trade union ex­ec­ut­ive is equally neur­otic in a situ­a­tion in which plan­ning is for ma­ter­ial ad­vant­age and not also for self-respect.

  However, this mat­ter of our schiz­oid cul­ture and of plan­ning for every­thing but self-respect was dealt with many years past in Free Ex­pres­sion in In­dus­try [2] and there is no need to labour it here.

Man­age­ment or Leader­ship in Work?

  There is a quaint idea among man­age­ment con­sult­ants and other ex­perts that man­age­ment in­cor­por­ates lead­er­ship. Indeed, in all modern books on man­age­ment this wish­ful no­tion is cul­tiv­ated. Thus a recent book called The Busi­ness of Man­age­ment [3] makes the state­ment that man­age­ment and lead­er­ship are com­ple­ment­ary, “but they are not the same thing”. In this, as in the ap­pro­pri­ate lit­er­at­ure, ideas on lead­er­ship are hazy; “it is an art that is time­less … it is of the spirit … etc.”, but what­ever lead­er­ship is, it is “an ele­ment in man­age­ment”. Three defin­i­tions, the sec­ond and third from polit­ical sci­ence, may help to clear
the air:

Man­age­ment : Man­age­ment is a (so­cially ne­ces­sary) activ­ity ex­pressed in the sci­ence and art of di­rect­ing, or­gan­is­ing and con­trol­ling ma­ter­ial and human factors within the work in­sti­tu­tion with a view to ef­fect­ive and pro­fit­able re­sults. (No-one, I think, will quar­rel with this ortho­dox defin­i­tion of man­age­ment; the “art” men­tioned is the art of lead­er­ship).

Lead­er­ship : Lead­er­ship is a power activ­ity in which the leader and the led ident­ify in­tern­ally with each other (a “we” feel­ing) and the leader uses his power in a man­ner which ac­cords with the wishes and ex­pect­a­tions of the led [4].

  Man­age­ment (apart from the situ­a­tion when one man is both policy-maker and man­ager) is an agency for its prin­cip­als who are the top policy-makers who en­force eco­nomic policy and re­ward or pen­al­ise man­age­ment in terms of re­sults. An agent always iden­ti­fies with his prin­cipal, even when the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion is only ex­ternal and is ex­pressed in formal loy­alty. He acts in con­form­ity with the pur­pose and policy of his prin­cipal. Make no mis­take, it is not said here that all man­agers iden­tify in­tern­ally with their prin­cip­als (a “we” feel­ing), al­though formal al­le­giance at least is ex­pected. But if man­age­ment iden­ti­fies with its prin­cip­als, as it must, where is the sup­posed iden­ti­fi­ca­tion be­tween prim­ary work­ers and man­agers? Is there really a “we” feel­ing be­tween man­age­ment and man­aged? Is it not, rather a “we-they” feel­ing?

Boss-ship : Boss-ship is a power activ­ity which, though it may con­form to the eco­nomic for­mula, is lack­ing in two-way iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and may not in­clude the re­spect and loy­alty of those who are bossed. Boss-ship may be ex­pressed in master­ship or skill­ship, in fixer­ship or cap­acity to gain con­form­ity by nego­ti­a­tion, in­dul­gen­cies, re­wards and pen­al­ties, and in whole or par­tial dic­tat­or­ship, or all three [4].

  By defin­i­tion, man­age­ment is boss-ship when man­age­ment is ortho­dox, and the con­fu­sion about lead­er­ship and man­age­ment comes from the as­so­ci­a­tion of lead­er­ship with skill­ship and fix­er­ship. It may be said that polit­ical sci­ence has no­thing to do with man­age­ment and, in any case, busi­ness could not be run with the defined lead­er­ship. The eco­nomy is part of the body politic even though it has its own for­mula, and lead­er­ship is lead­er­ship just as a rose is a rose. In fact, when I was a shop stew­ard I had the kind of two-way iden­ti­fi­ca­tion spoken of in the lead­er­ship defin­i­tion, and when I was a man­ager I had to iden­tify with the policy-makers and not with the prim­ary work­ers. When the trade union leader meets the man­aging dir­ector, or the local super­visor meets the shop or union stew­ard, who is then the leader?

  A new defin­i­tion of ortho­dox man­age­ment is in order:

Man­age­ment : Man­age­ment is skilled power activ­ity ex­pressed in the dir­ec­tion, or­gan­isa­tion and con­trol of human and ma­ter­ial fac­tors with a view to ef­fect­ive, pro­fit­able re­sults on be­half of the prin­cip­als, pub­lic or priv­ate, with whom man­age­ment tends to iden­tify when carry­ing out the eco­nomic aims of their prin­cip­als.

  Man­age­ment, though it has yet to be ad­mit­ted in the lit­er­at­ure, is a
power activ­ity. Power is the pro­duc­tion of in­tended ef­fects [5]. Pro­fes­sor Tawney’s defin­i­tion deals with power in a human situ­a­tion, for man­age­ment is a kind of power rela­tion­ship be­tween human beings. Tawney says:

  “Power may be defined as the cap­acity of an indi­vidual, or group of indi­vidu­als, to mod­ify the con­duct of other indi­vidu­als or groups in the man­ner which he (the power-holder) de­sires”. [6]

  It is clear that man­age­ment is a power activ­ity, but what is not made clear in the lit­er­at­ure is that the power is not given by those led as in lead­er­ship, but is granted to man­age­ment by the eco­nomic for­mula which makes the power legal and is en­dowed by ex­ist­ing power holders within the busi­ness hier­archy. Thus man­age­ment’s power at root is formal au­thor­ity.

  Au­thor­ity does not de­pend only on the eco­nomic for­mula which gives it legal sanc­tion; it de­pends on al­le­giance or formal loy­alty from those over whom au­thor­ity is wielded. The au­thor­ity, as I have said, is legal, and to have legal­ity is to win al­le­giance (but not iden­ti­fi­ca­tion) in the minds of the ma­jor­ity of people, given other things are equal.

  Au­thor­ity has small real power, but the prestige of the per­son hold­ing au­thor­ity is an im­port­ant factor. “Even a nod from a per­son who is es­teemed”, said Plutarch, “is of more force than a thou­sand argu­ments”. Wealth, status and tech­nical skills are at­trib­utes which tend to in­crease the weight of au­thor­ity, and it is on these that ortho­dox man­age­ment must on the whole de­pend, if out­right co­er­cion is not to be the rule. But, to re­peat, the gain­ing of formal al­le­giance through ex­ternal iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with au­thor­ity itself, or with this or that at­trib­ute of the per­son hold­ing au­thor­ity, is not lead­er­ship.

  The ex­perts, eco­nomic and psy­cho­lo­gical, who have had this point of view on lead­er­ship in work put to them have, without ex­cep­tion, hotly re­jected it. This re­jec­tion is under­stand­able in view of the hun­dreds of books and the many edu­ca­tional courses on man­age­ment which have pro­moted, and still pro­mote, the idea that ortho­dox man­age­ment and lead­er­ship of human beings are in some mys­tical man­ner twin func­tions. But in our ana­lysis of human lead­er­ship there is no re­jec­tion of man­age­ment and the neces­sity for man­age­ment; rather, there is ad­vanced the idea that the man­age­ment struc­ture be de­signed to inte­grate the human lead­er­ship func­tion with tech­no­lo­gical and com­mer­cial func­tions in a man­ner later to be de­scribed.

Man­age­ment’s Work Doc­trine

  Man­age­ment doc­trine, as with other polit­ical and eco­nomic doc­trines, serves to jus­tify the hold­ers of power and those of the group or class with which the power-hold­ers iden­tify [4].

  Some of the doc­trinal as­sump­tions are:

1. That lead­er­ship is a com­pon­ent of ortho­dox man­age­ment activ­ity. (This we have ex­amined.)

2. That man­age­ment is or can be a pro­fes­sional body with an eth­ical code in­de­pend­ent of the code of the policy-making group which em­ploys
man­age­ment as agent and with which man­age­ment neces­sar­ily iden­ti­fies. The latter part of the fore­going sen­tence con­tains the answer to the first part.

3. That the ortho­dox man­age­ment pro­cess and struc­ture is the best pos­sible and there is no reason­able al­tern­at­ive.

4. That the de­ci­sion-making pro­cess is by right and, in terms of busi­ness ef­fi­ciency, the sole pre­rog­at­ive of man­age­ment, (i.e. the man­agers-must-manage philo­sophy of the Harvard Busi­ness School, the meth­ods of which are being humbly copied in British busi­ness schools.)

  The mat­ter of whether there is a reason­able al­tern­at­ive to ortho­dox man­age­ment pro­cess and struc­ture re­mains to be ex­amined, but that de­ci­sion-making is the sole pre­rog­at­ive of man­age­ment is ques­tion­able.

  It has been shown that man­age­ment is a skilled power activ­ity. Power is de­ci­sion-making or par­ti­ci­pa­tion in the making of de­ci­sions. A has power over B with re­spect to value C, when A par­ti­ci­pates in de­ci­sion-making af­fect­ing the C policy of B [4]. In other words, the man­ager has power over a non-man­aging worker (or a sub­ord­in­ate man­ager) in re­spect of money when the man­ager de­cides that the bonus re­ward for a cer­tain job, which the man­aged-one does to earn money, is so much money. Like­wise, a man­ager ex­hib­its power when he de­cides to move Bill from the job Bill likes to another job which Bill doesn’t like. This is power with re­spect to a man’s de­sires and feel­ings.

  In his book De­ci­sion-making and Pro­ductiv­ity, Pro­fes­sor Melman, as will later be shown, in­dic­ates factu­ally how fool­ish is the man­age­ment doc­trine that the man­agers must man­age, [7], as does Pro­fes­sor Likert in his New Pat­terns of Man­age­ment [8]. But the change from cen­tral­ised de­ci­sion-making to shared de­ci­sion-making is not easy. For the hold­ers of power, if they are not en­light­ened by ma­ture in­sight, tend to hold on to their power. As Lord Acton said, “Power cor­rupts; ab­so­lute power cor­rupts ab­so­lutely”.

  I like the philo­sopher Roger Bacon on the ef­fect of power on man, (I will mis­quote slightly): “Man doeth like the ape, the higher he goeth the more he show­eth his ass”. Power is of an en­croach­ing na­ture, or, as the polit­ical sci­ent­ist Michels put it:

  “Every human power seeks to en­large its pre­rog­at­ives. He who has ac­quired power will al­most al­ways en­deavour to con­solid­ate and to ex­tend it, to mul­ti­ply the ram­parts which de­fend his posi­tion, and to with­draw him­self from the con­trol of the masses”. [9]

  Part of the man­age­ment doc­trine has to do with work, but, it should be said, the idea of work held by man­age­ment is that held by the ma­jor­ity of people:

1. Work is ef­fort ap­plied for the ma­ter­ial values which in­come from work will buy. (Eco­nomic the­ory.)

  There is a corol­lary to this defin­i­tion of work and this com­pre­hends the no­tion of eco­nomic man:

1a. A whole man can wholly be bought for money and money in­cent­ives.

  Many man­agers will rightly re­ject the corol­lary out of hand, but on the whole, judging in terms of eco­nomic tech­niques, the corol­lary
ex­presses eco­nomic doc­trine. It is true that some men will sacri­fice money for status, but not will­ingly in the fol­low­ing case of the loyal forty-years ser­vice clerk who went to the boss in a wool­len mill for a rise from £1 a week. In those days the top men in the wool­len trade wore top hats, and the boss re­plied, “Ah wain’t gie thee a rise Nathan, but that has been a guid and faith­ful ser­vant so on Mon­day tha can come ti wark in a top ’at.”

  If we com­pare other defin­i­tions of work with that given above we will find our­selves leav­ing the con­ceal­ing smoke of eco­nomic work, and breath­ing a sweeter air:

2. Work is prayer; prayer is work. (St. Benedict).

3. I pray with the floor and the bench. (Hasidic Juda­ism).

4. Labour is the great real­ity of human life. In labour there is a truth of re­demp­tion and a truth of the con­struct­ive power of man. (Berdyaev).

5. Laying stress on the im­port­ance of work has a greater ef­fect than any other tech­nique of real­ity living. (Freud).

6. Work and love are the two chief com­pon­ents in the growth of ma­ture per­son­al­ity in com­mun­ity. (Erich Fromm).

  Although our stress is on the psy­cho­lo­gical value of work, as in Freud, Fromm and others, it would be pleas­ing if we had more room to de­velop a work philo­sophy and to quote the poets’ work vi­sions, the fine work philo­sophy in the Hindu Bhagavat Gita (Gandhi’s Karma Yoga), Zen Buddhism, which some­what paral­lels Bene­dict­ine work prac­tice, Chin­ese <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: neo-Confu­cian­ism">neo-Confu­cian­ism which af­firms the ‘Tao or Way’ as that of draw­ing water and gather­ing wood, and as the mar­riage of the sub­lime and the com­mon­place, and the re­spect for the com­mon task in Isaiah, Deutero­nomy and Ecclesi­astes: “There is no­thing bet­ter for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul en­joy good in his labour”.

  But there is small joy in work within the work in­sti­tu­tion, for work is an en­forced means to earn­ing money; and how can the soul en­joy good in its labour when there is no soul in the places where labour is or­gan­ised? But these are big, if some­what odd thoughts, which have as yet no echo in the work in­sti­tu­tion, for to equate work with fel­low­ship, with love, with the liber­ated vital­ity of the art­ist of which Morris, Ruskin, Kropot­kin and others speak, is to be met with the hid­den smile behind the po­lite hand, or with a psy­chi­at­ric diag­nosis. Once I at­tacked what is now called “work study” in one of my books [10] and quoted Plato. “What”, a re­viewer of the Amer­ican edi­tion asked, “has Plato to do with work?” What indeed?

  Yet there is joy in work when the task is a man’s own; when he is not ant-heaped in a mon­strous tall flat which shrinks him to less than man-size, but has a garden in which there is the poetry of ful­fill­ment, “The Apple tree, the Sing­ing, and the Gold.”

  Or he makes a table, or she bakes a good cake, or sews a dress, or to­gether they raise a family—why is there ful­fill­ment only in this work and not in the other? I have been told, “But that’s dif­fer­ent; we
couldn’t or­gan­ise pro­duc­tion that way”. Why is it dif­fer­ent, and who is this “we”?

  What func­tion, if any, has work in the well-being of the per­son­al­ity or, on the other hand, what re­la­tion­ship has work to life as a whole? Why is it, for ex­ample, that the cap­acity reg­u­larly to work is a dom­in­ant factor in indi­vidual norm­al­ity from the psy­chi­at­ric and the depth psy­cho­lo­gical points of view? Why too is work-therapy an es­sen­tial treat­ment in neur­otic and psy­chotic ill­nesses where there is a with­drawal from real­ity? It is be­cause in free, mean­ing­ful work which calls for skill and de­ci­sion-making there is at once a focus­sing of con­scious­ness on the world of real­ity and a pro­tec­tion against the back­ward group of un­con­scious fantasy and in­fant­il­ism.

  Work in which there is free ex­pres­sion of the whole man is an ego-build­ing and sus­tain­ing func­tion of the self. The age of prim­it­ive in­no­cence, of the par­ti­ci­pa­tion mys­tique when men were yet in the mind­less state of one­ness with na­ture, was the Golden Age spoken of in the great reli­gious tra­di­tions. In the Hindu epic, the Maha­barata, there is a Krita or Golden Age: “In that age no buy­ing or sell­ing went on, no ef­forts were made by man; the fruits of the earth were ob­tained by their mere wish; right­eous­ness and aban­don­ment of the world pre­vailed”. The Greek peas­ant poet Hesiod be­moans the pass­ing of the Golden Age in which men cared no­thing for toil and lived like gods and had no sor­row of heart. But of his own, the Iron Age, Hesiod cries: “Dark is their plight. Toil and sor­row by day are theirs and by night the an­guish of death”.

  Writing over 2,000 years past, the Chin­ese philo­sopher Chuang Tzu de­scribes the Golden Age of Chaos, of placid tran­quil­ity in which no work was done and there was no need for know­ledge. In Genesis, man lived in a para­disal Golden Age until with the ex­pres­sion of self-con­scious­ness, of know­ledge of good and evil, the curse of work was placed upon hu­man­ity.

  Always, in the great tra­di­tions, the pain of work and the rise of self-con­scious in­di­vidu­al­ity are twinned, and in other lan­guage the story is re­peated by modern anthro­po­lo­gists who have stud­ied prim­it­ive so­ciet­ies and tell of their loath­ing of work. Prim­it­ive man obeyed the call of the an­cient blood which would charm us away from the sore round of duties and ob­liga­tions to a state of prim­it­ive in­dol­ence in which per­son­al­ity dis­in­teg­rates and, as in the prim­it­ive, the wish sub­sti­tutes for the act, and fan­tasy sub­sti­tutes for dir­ec­ted thought. It is against this re­gres­sion, so well-known to psy­cho­therap­ists, that Freud and Jung warn us:

  “Laying stress upon the im­port­ance of work has a greater ef­fect than any other tech­nique of real­ity liv­ing in the dir­ec­tion of bind­ing the indi­vidual to real­ity. The daily work of earn­ing a live­li­hood af­fords par­tic­u­lar satis­fac­tion when it has been se­lec­ted by free choice; i.e. when through sub­lim­a­tion it en­ables use to be made of ex­ist­ing in­clin­a­tions, of in­stinct­u­al im­pulses that have re­tained their strength, or are more in­tense than usual for con­sti­tu­tional reasons.” (Freud, [11]).

  Freud also stresses the psy­cho­lo­gical value of work in com­mun­ity. Jung has this to say: “The best liber­a­tion (from the grip of prim­it­ive and in­fant­ile fan­tasy) is through reg­u­lar work. Work, however, is sal­va­tion only when it is a free act and has no­thing in it of in­fant­ile com­pul­sion.” [12]

  Work which is cre­at­ive and thought-provok­ing is a bless­ing and a boon to grow­ing per­son­al­ity, but work in which there is no thought and no de­ci­sion-making breeds in­fant­il­ism and is once ac­cursed for those who, like re­pet­it­ive psy­cho­paths, are forced to do it, but mani­fold for those who en­force it and would re­duce another per­son to the level of in­stinct­ive beast or cata­leptic stone. Men do not so much dis­like work as they dis­like their man­age­ment-depend­ent status. They do not dis­like work as such, but mainly that work which calls for small skill and for re­pet­it­ive move­ment, the ef­fect of which, the Amer­ican so­cio­lo­gists Walker and Guest show, is to re­duce in­ter­est in so­cial af­fairs, in sport, in reli­gion, and in out-of-work activ­it­ies gen­er­ally. [13] The im­port­ant aspect of this is that if a man’s oc­cu­pa­tion is thought­less and skill-less, or if he has no oc­cu­pa­tion, he will in­tro­vert and so re­treat from the call of so­cial, family and eco­nomic duties.

  This is the un­spoken fear of the many writ­ers on the prob­lem of leisure: that man, drugged by com­fort and dis­tracted by mass amuse­ments, will re­gress to a state of neur­otic de­pend­ence on the state, the man­agers, the amuse­ment cater­ers, and the com­put­er­isers:—

Here where brave lions roamed, the fatted sheep,
and poppies bloom where once the golden wheat.

Auto­mated Work

  Mech­an­isa­tion pre­cedes auto­ma­tion, and the fruits of mech­an­isa­tion and of tech­no­logy gener­ally, have been dis­trib­uted roughly on the basis of half to in­creased leisure and half to in­creased eco­nomic living stand­ards. If we move into auto­ma­tion in a sub­stan­tial way and the trend con­tinues, then, on a con­serv­at­ive estim­ate, the present work­ing week will be cut by 50% in the next thirty years.

  Mech­an­isa­tion is the use of ma­chines which, on the whole, re­place hand­work. But the pro­duct parts have to be loaded and un­loaded into and out of the ma­chine, the ma­chine itself may re­quire indi­vidual at­ten­tion, and the pro­duct part has to be moved manu­ally be­tween one ma­chine and another. With auto­ma­tion, load­ing and un­load­ing the ma­chine is mech­an­ised and trans­fer ma­chines take the pro­duct part to the next ma­chine, and so on down the line until the pro­duct parts reach as­sembly, when, again, this may be taken over by auto­mated process. The auto­mated pro­cess may be con­trolled by an “elec­tronic brain” and, at higher levels of work, de­ci­sion-making may be the func­tion largely of com­pu­ter­ism.

  I have seen re­mark­able re­sults in labour dis­place­ment in both of­fices and works through auto­ma­tion and com­pu­ter­ism, but it is from Amer­ica that a clear in­dica­tion may be had of the pre­sent and prob­able ef­fects of these pro­cesses. For ex­ample, two men can as­semble as many
radio sets in a day as were formerly as­sembled by two hun­dred men, and a car engine block can be pro­duced by one-eighth of the pre­vi­ous labour force in half the time pre­vi­ously taken. It should be noted, how­ever, that only about 50% of our pro­duc­tion plants are likely to be the sub­ject of full auto­ma­tion.

  About half of the auto­ma­tion slack is taken up by shorter hours, and the other half by in­creased pro­duc­tion, ab­sorp­tion of dis­placed pro­ducers in ser­vice in­dus­tries, and by un­em­ploy­ment. The ten­dency is to in­crease the num­ber of “de­greed” man­agers, elec­tron­ics en­gin­eers and plan­ners, (“From ap­pren­tice to man­aging dir­ector” will be the sub­ject of his­tor­ical novels only, in the future), and to de­crease skill on the work­shop floor. Al­though there will be a lower­ing of skill and thought on the shop floor, it is likely that there will be an up­grad­ing of status, by giv­ing floor work­ers “staff” stand­ing—an event much to be de­sired.

  The re­sult of labour dis­place­ment on ser­vice in­dus­try is re­mark­able and it is likely that in a few years more than half the coun­try’s labour force will be en­gaged in ser­vices—that is, the per­cent­age ef­fort put into man­aging, plan­ning, sell­ing, fin­an­cing, and mov­ing things will radic­ally in­crease. But these ser­vices are also being auto­mated and com­put­er­ised in­creas­ingly. For ex­ample, the auto­mated super­mar­ket, the elec­tron­ic­ally con­trolled rail and motor roads, and, who knows, the com­put­er­ised med­ical and psy­chi­at­ric dia­gnosis and treat­ment, the com­put­er­ised mar­riage ar­range­ment, and the com­put­er­ised, psy­chi­at­ric merit rat­ing card in the per­son­nel de­part­ment which will pick out the rebels and out­siders who need brain sur­gery to make them happy, laugh­ing, well-adjus­ted indi­vidu­als? And why have a doubt­ing, argu­ing, demo­cratic as­sembly com­posed of frail, party-minded humans when a com­puter can so easily and quickly make more reas­on­able and work­able de­ci­sions?

  Auto­ma­tion is more than a works or of­fice method; it is a de­sign for liv­ing which has to be paid for. Indeed, as Aldous Huxley re­marks in his Brave New World Re­vis­ited, like last year’s wash­ing ma­chine, tech­no­lo­gical ad­vances are still being paid for, and each in­stall­ment is higher than the last.

  And auto­mated fact­ory meth­ods have in­vaded the farms and farm­ing em­ploy­ment is fast de­creas­ing. The use of meat-producing fact­or­ies with large sav­ings in labour cost and ef­fi­cient re­duc­tion of an­imal life-hours per unit of meat pro­duced is at once a vic­tory for modern tech­no­logy and a sacri­le­gious monu­ment which bodes ill for our future.

Not now for them the friend­ship of the sun,
the bene­dic­tion of the shel­ter­ing trees,
or soft sweet grass to rumin­ate upon in mead­owed ease
their Mother-nature ster­iled and undone.
Now sun­less fact­or­ies speed their orphan flesh
these egoid other an­imals to refresh.
After we eat of auto­mated cattle,
let’s light a candle in Saint Francis’ chapel.

This odd aside I call “In­scrip­tion for Whited Sep­ulchres.”

  We are cease­lessly told that the major solu­tion to our so­cial and eco­nomic prob­lems is more pro­duc­tion to keep up em­ploy­ment which will keep up buy­ing power which will keep up pro­duc­tion; and in this auto­ma­tion is to play a large part. The func­tion of pro­duc­tion, etc., is said by ortho­dox eco­nom­ists to be the satis­fac­tion of in­creas­ing natural wants—this is the eco­nom­ics of scar­city. But, as the bril­liant Harvard eco­nom­ist Gal­braith points out, we are no longer in an age of scar­city but in an age of af­flu­ence, and in­stead of pro­duc­tion satis­fy­ing natural wants, it is also geared to the satis­fac­tion of arti­fi­cially cre­ated wants on the pro­mo­tion of which mil­lions are spent in ad­vert­is­ing. We are caught up in a vi­cious circle from which, it seems, there is no escape—yet there are elec­tric sleep­ing ma­chines, not yet mar­keted; so …

  There is no doubt that tech­no­lo­gical pro­gress has far out­stripped human pro­gress towards per­sonal and so­cial matur­ity, and many are the vali­ant ef­forts to solve this threat­en­ing prob­lem. Per­haps it may be solved by large edu­ca­tional meas­ures; per­haps one of his­tory’s erupt­ing minor­it­ies may opt out of the rat race and lead us in the pro­cess of chal­lenge and re­sponse; per­haps there will be a new Fran­cis­can­ism, per­haps a na­tion like India may opt out in Gandhian terms. Per­haps small com­mun­it­ies of indi­vidu­als will form to do use­ful work by hand and with small tools on the land and in work­shops. There is as much cause for hope as for gloom, and I think that the escape from auto­mated leis­ure in and through fel­low­ship work groups is a prob­ab­il­ity.

Work in Fel­low­ship

  The broken fel­low­ship of au­thor­it­arian work life and demo­cratic so­cial life be­speaks the schiz­oid dis­ease of our cul­ture. But this is not seen as a root prob­lem of com­mun­ity life but, rather as a prob­lem of edu­ca­tion for lei­sure. We are going to be­come art­ists, handi­craft men, <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: do-it-yourself">do-it-yourself spe­cial­ists and what have you, so that we shall not be­come a dec­ad­ent so­ciety liv­ing under the com­pul­sion of the un­con­scious wish to re­gress to that prim­it­ive in­dol­ence, against which Freud and Jung warn us. This work in which we have to be edu­ca­ted is free work, and it is known to be a per­sonal and so­cial good.

  But why not also have the work we do now as a per­sonal and so­cial good. The way for­ward for man is the way of free work in fel­low­ship. Erich Fromm puts it thus, when writ­ing of man as a free, spon­tan­eous creature:

  “Love is the first com­pon­ent of such spon­taneity; not love as the dis­solu­tion of the self in another per­son, not love as the pos­ses­sion of another per­son, but love as the spon­tan­eous af­firm­a­tion of others on the basis of the pre­ser­va­tion of the indi­vidual self.

  “Work is the other com­pon­ent—work as cre­ation in which one be­comes one with nature in the art of cre­ation.” [14]

Work­shop Floor Groups

  Numer­ous at­tempts have been made to solve some of the prob­lems stated earlier. One of the most widely pub­li­cised of these is the use of Joint Coun­cils in which prim­ary worker-appointed re­pre­sent­at­ives meet man­age­ment-appointed re­pre­sent­at­ives in, usu­ally, monthly meet­ings. Al­though a joint coun­cil may work ad­mir­ably within its terms of re­fer­ence where top man­age­ment has faith in the method, ex­peri­ence of the method and com­pet­ent re­search in­dic­ate that the first pro­mise of joint con­sult­a­tion is sadly un­ful­filled. Pro­fes­sor Ronald Edwards, writ­ing on the elec­tri­city sup­ply in­dus­try has this to say:

  “Experi­ence has shown there is a gap be­tween the local ad­vis­ory com­mit­tee and the shop floor, and this is now being filled by the or­gan­isa­tion of small work­ing groups within each man­age­ment unit …” [15]

  The work of Dr W. H. Scott [16] and of Lisl Klein [17] re­peat in other lan­guage what has been dis­covered in the elec­tri­city sup­ply in­dus­try, and a re­cent book from the In­dus­trial Wel­fare So­ciety on joint con­sulta­tion pre­sents at best a sorry spec­tacle. [18]

  To make joint con­sulta­tion work a very im­port­ant step has been taken by the elec­tri­city sup­ply in­dus­try. The ex­tent of this ad­vance is in­dic­ated in the annual re­port of the Elec­tri­city Sup­ply In­dus­try Joint Ad­vis­ory Coun­cil [19] in which it is stated that in 1963, of the 471 local ad­vis­ory com­mit­tees in the in­dus­try, 142 were in some way as­so­ci­ated with the oper­a­tion of prim­ary worker group meet­ings in works time with pay­ment dur­ing at­tend­ance. I have not seen any of the group meet­ings at work and de­pend­ence is here on a use­ful meet­ing with Mr Garnett of the York­shire Di­vi­sion of the Elec­tri­city Coun­cil and on in­form­a­tion sup­plied by Mr M Skinner, Sec­ret­ary of the Elec­tri­city Coun­cil. From them I have learned that the work­shop floor meet­ings now cover about one fourth of the in­dus­try’s em­ploy­ees. A brief state­ment from Mr Skinner, who is also Con­sulta­tion Of­ficer to the Elec­tri­city Coun­cil, out­lines the oper­a­tion of the prim­ary groups:

  “These in­formal group meet­ings take many dif­fer­ent forms de­pend­ing on local needs and local or­gan­isa­tion struc­ture. I gen­eral, how­ever, it can be said that the work­ing group meets reg­u­larly, but not too fre­quently, usu­ally in its normal place of work, and in work­ing hours. The pro­ceed­ings, which are in­formal, are chaired … either by the group’s fore­man or super­visor or by a more senior of­ficer who has some re­spons­ib­il­ity for the work of the group. It is a card­inal rule that the group’s rep­res­ent­at­ive on the local con­sult­at­ive com­mit­tee should always be present. Some­times groups meet prior to the meet­ing of the local con­sult­at­ive com­mit­tee so that they can give their views on items to be dis­cussed at their meet­ing, but in other cases there is no time link with the formal com­mit­tees. Group meet­ings are valu­able as a chan­nel of com­mun­ica­tion. They also suc­ceed in solv­ing many work prob­lems pe­cu­liar to the group and often give rise to mat­ters of greater im­port­ance which are the proper sub­jects for con­sider­a­tion within the formal

  The prim­ary group meet­ings were ini­ti­ated in the York­shire Power Sta­tions about five years ago [20] and have since spread through­out the in­dus­try. The ef­fect of these meet­ings on mor­ale is un­doubt­edly good, if only for the reason that prim­ary work­ers as a whole are dir­ectly in­volved in the con­sul­ta­tion pro­cess and be­cause their sig­ni­fic­ance as per­sons is pos­it­ively re­cog­nised. So far as the pro­duc­tiv­ity of the meet­ings is con­cerned, the fol­low­ing seems to be typ­ical: in the Tees No 2 Area the sub­jects dis­cussed in nine meet­ings were, Ef­fi­ciency 42, Wel­fare 26, Train­ing and Gen­eral 25. There is, in pass­ing, no com­puls­ory at­tend­ance at group meet­ings.

  There is a large dif­fer­ence be­tween these shop-floor meet­ings and the free group meet­ings in that a mem­ber of the man­age­ment team, may set the pace for the meet­ing by bring­ing for­ward cer­tain prob­lems. Over the last twenty years we have had many shop-floor meet­ings of the kind used in the elec­tri­city sup­ply in­dus­try, but whereas we now at­tempt to inter­lock the fore­man­ship func­tion with free group activ­ity by sug­gest­ing the fore­man at­tend for a group agreed time to state local man­age­ment prob­lems, our ex­peri­ence is that if the atmo­sphere of the meet­ing is not per­missive, the basic we-they at­ti­tude ex­ist­ing in the work situ­a­tion will not alter be­cause, as is shown later, it is es­sen­tial if reas­on­able co-opera­tion is the aim, that the in­di­vidu­als in­volved in meet­ing should feel free to ex­press their deep as­sump­tions even if these are ir­ra­tional. For ex­ample, many times we have had from the free groups the state­ment that man­age­ment and espe­cially top man­age­ment is only an ex­pens­ive over­head which the prim­ary work­ers have to carry; to us this was an op­por­tun­ity to ex­hibit the edu­ca­tional as­pect of free group dis­cus­sion with ex­cel­lent re­sults.

  The free group meet­ing aims at re­ducing de­pend­ence on fig­ures of au­thor­ity who know all the an­swers; that is, we at­tempt in so­cial-psychi­at­ric terms to re­duce leader-centred­ness and to foster ma­tur­ity and in­de­pend­ence. On the other hand, my ex­peri­ence of psy­chi­at­ric groups in­dic­ates that if the group con­ductor does not take the lead but, in Lao­tse’s words of 2,500 years past, seems to fol­low, the re­sults will be some­what akin to those aimed at by those who spon­sor free group meet­ings.

Free Group The­ory

  Basic in free group the­ory is the idea that if we want will­ing obedi­ence from a man we must first obey the man: that is, we must ma­turely com­pre­hend the laws of the man’s na­ture as ex­pressed in his ma­ter­ial, psy­chic and spir­itual as­pir­a­tions in fel­low­ship with other men.

  That we should be able to treat a man, not as a mere means to eco­nomic or other ends, but as a self-trans­cend­ing per­son, that we should be able to listen to what another man is, and not merely to what he says, is a coun­sel of per­fec­tion which smacks of do-good­ism. But the prob­lem of au­then­tic rela­tion­ships is my own ever-present prob­lem, the
solu­tion to which comes only in mo­ments, and with­out warn­ing.

  Now, there is no point in ideal­is­ing either the prim­ary work­ers or the man­aging work­ers in the pro­cess of stat­ing free group the­ory; what is meant is that we can­not ex­pect 100% sup­port for such a the­ory. Man­agers are in­volved in mat­ters of per­sonal status and power, and they have a fair per­cent­age of self­ish and pre­ju­diced in­di­vidu­als, and if I dare to estim­ate how many will re­fuse to take re­spons­ibil­ity under a free group sys­tem I would put 30% as a figure based on ex­peri­ence. About 30% will wel­come re­spons­ibil­ity, and the re­main­ing 40% will be in­flu­enced largely by local oper­at­ing cir­cum­stance which, by and large, is in the do­main of man­age­ment and of worker group lead­er­ship. Among those who re­fuse to take any re­spons­ibil­ity are the ego­centrics, the many who have a mas­ochistic de­pend­ence on big brother man­ager, the cyn­ics who just don’t be­lieve man­age­ment is cap­able of shar­ing real power, and the ones who don’t care what hap­pens. Self-inter­est is a factor which can­not be ig­nored, and if group oper­a­tion is tied to group eco­nomic re­ward, the groups will oper­ate more act­ively than on, say, in­di­vidual piece­work. Such re­wards as group bonus, pro­fit shar­ing, perhaps, on the basis of dis­tribu­tion to units of, say, not more than 300 people whose activ­ity is re­lated dir­ectly and not re­motely to pro­fit, and the de­velop­ment of a sense of co-oper­at­ive prop­erty are all aids to free-group co-oper­a­tion. I have not found that formal co-owner­ship has much more than a super­fi­cial ef­fect if it is not ac­com­pan­ied by in­di­vidual, dir­ect in­volve­ment in the man­aging pro­cess. The ideal, of course, is the small, co-oper­at­ive group of man­agers, tech­ni­cians and prim­ary work­ers own­ing (or rent­ing) cap­ital and justly shar­ing the pro­ceeds after meet­ing tech­nical and so­cial ob­liga­tions.

  The free group method re­quires a multi-way com­mun­ica­tion sys­tem for the meth­od’s ef­fect­ive oper­a­tion. On the whole, a com­pany will be as ef­fi­cient as its com­mun­ica­tion sys­tem is ef­fect­ive quant­it­ively and qual­it­at­ively. If the com­mun­ica­tions are not free then the com­pany is to that ex­tent in­ef­fect­ive in the long run. Ortho­dox man­age­ment’s com­mun­ica­tion the­ory is a lim­ited one. Com­mun­ic­ated in­forma­tion, such as is given here, may change at­ti­tudes, but at­ti­tudes change in­forma­tion, a fact which edu­ca­tion­ists are aware of, but of which man­age­ment seems largely un­aware. Man­age­ment seems to ac­cept what Dr M. L. Johnson [21] calls the jug and bottle the­ory of edu­ca­tion which takes the learner to be an empty vessel ready to be filled from the man­age­ment bottle. Given that the bottle is un­corked (which it some­times is not) and the neck is not too narrow (which it some­times is), all that is ne­ces­sary is that some of the con­tents of the jug get into the bottle, when it is taken for granted that the sub­stance in the bottle will be sim­ilar to that poured from the jug. Alas, both the man­age­ment bottle and prim­ary worker bottle con­tain power­ful emo­tion­al­ised as­sump­tions and at­ti­tudes which change the sub­stance poured from the jug, if, indeed, any gets into the bottle at all. Most of us, it has been shown by re­search [21] are as un­con­scious of our as­sump­tions as we are un­con­scious of the earth’s move­ments. We can, however, dis­cover that the
earth moves by com­par­ing it with other heav­enly bodies, and we can study our own as­sump­tive world by com­par­ing it with some­body else’s, and are thus in a bet­ter posi­tion to change our as­sump­tions if they do not lead to so­cially ef­fect­ive action. The per­mis­sive atmo­sphere of free group dis­cus­sion makes this change pos­sible, for in a per­mis­sive atmo­sphere we can ex­pose our ir­ra­tion­al­ity with­out feel­ing that we are mak­ing fools of our­selves, and the bases of our as­sump­tions can be ex­amined in a sup­port­ive group atmo­sphere. This is true of prim­ary worker and super­vis­ory groups.

Free Group Struc­ture and Method

  The free ex­pres­sion or in­formal group method is a kind of joint con­sult­a­tion in depth but it may also be an in­tegral part of an inter­lock­ing man­age­ment struc­ture as when the local super­visor with group con­sent reg­u­larly at­tends local group meet­ings for such lim­ited time as is re­quired for him to put his local prob­lems to the group for its con­sider­a­tion. Or, of the method of hav­ing a trained group con­ductor present is pre­ferred, (not a chair­man, it is im­port­ant to note), the con­ductor may at­tend for part or the whole of the meet­ing, ac­cord­ing to his ma­ture dis­cre­tion and the sense of the meet­ing. The idea of the trained group con­ductor has been men­tioned earlier under the de­scrip­tion of the elec­tri­city sup­ply in­dus­try’s shop-floor groups; our ex­peri­ence shows that of the group con­ductor is not a per­mis­sive per­son, is not ma­ture, the groups will be and do better with­out a con­ductor.

  The struc­ture of the method is roughly as fol­lows:

1. Each group of twelve to twenty in­di­vidu­als, drawn from a spe­cific work-place if pos­sible, meets for a cer­tain time once each month in work-time, if this is feas­ible.

2. The groups oper­ate only after the mat­ter of group meet­ing has been put to the groups and con­sented to.

3. Each group ap­points a group chair­man and a sec­ret­ary.

4. The sec­ret­ary keeps minutes of group de­liber­a­tions and these are pub­lished in the monthly com­mun­ica­tions journal along with the names of those at­tend­ing the group meet­ing.

5. The group chair­man at­tends a monthly meet­ing of a Central Man­age­ment Board, Joint Con­sult­at­ive Com­mit­tee, or Junior Board con­sist­ing of elected mem­bers who are in touch with the small groups and rep­res­ent­at­ives of man­age­ment.

6. A com­mun­ica­tions journal is pub­lished which gives minutes of small groups and of the central group meet­ings so that each mem­ber of a group knows what is hap­pen­ing to group ideas and what is man­age­ment’s gen­eral policy ap­plica­tion.

7. Where there is a per­son­nel wel­fare worker the final choice of this worker, after aca­demic and other neces­sary qual­i­fic­a­tions have been
scrut­in­ised by man­age­ment, may fit­tingly be left to the groups, as the prac­tice shows. At L. G. Harris Ltd, one of our first steps was to have the per­son­nel worker, Mr Ramsay Eveson, put his name to the groups for re­jec­tion or ac­cept­ance by secret bal­lot. At Aston Chain and Hook Ltd, Birming­ham, the choice of Mrs D. Critchley was fin­ally a group de­cision, as was the choice of her suc­ces­sor, Mr Cooper, when she re­tired. A sim­ilar pro­ced­ure was car­ried out in the early days of groups at Best and Lloyd Ltd, until the P.W.W., Mr Jesse Hartland, died, and the groups de­cided that the struc­ture was such that a per­son­nel worker was not needed.

8. It is held by some of those inter­ested that a pro­fit-shar­ing or co-part­ner­ship scheme is an ef­fect­ive seal on genu­ine co-part­ner­ship. These schemes by them­selves ac­com­plish little, it seems, in the im­prove­ment of mor­ale, but with a par­ti­cip­at­ing group sys­tem at base they take on mean­ing. Thus L. G. Harris Ltd and Best and Lloyd Ltd have pro­fit-shar­ing schemes.

  The first six points are the im­port­ant ones. Of prime im­port­ance for multi-way com­mun­ica­tion is the pub­lic­a­tion of a com­mun­ica­tion journal of which each mem­ber of the com­pany re­ceives a copy.

9. Man­age­ment should each month put at least local prob­lems to the groups, or, if the local super­visor at­tends his local group meet­ing at the start of the meet­ing, he should be the mouth­piece of such prob­lems.

10. For groups made up of per­sons eight­een years old and under, it is worth con­sider­ing hav­ing a man­age­ment-ap­pointed and group-agreed adult sec­ret­ary who would as­sist the young groups in their de­liber­a­tions.

11. Group meet­ings should be about one hour in dur­a­tion and should be care­fully sched­uled in ad­vance by the per­son­nel worker or a mem­ber of the man­age­ment team.

12. For best re­sults group mem­bers should not only be en­gaged in jobs in close prox­im­ity, but if pos­sible the job oper­a­tions should be closely re­lated and the bonus earn­ings for task per­form­ance should be a group and not an in­di­vidual bonus. Or an ef­fect­ive pro­fit-shar­ing scheme may be pre­ferred. If in­di­vidual bonus or piece­work is in use, a start may be made by split­ting the total bonus earned so that a per­cent­age is paid out on the basis of in­di­vidual earn­ings and a per­cent­age on group ef­fort—this com­bin­a­tion sys­tem is usu­ally quite ac­cept­able.

Fifteen Years of Group Dis­cus­sion

  It is often said that prim­ary worker groups dis­cuss tri­vi­al­it­ies; the fol­low­ing ana­lysis of sub­jects dis­cussed by the groups at Best and Lloyd Ltd over a period of ten of the fif­teen years free groups have been in oper­a­tion may cor­rect this im­pres­sion, al­though it is true that non-adult groups do tend to dis­cuss what in terms of pure eco­nomic ef­fi­ciency are tri­vial sub­jects if the groups have not some adult guid­ance.

  sub­ject dis­cussed times dis­cussed
  General qual­ity con­trol 26
  Fin­ish­ing pro­cesses and qual­ity  6
  Best and Lloyd News  2
  Can­teen (run by the groups) 28
  Day-work pay sys­tem 14
  Co-part­ner­ship policy 28
  De­sign (and sale­abil­ity of de­signs) 42
  Estim­at­ing 17
  Ex­pense con­trol  5
  Ex­plan­a­tion of ac­counts 14
  Holi­day organ­isa­tion 40
  Small group pro­ced­ure 48
  Plan­ning 30
  Man­age­ment and Man­age­ment Board 32
  Per­son­nel prob­lems  9
  Office-works re­la­tion­ships 15
  Job of Per­son­nel Wel­fare Worker 11
  Price policy  5
  Cap­ital ex­pend­it­ure 37
  Pub­licity for group scheme  9
  Batch pro­duc­tion as cost re­ducer  9
  Works rules  4
  Sales and ad­vert­is­ing 18
  Self-dis­cip­line and the group sys­tem 14
  Stock con­trol  2
  Pos­sible sug­ges­tion scheme  3
  Wages and allied mat­ters 11
  Wel­fare, so­cial club and safety (largely con­trolled by groups) 44
  Young people’s train­ing  7

I should have liked to in­clude whole copies of the Aston Chain and Hook Co.’s monthly Com­mun­ic­ator, and espe­cially that number in which
the Tool Room Group asked the man­aging dir­ector for per­mis­sion to re-organ­ise the tool room, and did so with ex­cel­lent re­sults. And, at the same com­pany, the dis­cus­sions in the groups when they were in­volved in draw­ing up a new Works Rule Book. But space for­bids re­pro­duc­tion of many group min­utes. Here, how­ever, is one from L. G. Harris Ltd’s brush works, which il­lus­trates frank talk­ing to the ex­tent that the reader might think that the firm is in the eco­nomic dol­drums with the man­aging dir­ector brought to judge­ment by the groups. (In fact, the com­pany is de­velop­ing so fast that there is con­tinu­ous dif­fi­culty in main­tain­ing estab­lished rout­ines.)

joint brush mak­ing and bristle sec­tion group meet­ing 18.3.64
Chairman:  P. J. Clarke  Guest:  The Man­aging Dir­ector
Mem­bers present:  (29 names)
Busi­ness of the Meet­ing:
Bonus:­ The Bristle Dress­ing oper­at­ors, who have to be ex­peri­enced, feel that they should have more bonus espe­cially when they find that oper­at­ors on the brush mak­ing ma­chine are re­ceiv­ing more bonus than they are.
Pipes:­ Could the air pipe be put back on the bristle dress­ing ma­chine please?
Min­utes:­ After our last meet­ing, which was a con­sider­able time ago, we were asked to omit some of our min­utes. This we re­fused to do and in con­sequence none of our min­utes were printed, ob­vi­ously be­cause the Man­age­ment did not ap­prove of them.
Is this sup­posed to be free dis­cus­sion?
Mr. L. G. Harris was called in to dis­cuss vari­ous griev­ances and com­plaints which are af­fect­ing work­ers’ out­puts. The main griev­ance was that there are in­suf­fi­cient tools to en­able us to reach our out­put fig­ures by caus­ing con­sider­able de­lays. Also the labour posi­tion (short­age of oper­at­ors and mis­place­ment of per­son­nel) was fully dis­cussed. Mr. Harris kindly agreed to look into those mat­ters for us im­medi­ately.
Trays:­ Mem­bers asked if they could be sup­plied with more trays for the bristle dress­ing ma­chines.
Cones:­ More tin cones are also re­quired and Mr. Harris agreed to look into this also.
This con­cluded the busi­ness of the meet­ing:  (Signed) p. j. clarke.

  The adult groups are quite able to dis­cuss in­tel­li­gently mat­ters of cap­ital ex­pend­it­ure; this is evid­ent in the Group Min­utes from Aston Chain and Hook Ltd, and Best and Lloyd Ltd com­pan­ies in which there is a good pro­por­tion of skilled crafts­men, whereas at L. G. Harris Ltd, there is a high pro­por­tion of young female work­ers. Here is a min­ute from a group dis­cus­sing cap­ital ex­pend­it­ure:

  “The mem­bers of the group would like to know if the fig­ures stated are com­pet­it­ive, and if tend­ers have been in­vited. The new lathe was not con­sid­ered ne­ces­sary at the present time; the pol­ish­ing spindle was ur­gently re­quired.”

  When the free dis­cus­sion group is ini­ti­ated there is a re­lease of his­toric criti­cism which, to the im­ma­ture man­ager, may be very dis­turb­ing:

  “The trouble is that we get no real under­stand­ing from man­age­ment.”

  “The trouble with our com­pany is that when the Man­aging Dir­ector says ‘Black is white’ then black is white.”

  “Man­age­ment is just an over­head which the work­ers have to carry.”

  “How do we know that the free group sys­tem is not just another trick? … If we say what we really think we will soon be out on our necks.”

  At a first meet­ing at Aston Chain and Hook Ltd this was said to me: “You say Bond (Bond-Williams, the Man­aging Dir­ector) really be­lieves in this free group idea as plain com­mon­sense man­age­ment—per­haps he does, but we don’t know him and we doubt if he wants to know us. We’ll see.”

  The three com­pan­ies men­tioned em­ploy 100, 300 and 500 people re­spect­ively, and the elec­tri­city sup­ply in­dus­try, men­tioned earlier, em­ploys some thou­sands. Each com­pany tail­ors its sys­tem to its own lik­ing; each has strong points and fail­ings in my opin­ion; but all of them are alike in that they are fos­ter­ing a new con­cept of work re­la­tion­ships.

  From some large com­pan­ies I have been met with the argu­ment “We are too big for the free or in­formal group sys­tem,” and while it is true that in a firm of more than, say, 500 people, the group sys­tem is apt to be­come a formal method, the huge elec­tri­city sup­ply in­dus­try, with its groups oper­at­ing in fairly small man­age­ment units, gives an ef­fect­ive answer to the “we are too big” argu­ment. De­cen­tral­isa­tion is the rule rather than the ex­cep­tion in very large com­pan­ies, and in such com­pan­ies de­cen­tral­isa­tion of group struc­ture in man­age­ment units, each with its own com­mun­ic­a­tion journal, would be es­sen­tial. A pilot unit to prove or dis­prove the sys­tem would be valu­able.

  When the free or auto­nom­ous groups were first started in 1948 at Best and Lloyd Ltd, we aimed at inter­lock­ing prim­ary worker groups at work­shop, of­fice and tech­nical levels with man­age­ment through prim­ary group rep­res­ent­a­tion on a Man­age­ment Board and not, it is im­port­ant to note, on a joint coun­cil separ­ate from, though per­haps in­flu­encing top man­age­ment or­gan­isa­tion. Best and Lloyd Ltd is a very old com­pany en­gaged on mak­ing high-grade craft-work light­ing fit­tings and metal work, and it is the small­est of the com­pan­ies using the free group meet­ing sys­tem. On the Man­age­ment Board are three elec­ted group mem­bers, and three man­age­ment-ap­pointed group mem­bers with Mr Robert D. Best in the chair, (in re­cent months Mr J. W. Davies). It may be thought that the man­age­ment board is domin­ated by Mr Best who is the owner of the busi­ness, and that power shar­ing is only nom­inal. While it is true that most power is vested in the owner, the fol­low­ing from Best and Lloyd News, in which group and Man­age­ment Board min­utes are pub­lished monthly may il­lus­trate the spirit of the busi­ness. The com­pany, with the con­sent of the groups, abol­ished piece­work bonus and ini­ti­ated a high day-rate sys­tem. At about the same time a pro­fit shar­ing scheme was ini­ti­ated which, in a small firm, has much the same ef­fect as group bonus. The basis of the pro­fit shar­ing scheme, it was sug­gested, should be changed so that more money would be avail­able for cap­ital de­velop­ment and con­sider­able dis­cus­sion in the groups seemed to lead to an im­passe which the Chair­man would use his power to de­cide. Here is the Chair­man’s hand­ling of the situ­a­tion:

  “When you are deal­ing with a pro­duct such as ours, which has a fluc­tu­at­ing de­mand, the com­pany is en­titled to more than from a gilt-edge in­vest­ment, to en­able it to plough back a reason­able amount for plant, tools, future de­velop­ment and in­fla­tion. But hav­ing said that I am sure that after ten years, we are not going to fall out over a mat­ter of this sort. I don’t want to be grasp­ing and neither do the co-part­ners, I know. If we can­not agree there is one way of reach­ing a reason­able de­ci­sion, and that would be to find some­body im­par­tial out­side this busi­ness and ask him for a reason­able opin­ion as to what would be a fair dis­tribu­tion.”

  Mr S. Jenkins (group elected mem­ber of the Board): “I would like to say that the domin­ant factor of the group dis­cus­sion was the sounder found­a­tion of the firm.”

  As the fore­man or super­vis­ory group, the of­fice group, and the pro­duc­tion worker group are rep­res­ented, with man­age­ment ap­pointed rep­res­ent­at­ives on the Board, it is clear that in Best and Lloyd there is here inter­lock­ing group man­age­ment, with multi-way com­mun­ica­tion through the Best and Lloyd News, and ap­pro­pri­ate spread of de­ci­sion-mak­ing. The term “inter­lock­ing sys­tem” is from writ­ers on cyber­net­ics such as Beer (1956, 1959) and Pask (1961) and the state­ment on com­mun­ica­tion and de­ci­sion-mak­ing above is in­cluded in the cyber­netic the­ory of an ef­fect­ive self-organ­is­ing sys­tem [22].

  In a re­cent book by Pro­fes­sor Rensis Likert there is ad­vanced the idea of what is called “over­lap­ping man­age­ment” in which at each
level from top to bot­tom of an organ­isa­tion there is group­ing with each lower group meet­ing at­tended by or run by some­one from a higher level. Thus, a pro­duc­tion or prim­ary group would be run by the super­visor of that group, and the super­visor group would be run by, say, the works man­ager, and the ex­ec­ut­ive group at works man­ager level may be run by the gen­eral man­ager, and so on up the organ­isa­tion. Likert’s very read­able and inter­est­ing book proves with a wealth of re­search data that over­lap­ping group man­age­ment is su­per­ior to the ortho­dox chain-of-com­mand man­age­ment. [8]

  In the firm of L. G. Harris Ltd, we have some fore­men at­tend­ing prim­ary group meet­ings for a part only of group meet­ing time with group and fore­man con­sent, thus tend­ing to inter­lock the lower super­vis­ory func­tion with prim­ary group oper­a­tion—the con­sent is not the re­sult of a man­aged meet­ing but re­sults from prim­ary and fore­men meet­ings re­spect­ively, in a per­mis­sive atmo­sphere. The the­ory of fore­man at­tend­ance at prim­ary group meet­ings is that the fore­man should be the com­mun­ic­at­ing chan­nel for local mat­ters com­ing within his daily prov­ince as well as for such wider mat­ters as are passed to him from higher up. Thus the fore­man may re­port on:

1.  Work qual­ity.
2.  Work out­put.
3.  Work load on de­part­ment.
4.  Time­keep­ing and the like.
5.  De­part­ment de­velop­ment if any.
6.  Gen­eral situ­a­tion re orders, out­put.

The Free Group Con­tract Sys­tem

  Where a free or auto­nom­ous group oper­ates to share work and the re­wards of work, the Law of Free Work is in com­mand; that is, the dis­cip­lines do not eman­ate so much from man­age­ment, but are in the work itself and the work situ­a­tion. This has been called the Law of the Situ­a­tion, and it has been sug­gested that ap­peal to this law takes the place of the use of coer­cion. But in an un­free en­vir­on­ment the law of the situ­a­tion is an ab­strac­tion which oper­ates to con­trol the work pro­cess with­out con­sider­a­tion of the con­crete situ­a­tion in terms of re­la­tion­ships and of power dis­trib­u­tion within that situ­a­tion. The law of the situ­a­tion will in­evit­ably take its colour from the ex­ist­ing power struc­ture and may just­ify ex­treme pov­erty and wealth, or domin­a­tion and sub­mis­sion in the same eco­nomic en­vir­on­ment; that is a tru­ism in polit­ical sci­ence which is put very well by, I think, Anatole France, when he says: “The law in its majestic equal­ity for­bids the poor as well as the rich to sleep under bridges, to beg, and to steal food.”

  The free group con­tract sys­tem ex­pres­ses in prac­tice the psy­cho­lo­gical the­ory of work, quoted earlier, in Freud, Jung and Fromm, in that the work is freely done in and for fel­low­ship with con­se­quent growth towards ma­tur­ity for the in­di­vidual and for so­ciety. This to me is a most im­port­ant as­pect of the free group sys­tem in gen­eral and the free group con­tract sys­tem in par­tic­u­lar. Free­dom in work is usu­ally sup­ported by eco­nomic argu­ments and proofs about pro­duc­tion or by
vague ideo­lo­gical the­or­is­ing, but its chief lo­gical sup­port comes from psy­cho­logy and so­ci­o­logy.

  With the free group con­tract method in its full form within an ex­ist­ing work situ­a­tion, man-super­vi­sion is with­drawn and trans­ferred to the work it­self, al­though tech­nical guid­ance will be ne­ces­sary. At the other end of the scale is the group con­tract method in which a group under­takes cer­tain work in re­turn for a money re­ward which is shared in some just man­ner among the group mem­bers. But even with the lat­ter simple sys­tem there is usu­ally free­dom to ar­range in­ternal af­fairs and to util­ise labour where it is most needed, and we have the group im­pos­ing its own in­ternal dis­cip­lines which spring natur­ally from the Law of the Work, and, it will be clear, the group per­forms one or more func­tions which were hitherto the func­tion of man­age­ment. In the free group meet­ing sys­tem we have the same law oper­at­ing in a wider field with the prim­ary group inter­lock­ing with man­age­ment in the carry­ing out of the work pro­cess.

  The free group meet­ing sys­tem may oper­ate with­out the more or less free con­tract sys­tem, and vice versa, but it is doubt­ful if the use of in­di­vidual piece­work or bonus is con­ducive to co-oper­at­ive ef­fort. True, a pro­fit-shar­ing sys­tem may make for co-oper­at­ive ef­fort in a situ­a­tion in which there are free group meet­ings, but the in­cent­ive of pro­fit shar­ing may be too re­mote to have any dir­ect ef­fect on the work.

  The vital im­port­ance of free or auto­nom­ous work­ing at the ac­tual work-point in terms of the so­cial and per­sonal bene­fits to be gained from ef­fect­ive group­ing, as well as from out­put, in­dic­ate that wherever pos­sible the group bonus sys­tem should be en­cour­aged. My ex­peri­ence in­dic­ates clearly that, on the whole, prim­ary work­ers re­sent in­di­vidual bonus to the ex­tent that, given a choice, they would pre­fer group bonus. There is not much re­search on this, but the fol­low­ing from a ma­chine tool firm may be inter­est­ing:

  For Against Indifferent
  In­di­vidual piece-rates or bonus
21% 70% 9%
  Group bonus with group shar­ing
61% 32% 7%
  In­di­vidual and group bonus with 30% of in­di­vidual earn­ings shared
38% 55% 7%

  Group bonus is to be pre­ferred from the human stand­point to in­di­vidu­al­ist bonus, and its fruit­ful use is in­dic­ated in the fol­low­ing situ­a­tions:

1.  Where prim­ary worker mor­ale is not all it should be (this is com­mon­place in work).

2.  Where skill and ex­peri­ence is high and the use of re­fined work study and oper­a­tion plan­ning tech­niques is ex­pens­ive with con­se­quent in­crease in cost of man­age­ment.

3.  Where sub-tasks within a task have job times which are so dif­fer­ent that there is a seri­ous prob­lem of labour al­lo­ca­tion within the task.

4.  Where it is pos­sible to de­rive a con­tract time or price from the cost­ing estim­ates and to use this time of price as the con­tract with the group, thus sav­ing much docu­ment­a­tion, con­sider­able ap­plied oper­a­tion
tim­ing and plan­ning tech­niques. In these days of in­creas­ing ad­min­istra­tion costs this is im­port­ant.

5.  Where labour cost is low com­pared with ma­terial cost in a job and it is not worth while using ex­pens­ive work study and like tech­niques and the method of 4 above is suit­able.

6.  Where the prim­ary work­ers’ de­sire is for group bonus.

7.  Where the costs of man-manage­ment are high or are in­creas­ing and/or top man­agers are en­light­ened enough to wish to gain the bene­fits of the spread of de­ci­sion-mak­ing to the work-point. The full bene­fits will be gained by a group pay sys­tem with the group con­tract­ing to do the needed work under the con­trol of the group-ap­pointed leader but with tech­nical fore­man­ship as a par­al­lel (but inter­locked) pro­ced­ure. This is the free group con­tract sys­tem with the group leader as con­tract nego­ti­ator and tak­ing re­spons­ibil­ity for group dis­cip­line, work pro­gress­ing within the group en­vir­on­ment, in­ternal al­lo­ca­tion of skill and ef­fort, and out­put. A pen­alty clause for non-per­form­ance may be in­cluded in the con­tract as with ordin­ary com­mer­cial con­tracts if that is agree­able. Group meet­ings will be reg­u­lar with the tech­nical fore­man in, at least, part at­tend­ance. Terms of refer­ence for group lead­ers: age, ex­peri­ence, etc., could be agreed.

  It is under­stand­able that many man­agers will be some­what startled by these pro­pos­als, and espe­cially that which sug­gests that man-manage­ment be left to a group-ap­pointed leader. In an earlier book (1948) I sug­gested the formal separ­a­tion of thing-man­age­ment (tech­nical fore­man­ship) and man-manage­ment (mor­ale lead­er­ship) but, though there is plenty of evid­ence in the so­cial sci­ences as to the su­peri­or­ity of mor­ale lead­er­ship to im­posed man­age­ment, I have had only two ex­peri­ences of prim­ary work­ers ap­point­ing a fore­man; in both they picked the man whom man­age­ment pre­vi­ously thought would be best for the job.

  It was while on a foundry job that the method of prim­ary worker se­lec­tion of a fore­man was first at­tempted. The group was a tough group of fettlers (cast­ing dress­ers and clean­ers) and get­ting a fore­man to stay with them was quite a prob­lem. I sug­gested to man­age­ment we try let­ting the men de­cide which mem­ber of the fettling team they would like for a fore­man; man­age­ment was ex­tremely doubt­ful and seemed sure the team would pick fire­brand X, whereas Y was ob­vi­ously the best man. The group picked Y by sec­ret bal­lot, where­upon Y called a meet­ing and told the team what a lot of shirk­ers they were, etc., etc., to the team’s great de­light. I have, as said, only one other ex­peri­ence of this kind, but the ex­peri­ments in­dic­ated that a group of adults will pick the man best suited to the situ­a­tion; as was un­doubt­edly true when our small free groups made the final se­lec­tion of per­son­nel man­agers in three sep­ar­ate in­stances.

  As said, the tech­nical fore­man should inter­lock with the labour fore­man through­out the day as well as at group meet­ings, for the free group con­tract sys­tem would ultim­ately in­teg­rate with the group meet­ing sys­tem. In the small com­pany em­ploy­ing, say, 100 people, or in a small de­part­ment with the same num­ber of people, one labour fore­man could
handle the job of man­age­ment, de­pend­ing on the terms of refer­ence agreed for the job. In the large com­pany there might be a num­ber of labour fore­men and a labour man­ager who would inter­lock with the works tech­nical man­ager. The pro­cess would stop short, as Dubreuil [23] re­marks, at the level of gen­eral man­ager, whose func­tion would be co-ordin­a­tion and con­trol of ef­fort with the dif­fer­ence that he would not be merely a man­ager but a man­ager-leader.

  My ex­peri­ence of the simple group con­tract sys­tem is con­sider­able, but of the free group con­tract sys­tem in which the group takes over con­sider­able man-manage­ment, it is much less. Dubreuil, in his classic book A Chance for Every­body, tells of a group of en­gin­eers who with man­age­ment con­sent worked out job rates for each job and suc­cess­fully took on the whole group task on con­tract with group re­spons­ibil­ity for re­sults: this was some thirty years past.

  Some years ago I was called upon to help re­organ­ise a fifty-man foundry en­gaged on craft-work pro­duc­tion of one- and two-off heavy and light in­tric­ate cast­ings. The mould­ers them­selves con­trolled sand-fetch­ing and mixing, mould-box se­lec­tion, mould­ing method, metal pour­ing, and mould open­ing. Based on the man­ager’s ex­peri­ence, my check­ing, and dis­cus­sion with the mould­ers, who on heavy work were in gangs or groups, we set a rate per ton for a num­ber of dif­fer­ent classes of work, but with­out any de­tailed work study, which would have been very ex­pens­ive indeed. There was no man-manage­ment of the moulder groups, but only very gen­eral con­trol by the foundry man­ager, (there were no full-time fore­men), the mould­ers took on group re­place­ments where ne­ces­sary, there were no clock cards for clock­ing in and out, and the mould­ers had con­trol of group in­ternal labour move­ment and al­lo­ca­tion. My ex­peri­ence of foundry work (I had writ­ten a book on the prob­lems of foundry or­gan­isa­tion—[24]) told me that these mould­ers were equal or bet­ter than other mould­ers oper­at­ing under ortho­dox man­age­ment organ­isa­tion and con­trol, in terms of cost per ton and of qual­ity. I had a some­what sim­ilar ex­peri­ence on high-grade one-off sheet metal pro­duc­tion.

  In pass­ing, one skilled group of mould­ers left the firm to go to a car fac­tory where wages were much higher, but came back after a few days with the com­ment that “A man isn’t a man in that blurry place, but only a blurry ma­chine.”

  One of the comic as­pects of “sci­entific” in­di­vidu­al­ist bonus schemes is that the work­ing group may re­main on group bonus in spite of the ap­pli­ca­tions of ortho­dox plan­ning and work study tech­niques—this among skilled men usu­ally, but pre­val­ent through­out the work situ­a­tion. When I served a short ap­pren­tice­ship in a Glasgow car works we were on in­di­vidual bonus but our in­ternal work code was such that we lim­ited earn­ings on any job to a group agreed max­imum. In York­shire, only a few weeks past I found the same “group bonus sys­tem” oper­at­ive in an en­gin­eer­ing fac­tory which was sup­posed to be on in­di­vidual bonus. This kind of thing is ir­ra­tional eco­nom­ic­ally, but if we take it deep enough we may find that the ir­ra­tional is the real, and the healthy.

  On the other hand, where there is no under­ly­ing fel­low­ship in an ag­greg­ate of work­ers on in­di­vidual piece­work, it is pain­ful some­times to watch the struggle for money. In one cloth­ing fac­tory there was an almost animal struggle for bundles of work during the slack season. As was said earlier, our eco­nomic cul­ture re­wards some of the worst of human char­ac­ter­ist­ics and pen­al­ises some of the best, in the run­ning of the eco­nomic rat-race.

The Stand­ard Motor Gang Sys­tem

  Of the two pub­lished ex­amples of group oper­a­tion with con­sider­able group regu­la­tion and con­trol of the local work en­vir­on­ment, the ex­ample of the Stand­ard Mo­tors gang sys­tem is more com­plex in many ways than that of the Durham miners. Un­for­tun­ately, when Stand­ard Mo­tors sold out to Leyland Mo­tors Ltd, the gang sys­tem in the form de­scribed by Melman came to an end. Whereas most ap­plied anthro­po­lo­gical and in­dus­trial so­cio­lo­gical stud­ies are con­cerned with group the­ory and the rela­tion­ship of the small groups to the par­ent or­gan­isa­tion, Pro­fes­sor Melman who wrote a very read­able re­port on the Stand­ard gang system [7] dealt with de­ci­sion-mak­ing pro­ces­ses which in­volved the enter­prise as a whole.

  Melman proves that high pro­duct­iv­ity and demo­cratic prac­tice can ef­fect­ively be re­lated, and that there are ef­fi­cient al­tern­at­ives to au­thor­it­ar­ian man­age­ment of pro­duc­tion, as shown at Stand­ard Mo­tors, where a modern mech­an­ised plant was suc­cess­fully de­veloped and run with­out the normal rise in the cost of ad­min­ist­ra­tion and man­age­ment. In the years 1947 to 1948 the ratio of ad­min­ist­rat­ive work­ers to pro­duc­tion workers (A/P) in the car in­dus­try rose from about 13 to 20, but in Stand­ard Mo­tors in the period 1939 to 1953 the A/P was fairly sta­tion­ary around 16.5.

  The dif­fer­ence in ratios shown is the sig­nif­ic­ant factor in the study of man­age­ment sys­tem which at Stand­ards fos­tered group bonus and spread of de­ci­sion-mak­ing among the prim­ary work­ers and so kept the cost of man­age­ment much lower than in other like com­pan­ies, in an ex­pand­ing market.

  It has been stated earlier that with group bonus the cost of man­age­ment tends to be less be­cause the group by its very nature takes over cer­tain man­age­ment activ­it­ies. Melman brings this out by a com­par­ison of the num­ber of fore­men of local super­vis­ors per 100 pro­duc­tion work­ers at Stand­ard and in a very sim­ilar com­pany, with both firms ex­pand­ing:

  Firm X Stand­ard
  Num­ber of fore­men per 100 work­ers 2.1 0.5

  It is cer­tain that crit­ics will as­sume that Stand­ard Mo­tors were in­evit­ably in­ef­fi­cient. Here are fig­ures for net out­put per em­ployee: in the typ­ical year 1953 net out­put per pro­duc­tion worker was com­par­able with in­dus­try as a whole but net out­put per em­ployee (in­clud­ing man­age­ment and ad­min­ist­ra­tion) was 10% bet­ter than the in­dus­trial aver­age.
This lat­ter fig­ure is the re­sult of low cost of man­age­ment be­cause of the spread of de­ci­sion-mak­ing. In 1953 also, Stand­ard paid divid­end at the rate of 10.9% against 8.25% for the Brit­ish Mo­tor Cor­por­a­tion. [7] Pro­fit on total em­ployed as­sets was not high com­pared with say, Ford, with 26% but at 15% it was better than Rootes at 11%. Vehicles pro­duced per £000 of fixed as­sets and per £000 of stock and work in pro­gress were higher in 1953 than in Fords, Vaux­hall and the Brit­ish Mo­tor Cor­por­a­tion, re­spect­ively. It should be noted that the level of Stand­ard’s pro­fit tended to be lower than in other motor car busi­nesses be­cause about half of the units pro­duced were <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: Massey-Harris-Ferguson">Massey-Harris-Ferguson tract­ors on long-term con­tract with lower pro­fit per unit than is gained from car sell­ing through the normal chan­nels.

  In the year for which most of the fig­ures given above are ap­pro­pri­ate, elec­tric power em­ployed per man-hour at Stand­ards was about 7% higher than in the mo­tor car in­dus­try as a whole. Wages were about 40% higher, and labour turn­over was 17.5 per 100 workers against 29.9 for the mo­tor in­dus­try. Hours were 42.5 p.w. against 44 for the in­dus­try. There was criti­cism of Stand­ard’s policy on wages which, I think, was to some ex­tent jus­ti­fied. It is true that high wages pro­mote mech­an­isa­tion such as took place at Stand­ard Mo­tors, but one does not pay high wages in order to mech­an­ise. Also there was a non-co-oper­at­ive left-wing ele­ment among the union stew­ards which com­peted with man­age­ment and fa­voured na­tion­al­isa­tion with state man­age­ment (dear, dear!); this at­ti­tude cut across trade union policy on mu­tual de­ci­sion-mak­ing and, in my opin­ion helped de­stroy what could have been a mag­nifi­cent ex­peri­ment.

  Pro­fes­sor Melman clearly shows that the trade union stew­ards had the job of keep­ing out­put up and costs down and did a very ef­fect­ive job with their gangs num­ber­ing from 50 to 500 people. Credit should go to man­age­ment, and espe­cially to the far-sighted Sir John Black, then man­aging dir­ector of Stand­ard Mo­tors. Melman, after a thor­ough ana­lysis of Stand­ard af­fairs con­cludes that there is in this ex­peri­ment ad­equate proof that there is an ef­fect­ive al­tern­at­ive to ortho­dox man­age­ment pro­cess and struc­ture; a view­point, al­low­ing for my criti­cism, with which I must lo­gic­ally agree.

The Dur­ham Min­ers’ Free Group Pro­ject

  There are two weighty re­ports on this pro­ject by psy­cho­lo­gists, ex­perts on human re­la­tion­ships. ([25], [26]) Pecu­li­arly enough, these ex­perts in their re­ports re­treat be­hind a tech­nico-socio-mathem­atico-psy­cho­lo­gese which is at once a char­acter armour and an omni­po­ten­tial bar­rier to a mean­ing­ful re­la­tion­ship be­tween the spe­cial­ist and the ordin­ary reader. Names take the place of people, and the gra­cious mys­tery of human re­la­tion­ship is wrapped from sight in the papered con­ceal­ment of stat­ist­ical tabu­la­tions. Were the miners merely a group pur­su­ing eco­nomic in­ter­ests? Or were they a fel­low­ship in which the whole worth of each per­son was con­sciously re­cog­nised and re­warded? The
lat­ter is the truer, as is shown in their shar­ing of group pay on the basis of equal­ity.

  In short, in earlier days be­fore the on­set of mech­an­isa­tion, break­down and spe­cial­isa­tion of labour, and the de­velop­ment of mod­ern man­age­ment the­ories of con­trol and in­di­vidual in­cent­ives, small groups of min­ers work­ing at the coal face, shared group earn­ings and took re­spons­ibil­ity for local regu­la­tion and con­trol of the ac­tual coal-get­ting at the work-point. The newer man­age­ment out­look and method dealt with the mech­an­ised prac­tice which re­quired larger groups of forty to fifty men in much the same way as mod­ern man­age­ment does with the ap­pli­ca­tion of time and mo­tion study, sub-oper­a­tion regu­la­tion and con­trol through pro­cess plan­ning, and in­di­vidu­al­istic in­cent­ives. This did not work either in terms of pro­fit­abil­ity or of human satis­fac­tion in work. So, the min­ers them­selves in a num­ber of pits, de­signed and worked out a method which was a re­turn on a higher level to the old group method, with equal shar­ing of the re­wards of ef­fort. They proved, as at Stand­ard Mo­tors, that the al­tern­at­ive to “sci­entific” and hier­arch­ical man­age­ment is group ef­fort with group bonus and ap­pro­pri­ate spread of de­ci­sion-mak­ing within an organ­isa­tion.

  The min­ers con­cerned were al­ready a group, and as pointed out earlier, they be­haved like any normal group of adult prim­ary work­ers by organ­ising and regu­lat­ing the local work situ­a­tion by al­lo­cat­ing ef­fort, skill, and ex­peri­ence where it was most needed on the job, and shar­ing the pro­ceeds of the work among the group mem­bers. This, to those used to the oper­a­tion of work groups is not at all sur­pris­ing, but what is sur­pris­ing is that the new group method was a spon­tane­ous grouth among the min­ers them­selves. Nor is it sur­pris­ing that out­put per man-hour in­creased and cost per ton was re­duced, but what is sur­pris­ing is that the au­thors of the re­ports do not stress, as Melman does, that the change brought about by the min­ers was a fun­da­mental change in ortho­dox man­age­ment the­ory and prac­tice and that such a change, through shar­ing of group earn­ing and spread of the de­ci­sion-mak­ing pro­cess (or shar­ing of power) is ap­pro­pri­ate to any organ­ised pro­duc­tion pro­cess with con­sequent in­crease in prim­ary worker sig­ni­fic­acne and self-respect in the other­wise au­thor­it­ar­ian work situ­a­tions.

  The elite among the min­ers and among the man­agers can pilot this in­form­at­ive free group pro­cess to higher and more satis­fac­tory levels. At this mo­ment it is a candle­light in the depths of the earth, a prom­ise. But through the ex­ten­sion of the free group con­tract sys­tem by the ini­ti­a­tion of inter­lock­ing labour fore­man­ship (group lead­er­ship) and tech­nical fore­man­ship, and the meet­ing of these (and higher func­tions) in free groups, the guild sys­tem which many min­ers dreamed that na­tion­al­isa­tion would bring, might de­velop, and each man in a mine might play a whole man’s part in the con­duct of his mine’s af­fairs.

  The link­ing of mines by dis­tricts al­ready ex­ists, as does a cent­ral board, and the com­mun­ica­tion struc­ture of joint con­sult­a­tion needs modi­fic­a­tion and ex­ten­sion in depth to create out of what is a formal­ised in­sti­tu­tion an or­ganic in­dus­try with each organ serv­ing the whole.
A first step has been taken and it will be a long way to the real­isa­tion of the guild con­cept of a “par­lia­ment of work” which by its very nature will dig­nify work, and the struc­ture of which will inter­lock all in­dus­tries.

  The guild sys­tem has much thought­ful sup­port in so­cio­lo­gical, polit­ical and re­li­gious think­ing (the last in, for ex­ample, the work of Arch­bishop Temple [27] and in the Papal En­cyc­lic­als [28]). The guild sys­tem is al­ready in seed in work in both private and pub­lic in­dus­try, and it is for thought­ful work­ers to bring it to flower. For many of us it will be the re­viv­ica­tion of past dreams, for others a new­found up­ward path with a far view, not of eco­nomic man, or of organ­isa­tion man, or of role-play­ing man, but of co-oper­at­ive man, be he labourer, crafts­man, man­ager, tech­ni­cian, or ad­min­ist­rator, work­ing in and for the fel­low­ship.

The Wider Issues

  We have taken more than the usual worm’s eye view of work and its organ­isa­tion, and of the re­la­tion­ship of in­creas­ingly auto­mated work to the use and abuse of leis­ure. The prob­lem of leis­ure and its ef­fects on the in­di­vidual and the so­cial group is be­com­ing of in­creas­ing ur­gency—

If Satan idle hands as tools created,
are idle brains his fac­tories, auto­mated

  Be­hind this often stated prob­lem of leis­ure is hid­den the prob­lem of worker and work sig­ni­fic­ance and of the schiz­oid re­la­tion­ship be­tween work life and so­cial life; and yet deeper is the prob­lem of the strongly in­di­vidu­al­istic and ac­quis­it­ive mot­ives which largely activ­ate our cul­ture. It is at this root fault in eco­nomic life that this essay is dir­ected, for to re-iter­ate; our eco­nomic cul­ture highly re­wards some of the bas­est of human char­acter­istics and pen­al­ises some of the best. There are larger prob­lems than those which have been stated here, but nar­row though the level of our ap­proach is, I am un­aware of any major so­cial prob­lem the solu­tion of which would not be aided by the fos­ter­ing of free groups in both work and so­cial life, in the au­thor­it­ar­ian work situ­a­tion and in mass demo­cracy. To con­clude with the opin­ions of two so­cial sci­ent­ists: George Homans writes that

  “At the level of the small group so­ciety has al­ways been able to co­here. We in­fer there­fore, that if civil­isa­tion is to stand, it must main­tain, in the re­la­tions which make up so­ciety and the cent­ral dir­ec­tion of so­ciety, some of the fea­tures of the small group itself.” [29]

  And Wilhelm Aarek has this to say, after writ­ing of the frust­ra­tions of mass so­ciety com­posed of huge in­sti­tu­tions:

  “The small groups will be able, through fel­low­ship, to make amends to people, to give them some­thing of a feel­ing that the so­cial and inter­na­tional forces can be coped with after all. For it is just this spirit of fel­low­ship in the many small groups which must, in the long run, give life and con­tent to the large so­cial and in­ter­na­tional groups.” [30]

Re­com­mended Basic Read­ing

Young: Hand­book of So­cial Psy­cho­logy (Routledge and Kegan Paul)
Cart­wright & Zander: Group Dynam­ics (Row, Peterson & Co)

Book Re­fer­ences

  1. Clegg: A New Ap­proach to In­dus­trial Demo­cracy (Blackwell 1960)
  2. Gillespie: Free Ex­pres­sion in In­dus­try (Pilot Press 1948)
  3. Falk: The Busi­ness of Man­age­ment (Penguin 1962)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Lasswell & Kaplan: Power and So­ciety (Rout­ledge 1952)
  5. Russell: Power (W. W. Norton 1938)
  6. Tawney: Equality (Harcourt Brace 1931)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Melman: De­ci­sion-Making and Pro­ductiv­ity (Blackwell 1958)
  8. 8.0 8.1 Likert: New Pat­terns of Man­age­ment (McGraw-Hill 1961)
  9. Michels: Polit­ical Part­ies (Hearsts 1915)
  10. Gilles­pie: Dy­namic Motion and Time Study (Paul Elek 1948)
  11. Freud: Civil­iza­tion and its Dis­con­tents (Hogarth Press 1946)
  12. Jung: Psy­cho­logy of the Un­con­scious (Kegan Paul 1944)
  13. Walker and Guest: The Man on the As­sem­bly Line (Harvard 1952)
  14. Fromm: The Fear of Free­dom (Kegan Paul 1946)
  15. Edwards, in “Co-part­ner­ship” Oct 1963
  16. Scott: Joint Con­sulta­tion in a Liver­pool Firm (Liverpool U.P. 1950)
  17. Klein: The Mean­ing of Work (Fabian So­ciety 1963)
  18. Davies: Formal Con­sulta­tion in Prac­tice (In­dus­trial Wel­fare So­ciety 1962)
  19. Annual Report of the Na­tional Joint Ad­vis­ory Coun­cil of the Elec­tri­city Sup­ply In­dus­try 1962-63
  20. <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: Richards">Richards and <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: Sallis">Sallis: The Joint Con­sult­at­ive Com­mit­tee and the Work­ing Group, in “Public Ad­min­ist­ra­tion” Winter 1961
  21. 21.0 21.1 Johnson: Group Dis­cus­sion (Central Coun­cil for Health Edu­ca­tion 1954)
  22. Beer: Oper­a­tional Re­search and Cyber­net­ics (Namur 1956)
    Beer: Cyber­net­ics and Man­age­ment (English Univ. Press 1959)
    Pask: An Ap­proach to Cyber­net­ics (Hutchin­son 1961)
  23. Dubreuil: A Chance for Every­body (Chatto and Windus 1939)
  24. Gillespie: Foundry Organ­iza­tion and Man­age­ment (Pitman 1945)
  25. Herbst: Auto­nom­ous Group Func­tion­ing (Tavistock Pub­lica­tions 1963)
  26. Trist et al.: Organ­isa­tional Choice (Tavistock Pub­lica­tions 1962)
  27. Temple: Christian­ity and So­cial Order (SCM Press 1950)
  28. Papal En­cyc­lic­als (Catholic Truth Society)
  29. Homans: The Human Group (Routledge and Kegan Paul 1956)
  30. Aarek: From Lone­li­ness to Fel­low­ship (Soci­ety of Friends 1959)