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Louis Davis The Coming Crisis for Production Management1 Events cast their shadows before them. Already we can discern changes in our environment more than sufficient to show that Western industrial society is in transition from one historical era to another. It is the purpose of this paper to indicate that the environmental characteristics of the post-industrial era will lead to crisis and massive dislocation unless adaptation occurs. The anticipated consequences will be greatest, at first, for the production industries because they stand at the confluence of changes involving technology, social values, the economic environment, organizational design, job design and the practice of management. Managers, as rational leaders, will seek to avoid these consequences by altering the forms of institutional regulation and control. It is a secondary purpose to describe some ways in which managers are already beginning this process. Specifically, examples will be given from the research results and organizational experiments of an international coalition of English, American and Norwegian researchers. The Post-Industrial Challenge C h a n g e s in S o c i e t y In recent years, changes in Western societal environments have been reflective of a rising level of expectations concerning material, social and personal needs. The seeming ease with which new (automated) technology satisfies material needs, coupled with the provision of subsistence-level support for its citizens by society, has stimulated a growing concern on the part of individuals over their relationship to work, its meaningfulness and its value, i.e ., a concern for the quality of work life (Davis, 1970). In the United States, questioning of Excerpted from International Journal o fProduction Research, 9:65-82, 1971, based on “ The Coming Crisis in Production Management Technology and Organization,” International Con­ ference on Production Research, University of Birmingham, 1971. 304 Conceptual Developments the relationship between work and satisfaction of material needs is widespread through the ranks of university students, industrial workers and minority unemployed. The viability of the belief that individuals may be used to satisfy the economic goals of organizations is being seriously questioned. It appears that people may no longer let themselves be used; they wish to see some relationship between their own work and the social life around them, and they wish some desirable future for themselves in their continuing relationship with organizations. No longer will workers patiently endure dehumanized work roles in order to achieve increased material rewards. Among university students these expectations are leading to refusals to accept jobs with major corporations in favor of more “ socially oriented” institutions— an unfortunate loss of talented people. Even the unemployed are refusing to accept dead-end, demeaning jobs (Doeringer, 1969), appearing to be as selective about accepting jobs as are the employed about changing jobs. There appear to be means, partly provided by society, for subsisting in minority ghettos without entering the industrial world. For industrial workers there is a revival of concern with the once-buried questions of alienation from work, job satisfaction, personal freedom and initiative and the dignity of the individual in the workplace. Although, on the surface, the expressed concern is over the effects of automation on job availability and greater sharing in wealth pro­ duced, restlessness in unions, their failure to grow in the nonindustrial sectors and the frequent overthrow of union leaders are all indicators, in the United States, of a changing field that stems from the increasingly tenuous relationship between work and satisfaction of material needs. Another factor impelling social change is the continuously rising level of education that Western countries provide, which is changing the attitudes, the aspirations and the expectations of major segments of society (Bell, 1967). Future trends are already visible in California, where almost half of young people of college and university age are in school and where one third of all the scientists and engineers in the United States are employed. One of the forces driving the transition into the post-industrial era is the growing application of automated, computer-aided production systems. This development is bringing about crucial changes in the relationship between technology and the social organization of production— changes of such magnitude that the displacement of workers and skills by computers is reduced to the status of a relatively minor effect. The most striking characteristic of sophisticated, automated technology is that it absorbs routine activities into the machines, creating a new relationship between the technology and its embedded social system. The humans in automated systems are interdependent components required to respond to stochastic...


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