1) Workplaces like any social systems are ‘complex systems’ , this means that complete prediction of the results of any ‘reforms’ is impossible, and that unexpected consequences are normal. Being wrong is normal.
2) This means that any change in work environment should be provisional. You can plan all you like, but you must be prepared to keep observing, and modify the plan as it goes along. Management must be capable of admitting mistakes and correcting them, without appearing confused and indecisive.
3) Information about almost anything in the workplace will probably be disrupted and inaccurate. Hierarchies distort information flow. The more punishing the hierarchy, the less accurate the flow.
4) Information disruption gives rise to destructive fantasies, especially if people feel ignored or pushed to one side. This can obstruct any attempts at improvement, meeting psychological needs, or finding the best work environment for workers. People’s perceptions of how they fit in, will be distorted.
5) While many organisational structures demand that managers appear to know the work better than workers, this is normally not the case. Managers may not understand how people have to do their jobs, or even what those jobs require. However, maintaining the appearance of superior knowledge can be vital to maintaining status in the company. This again leads to disruption.
6) Good communication generally becomes possible with equality, which can disrupt chains of command. So it can be unnerving. This is the role middle managers should have been serving, with feet in both camps, acting as a bridge.
7) In software programming, the lack of knowledge of managers can cripple the software and its capacity. This is overcome by actually listening to the workers and what they do. You may also want to ask ‘What do workers think their role in the organisation is, what would they like it to be?’ And that may include, “hey your management, you make decisions” it may not.
8) Trust building is fundamental but difficult, and it is probable managers are not perceiving the causes of distrust, because of the information distortion. Fixing this primarily means listening to and acting on suggestions from people below.
9) You cannot switch trust on, it takes time to lower levels of distrust. That means you need time before reform, time during reform and time for follow up. This time should be leisurely if at all possible. The less pushed people feel, and the more they feel participatory, then the more involved they will feel. However, even with care change can be messed up.
10) Do NOT do consultations in which you already know the answers and are going to do what you want to do anyway. While it is obvious that this sets up resentment, obstruction and delay, and breaks trust and information flow, it seems normal for managers and authorities to behave like this. The real point of a series of consultations should be to be open to improving the plan, and let people see you are open to their input.
11) Change consultants will often not help here, as they can see their job to implement the managerial plans, rather than to build trust or communication. That is much safer for them, and pleasing management leads to more job recommendations for them.
12) Repetition 1: Without attention to information flow, the building of trust and the recognition of unintended consequences, the workplace will be a mess, and people will not be satisfied.
13) Repetition 2: Workspaces are complex. Different people have different requirements of their work satisfaction. This is why ‘caring’ but unobtrusive managerial attention is important. In general people want to feel they have done something, that they have control over work, that they can make mistakes and not be crucified, that they have a chance of getting better and getting rewards.
14) If changes appear random, too frequent, or appear to over ride what workers know works, or is needed to do their job, then they will never understand their role in the organisation, other than as people who suffer arbitrary change and the whims of management.
15) I you want your organisation to be resilient, it needs redundancy. It needs more workers than strictly necessary, those workers need more time than strictly necessary. Not only does this often produce better thinking, but if everything is stretched to begin with, then in a time of crisis, there is no slack helping to hold everything together, and the crisis is likely to have worse effects.
16) Please note that if your organisation is thoroughly neoliberal, and regards workers as inconvenient but necessary costs, who must operate with machine like precision, and who are completely expendable in the name of profit, then you will never succeed in producing a ‘happy’ reform of the workplace. Any such reform would be destroyed as it appears slack, and the managers are not getting every drop of blood from the workers.
17) Final reiteration. As a manager, you may have an idea of what is best in advance, and that is probably good, but it needs constant testing and consultation, and awareness of information problems.