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“Another world of work is possible” – alternatives to lean production

March 31, 2012

Colleagues,  After a major conference – first some rest, good idea that easter is soon. Then – What to do next? As for me, I have a few thougts.  First, in mid-April  the manuscript to my edited volume Absolut managment will be delivered to the publisher sns förlag in Stockholm – they now seek an international publisher as a partner.  Then I have time and am open to new projects and co-operations.

One of the things I plan over the next few ears is a research network and book project: Another world of work is possible. Or Those who changed the world of work. In short I want colleagues help to gather cases of workplaces and production concept that are both good work / decent work and productive activities. And the cases should be accompanied by analyses of the preconditions under which such an interesting combination of human and economic goals was possible. Preconditions that may have to do with country, sector, position in production networks and in the international division of labour, the relation between control and productivity etc. The good work in one workplace should be seen in the context of how that affects other workplaces in the company and in the production network.

The inspiration is to do something radically different from the well know book The machine that changed the world (1991) from the IMVP, the International motor vehicle programme at the MIT. They collected good examples, cases and overviews of what came to be known as  ‘lean production‘. But they used the cases in an unscientific way (empirically, methodologically and theoretically, see chapters in Enriching Production). They used the cases as a way of legitimizing their propaganda for a type of production tystem that was not at all as humane as they stated. They said it was about enhancing worker autonomy and qualifications, but it was mainly about profits and control.

One background to a book like the one I propose, yes even a section in the book might be cases and analyses of lean production and of the IMVP project and book. Analyses of lean production, its fundamental ideas, application and modification and its effects, negative but also positive are welcome, as a supplement to the ‘good examples’ that shall be the core of the book. Over the years there is a long tradition of reports about lean in ILPC. That is a good fundament for this book project. Also this year there was a special stream about lean.

We shall collect cases in a serious way, and present them in a transparent and honest way, and I am sure that in so doing we will be able to show that another world of work is possible.

I hope many of you in the ilpc network will consider participating in such a project, and that you let me know your interest, cases you think of and also ideas of how to modify and develop the project and its framework of analysis. Perhaps we could have some papers or even a stream at the next ilpc at Rutgers?

Do not hesitate to contact me about the above project idea, or something else. You will reach me at  ake.sandberg [at] sociology.su.se and at www.akesandberg.se. You may  download Enriching Production at  freyssenet.com or here

Cheers  /  Åke

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