Ergonomics

Job Order and Work Task The objective

The objective job order —or in the sense of a recognized obligation leading to a self-identified order usually would be redefined by the employee in the form of a task. A distinction between job order and work task appears essential, as employees rarely adopt job orders accurately or how they areintended, but follow their own subjective interpretation of the job order. In perception, the job order —termed by him as “objective task input” —consist of “stimulus materials” and instructions. Regarding instructions, there is a differentiation between “instructions about goals” and “instructions about operations.” Mostly orders consist of a combination of goals and rules concerning the work method, that is, “Minimize the wavering in the tone you hear (instructions about goals) by adjusting the four knobs on this panel (instructions about operations).” “Stimuli are the actual physical materials with which subjects work.” “Think about this picture and tell me what it means” is an example of an objective task input, which is conveyed by stimulus materials.

During the instructions about goals, realizations from the theory of goal setting should be considered. These show that from goals, a performance-enhancing effect can proceed. Thus, on the one hand, ambitious goals and, on the other hand, specific, preferable quantified goals lead to a higher performance than low set and nonspecific, qualitatively formulated goals as, for example, “do your best” or “work at a moderate pace.” A condition for these positive effects on the performance is, however, the fact that a working person assesses a given or declared goal as realistic. The extent to which the goals affect the performance, additionally, depends on variables like the goal commitment and feedback. The goal commitment expresses how willing employees are to commit themselves to a certain goal or how high the resistance is to give up the goal or to downgrade the emphasis of the goal. The higher the goal commitment is, the larger the action intensity and perseverance and, thus, the achievement. A possibility of strengthening the goal commitment and increasing the associated performance exists in setting monetary incentives.

Thus, coworkers pursue goals whose reaching or reaching degree has effects on their payment substantially more consistently than goals, which are not coupled to their payment. Thus, the probability of achieving the objectives rises. Feedbacks, which give information to the employees about the goal reaching degree during the work process positively influence the effects of goal setting on performance.

Due to the knowledge about existing discrepancies between the goal and the current performance level, th employee can increase action intensity and duration and, thus, eliminate these discrepancies. The valid rules of the work process (instructions about operations) are also called work methods. A work method usually applies to all people who are active in a work system. By work manner the individual execution of the work method is understood (REFA, 1993). If the work method is given and the dispersion of the individual work manner is small, then a high method level is referred to. The method level is affected, on the one hand, by the level of organization of a work system and, on the other hand, by the abilities and skills of the employees. These two influencing variables depend again on the repeating frequency of jo orders.

A high method level — usual in line and mass production — offers only small interpretation clearance to the employee concerning the redefinition of the job order. Beyond that, the factors including the comprehensibility and acceptance of the job order, typical expectations and values of the working person, and existing experiences with considerably similar orders affect the redefinition process. Work tasks can be differentiated into primary and secondary tasks. “Each system or sub-system has, however, at any given time, one task which may be defined as its primary task — the task which it is created to perform”. Value generating activities are a direct result of a primary task. They create value for the internal and external customers. The processing of secondary tasks is not directly valuable, however, it forms a condition for fulfilling the primary task and achieving the goals of a work system (e.g., annual cost reduction around 3%). Secondary tasks can be separated into tasks of system regularization, preservation, and optimization. The tasks of system regularization include, for example, the job order planning and production control. Typical tasks of system preservation are preventive maintenance and repair related to the technical subsystem of a work system. With reference to the social subsystem, consisting of the employees, for example, training measures can be added to the tasks of system preservation. Among tasks of system optimization is, for example, the implementing of the CIP in a work system. The detailed fixing of the boundaries cannot be made solely by formal rules set by the enterprise, as the work system, on the one hand, is subject to changes in the time response (e.g., coworker turnover) and the environment of the work system, on the other hand, changes its demands (e.g., due to changed customer’s requests) on the system.

 According to the theory of social systems, the fixing of the boundaries rather takes place by the work system itself. Creating boundaries between system and environment is an achievement, which generates the system partially itself. Even if processes creating the boundaries do not take place consciously in every case, the creating of the boundaries can be interpreted as another secondary task. The subject of this task clarifies whether certain activities are to be implemented in the work system or its environment (e.g., a work system, which is preliminary in the process). Furthermore, the work system and its environment (e.g., other work systems, supervisor) have to clarify how certain tasks have to be fulfilled. This clarifying process, thereby, primarily refers to those activities, which were not specified clearly by organizational rules or the work method.

The type and range of the primary and secondary tasks determine the range for decision and activity of employees in a work system. Range for decision and activity makes an individual and collective self-regularization possible and forms a condition for the increase in work motivation of the employees.

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