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Offices and Organisational Behaviour (the workplace)

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ConorOberstIsGo
1207116.  Mon Oct 03, 2016 6:51 pm Reply with quote

As we spend so much time in offices - and indeed have done for almost a century now - they have a few QI moments.


Sellotape (a brand name) when peeled off actually emits x-rays. This has been put to good use recently in the developing world where x-ray emitters would otherwise need a power source.

Scotch tape gets its name from the miserly amount of adhesive on it and, because this is offensive to the Scottish, this is a name that exists mainly in the US now.

The US will also say "Can you Xerox me a copy?" and find it ridiculous that we say 'photocopy' every time.


So 'organisational behaviour' is maybe the academic term for 'management'. It involves psychology, however managers might be very suspicious of anything called 'psychology' so psychologists decided that certain disciplines should be called 'behavioural economics'.



The office of the 1930's was desks laid out in rows and columns like a Victorian classroom. Cubicles for individual workers were instigated by Herman Miller (the Herman Miller Corporation designed a lot of office furniture). The philosophy was that each cubicle would be a small office - personalised.

Unfortunately offices would often not allow workers to personalise their work area, demand hot-desking and apply the furniture without really embracing the understanding of how or why it would increase productivity.

George Nelson, an employee of Herman Miller, writing in the 1970's, realised that this was not appropriate for larger workplaces of hundreds of employees unless the company wanted "corporate zombies, the walking dead, the silent majority".


Some other ideas for discussion:

What can anyone tell me about....

Occupational Health?
Organisations?
Opportunity?

 
14-11-2014
1207121.  Mon Oct 03, 2016 7:44 pm Reply with quote

In finance, opportunity loss is not a loss.

You've bought a 500 car, and you've sold this car for 700. Your profit is 200. A few minutes later a next offer is 750, but you've already agreed to sell the car. The opportunity loss is 750 - 700 = 50.

Looking back, there was an opportunity to earn more money or to save more money.

 
Zziggy
1207134.  Tue Oct 04, 2016 4:08 am Reply with quote

ConorOberstIsGo wrote:
Sellotape (a brand name) when peeled off actually emits x-rays. This has been put to good use recently in the developing world where x-ray emitters would otherwise need a power source.

You can do this in a dark room and indeed I have done so. Just get some tape and peel it and you can see blue light coming off it. I think it's true that most things do give off light, including us (?) but it's so faint that can't see most of it.

ConorOberstIsGo wrote:
Scotch tape gets its name from the miserly amount of adhesive on it

I had no idea of that. I thought it was just because of the tartan!

ConorOberstIsGo wrote:
The office of the 1930's was desks laid out in rows and columns like a Victorian classroom. Cubicles for individual workers were instigated by Herman Miller (the Herman Miller Corporation designed a lot of office furniture). The philosophy was that each cubicle would be a small office - personalised.

Unfortunately offices would often not allow workers to personalise their work area, demand hot-desking and apply the furniture without really embracing the understanding of how or why it would increase productivity.

George Nelson, an employee of Herman Miller, writing in the 1970's, realised that this was not appropriate for larger workplaces of hundreds of employees unless the company wanted "corporate zombies, the walking dead, the silent majority".

AIUI cubicles have fallen out of fashion in favour of open-plan offices. Studies have shown that this reduces productivity/increases stress*, basically (IIRC) because people are constantly exposed to everybody else.

* Ok, I can't remember which because I can't remember the study. I'll try to find it, but right now I have a couple of lectures to go to!

 
AlmondFacialBar
1207137.  Tue Oct 04, 2016 4:22 am Reply with quote

Zziggy wrote:
ConorOberstIsGo wrote:
Scotch tape gets its name from the miserly amount of adhesive on it

I had no idea of that. I thought it was just because of the tartan!


Both are actually due to the brand of the original manufacturer, Scotch. It's a deonyme like Sellotape in UKI or Tesa Film in Germany.

:-)

AlmondFacialBar

 
PDR
1207139.  Tue Oct 04, 2016 4:45 am Reply with quote

ConorOberstIsGo wrote:

The US will also say "Can you Xerox me a copy?" and find it ridiculous that we say 'photocopy' every time.


That's largely because in the UK our state institutions (the BBC, schools, tax offices etc) are not allowed to promote brands and so seek an alternative. Thus the famed blue peter construction projects of the 60s & 70s featured "sticky-backed plastic" rather than Fablon, and washing up liquid bottles scrubbed clear of any recognisable logos and branding. As government and state offices were the largest users of photocopiers their name conventions stuck.

Quote:

So 'organisational behaviour' is maybe the academic term for 'management'.


Not sure I agree with that. Management is an activity - I think the term you may be seeking is "culture", whether it's group or corporate.

Quote:

It involves psychology, however managers might be very suspicious of anything called 'psychology' so psychologists decided that certain disciplines should be called 'behavioural economics'.


Not sure I'd agree with that either. Managers, especially senior managers in organisations employing large numbers of people, will intentionally study psychology to help understand how people tick to better enable them to lead and manage them (leadership and management being quite separate and distinct activities). In this organisational model "Behaviours" are a subset of "Culture", and "behavioural dynamics" is a collection of theories and models predicting the way groups of people act within a defined culture.

Pretty well all MBAs (including mine) include psychology as an option module, and it's one that's taken by most students so I'm not sure it could be said to be an object of suspicion amongst managers.

Quote:

The office of the 1930's was desks laid out in rows and columns like a Victorian classroom.


This was true for book-keeping departments and typing pools for the simple reason that it was an efficient layout which allowed for the rapid filling and emptying of in-trays and out-trays. These started to disappear as less and less of the information transport medium was paper.

Quote:

Cubicles for individual workers were instigated by Herman Miller (the Herman Miller Corporation designed a lot of office furniture). The philosophy was that each cubicle would be a small office - personalised.


I think cubicles were mainly an american thing; I saw them frequently in the colonies but I don't think I've ever seen them over here. I suspect it's possibly related to the cost of office space (which has always been higher in the UK than in the colonies) as cubicles are inefficient in the use of floor space compared to open plan offices.

Quote:

Unfortunately offices would often not allow workers to personalise their work area, demand hot-desking and apply the furniture without really embracing the understanding of how or why it would increase productivity.

George Nelson, an employee of Herman Miller, writing in the 1970's, realised that this was not appropriate for larger workplaces of hundreds of employees unless the company wanted "corporate zombies, the walking dead, the silent majority".


This sounds like someone has been reading about the history of "scientific management" - a now much-discredited concept which started before the war and was abandoned in the west shortly after war (because it patently didn't work, and threw up anomalies like the Hawthorne Effect). The "Planned Economies" of the eastern block states stuck to it much longer, and essentially proved it's flaws(!). As with most of these things, Scientific Management contained a few tiny nuggets of sound theory (eg value-based management, workflow analysis, work-life balance) around which vast mountains of complete bollox were constructed and sold to naiive executives.

PDR

 
suze
1207192.  Tue Oct 04, 2016 12:05 pm Reply with quote

PDR wrote:
I think cubicles were mainly an american thing; I saw them frequently in the colonies but I don't think I've ever seen them over here.


I believe that some call centres use cubicles, on the basis that anything more closely packed would be too noisy. But otherwise I would agree that Britain never really went in for them.

PDR wrote:
This sounds like someone has been reading about the history of "scientific management" - a now much-discredited concept which started before the war and was abandoned in the west shortly after war (because it patently didn't work, and threw up anomalies like the Hawthorne Effect).


Despite not having an MBA (!), I too had to endure a series of lectures on "organizational behaviour" back in the day.

Absolutely right that no one uses the words Scientific Management any more, or refers directly to Professor Frederick W Taylor's book on the subject (The Principles of Scientific Management (1911). New York NY: Harper and Brothers.)

But - much as they call it something else and probably have a different textbook to cite - isn't it pretty much how the military works? Or, come to that, sausage machine retailers like Amazon?

As for the Hawthorne Effect, it too is largely discredited by now, and is considered little more than anecdotal. It doesn't help that Professor G Elton Mayo's so-called research at the Hawthorne telephone factory in Illinois is now known to have been largely fabricated.

 
AlmondFacialBar
1207193.  Tue Oct 04, 2016 12:13 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
PDR wrote:
I think cubicles were mainly an american thing; I saw them frequently in the colonies but I don't think I've ever seen them over here.


I believe that some call centres use cubicles, on the basis that anything more closely packed would be too noisy. But otherwise I would agree that Britain never really went in for them.


Having worked on the phone more than once in my life - no. The set-up is usually in pods, so essentially group seating. The walls between the groups are below eye-height so constant visual contact between team members can be maintained. I guess that is pretty much the most feasible compromise between a humane workplace setup and intolerable noise.

:-)

AlmondFacialBar

 
suze
1207204.  Tue Oct 04, 2016 12:47 pm Reply with quote

I suspect this call centre of being in India. The tie-wearing man standing at the far end looks as if he might be white, but we can't really see him well enough to tell and the others look South Asian.



Wherever it is, I don't think they had that memo!

 
PDR
1207205.  Tue Oct 04, 2016 12:53 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:

I believe that some call centres use cubicles, on the basis that anything more closely packed would be too noisy.


I know what you mean, but would suggest they're more akin to the study carrels you find in libraries (and for much the same reason) than cubicles per se.

Quote:

Despite not having an MBA (!),


Shh - that was in confidence...

Quote:

I too had to endure a series of lectures on "organizational behaviour" back in the day.

Absolutely right that no one uses the words Scientific Management any more, or refers directly to Professor Frederick W Taylor's book on the subject (The Principles of Scientific Management (1911). New York NY: Harper and Brothers.)


As I said - the concept yielded a few useful nuggets amongst the bollox. Pieces on the behaviour of corporate cultures (Porter's five forces etc) have proven useful in guiding business strategy development, and Adair's Action-centred Leadership is a good framework for supervisors who are not hard at the far end of the Asperger's scale (ie those for whom leaderships is just natural) to use in understanding the blend of management and leadership needed to best support their teams. Belbin produced a useful guide to understanding individuals, but he suggested using it as a team personality audit and inventory, which was twaddle. Most of these ideas started good and then got out of hand - such is the history of "Scientific Management"!

Quote:

But - much as they call it something else and probably have a different textbook to cite - isn't it pretty much how the military works?


Oooh, no - definitely not! Although I can see how it might give that impression. The military focus is very much on Leadership rather than Management. Their whole culture is around taking initiative and having "self-healing" organisations which automatically reconfigure themselves when individuals in specific roles become unavailable (whether dead, injured or unable to communicate). The military focus is on firefighting because >90% of their function is fighting fires. It's achieved through constant practice and making training harder than the crises they're likely to face.

In a commercial organisation the departure of a senior leads to the subordinates competing for the vacancy. In a military organisation whilst in action the loss of a senior results in the nearest person taking up the responsibility until someone better suited appears, and all the others simply accept that it's happened and work in the new structure even if they feel the person in question is an idiot. This is because in a vast number of cases in the military environment it is more important that decisions are made than that they are the best ones - a bad decision might kill a few people, but dithering will often lose a whole regiment!

The above is of course a sweeping generalisation, and all generalisations are dangerous, but it is supported by the shear number of examples where an isolated military group has continued with (and successfully completed) a mission despite losing vital people, commanders and facilities - from Rorke's Drift to Goose Green and Chris Ryan.

Quote:

As for the Hawthorne Effect, it too is largely discredited by now, and is considered little more than anecdotal. It doesn't help that Professor G Elton Mayo's so-called research at the Hawthorne telephone factory in Illinois is now known to have been largely fabricated.


Well yes, but again the core premise has merit. If he'd just stuck with the core premise that people are better motivated if they think someone is paying attention to them it would have been fine, because it's demonstrably true. It's the reason why senior management "walking the floor" improve morale even if what they actually say is "we desperately need your ideas and your agreement for a pay cut or we'll go out of business", and it's also the reason why pay rises provide a 3-week boost in productivity. But the extra layers of guff brought it down...

PDR


Last edited by PDR on Tue Oct 04, 2016 12:54 pm; edited 2 times in total

 
crissdee
1207207.  Tue Oct 04, 2016 12:53 pm Reply with quote

Between two of my driving jobs, I was briefly a warehouse manager for an office furniture company. I am pretty sure that they fitted out more than one office like that above, and certainly maintained a stock of the modular panels that go into making such things.

 
AlmondFacialBar
1207251.  Tue Oct 04, 2016 3:26 pm Reply with quote

FWIW, this is the office where I worked in my first full time job here, doing B2C customer relations on the phone:


Huge, open plan, and row upon row of pods of four. I guess a lot of the way people are seated on those jobs has to do with the level of personal engagement expected of the worker. Offices where people are actually expected to think independently are more likely to feature group seating because a certain amount of team work is required, while more typical call centre jobs are more likely to feature the type of seating in the picture above because people are expected to concentrate on rattling off a script and the KPIs are purely number based.

:-)

AlmondFacialBar

 
14-11-2014
1207309.  Tue Oct 04, 2016 6:44 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
man standing at the far end looks as if he might be white



Wherever it is, I don't think they had that memo!

The tie implies a white man? The RGB colour value of his skin is #AB947E'ish. Almost a dark 'mushroom bisque', or almost the colour of the darker furniture.

 
suze
1207310.  Tue Oct 04, 2016 6:50 pm Reply with quote

No, but his hair looks like a white man's. Sure, South Asian men do go grey, but not usually quite like that.

 
charliemic
1245850.  Wed Aug 16, 2017 8:26 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
Despite not having an MBA (!), I too had to endure a series of lectures on "organizational behaviour" back in the day.


I'm just coming off the back of an MSc in Management and IS, and certainly Organisational behaviour is a vast field and still roaring on. The course I'm completing had a whole module on it.

Interesting if you're a shameless nerd like myself, but definitely see the eyes start rolling when I start talking about it to other people...

 

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