Your questions on work design, answered by an MIT expert

BUSINESS & MANAGEMENT   |   6 minutes  |   September 18, 2017

Unplanned events happen in all businesses – from communication breakdowns and the rise and fall of costs, to tighter turnaround times and employee disengagement. Are you interested in learning how to use these pain points to fuel employee engagement as well as lead improvement strategies and innovation in your organization?

Hear from Donald Kieffer, a Faculty Director in the MIT Sloan Business Process Design for Strategic Management online short course, as he introduces you to a unique improvement strategy aimed to challenge the way you think about your business processes – and answers some of the more frequently asked questions around the topic.

What is Dynamic Work Design? 


Dynamic Work Design marries the intent and the targets with the inherent knowledge and motivation of the employees, and puts them together in a design. It’s not about performance management -“Why didn’t you hit the target?”. If you’re having trouble it’s because of the design of the way you’ve organized the work.  And Dynamic Work Design can help you hook in the natural inclination of your employees to {want to} be a part of something, and help and to do it quickly and interactively.


How is Dynamic Work Design different from other improvement strategies?


How is Dynamic Work Design different from what a lot of people are already using for improvement – Lean, Six Sigma, Toyota production systems? Most of those systems are led with tools and training about tools – 5S, process mapping, high junket charts, ishikawa charts. We approach from a different way. We approach from a principles point of view, with the idea that if you weren’t doing some of these things right in the beginning, you wouldn’t be in business. You just don’t know what they’re called. So we can come in from a principles point of view, recognize the good work you’re already doing, show you the elements that you’re missing, and why what you’re already doing is working from a design point of view – a work design point of view, not a tools piece. And this allows you to move ahead quickly and recognize existing stories and culture in your organization, explain why they work, and keep rolling without having to say: “Everything you did is wrong. You have to learn to speak a different language and you have to stick to these 15 steps.” You are likely already doing many successful things, and we can help you put a framework and structure on that to accelerate it.


What’s the benefit of intelligent work design? 


I’ve created lots of good results in my career and in my consulting and teaching career. A lot of good financial results, performance results. The thing that keeps me at this,  is what it does to engage employees in the work. It’s not about culture – culture follows good behaviour. It’s not about rewarding with money and incentives. It’s about designing the work so people can genuinely engage and feel like they are part of something bigger. And we do that not through philosophy and handholding and training, we do it through designing the work so it naturally draws you in to make things better.


What’s the biggest challenge in implementing Dynamic Work Design?


The biggest challenge faced by leaders trying to start Dynamic Work Design, the hardest thing to do, is to realize you have to start small. Pick one thing and start small and get it working well. I don’t need to boil the Atlantic Ocean to convince myself that water boils at 212 ºC or 100 °C. I can do it in a thimble. And this is about learning and discovery. The trick: it’s harder for people the higher up you go in the organization because of this pressure to perform, but I’m telling you, the door to go through is to start something small, drive the results in a local location you can see and understand why. Now it’s a simple question of taking it to scale.


How to engage your employees around organizational challenges


How can I get my employees engaged around the challenges of this organization? And that engagement is hard to get. In traditional organizations, it’s really hard to get because you’re telling people what to do, or people are disconnected from the why you’re trying to do it. Dynamic Work Design marries the intent and the targets with the inherent knowledge and motivation of the employees, and puts them together in a design.



Interested in implementing sustainable improvement strategies into your organizational process?

Register for the MIT Sloan Business Process Design for Strategic Management online short course today.