Academic journal article Management Quarterly

Job Reengineering: A New Approach to Meet the Challenges Faced by Rural Electric Systems

Academic journal article Management Quarterly

Job Reengineering: A New Approach to Meet the Challenges Faced by Rural Electric Systems

Article excerpt

Business organizations in America have encountered a paradigm shift. As discussed in several prior issues of Management Quarterly, this revolution in management philosophy has also touched the rural electric industry. In their previous articles, Scott Luecal, Steve Collier, and Dr. Fred Luthans have described the need to abandon many of the traditional philosophies of operating rural electric cooperatives. They have also identified new management and industry trends that need to be recognized and addressed if the rural cooperatives are to be competitive providers of energy into the next century. Some of these trends include the changing federal attitude toward and intent to provide loan funds to rural cooperatives, the success which cooperatives have had in establishing service to rural consumers, and the changing market in which open competition between private and cooperative utilities will become common.

Indeed, systems are going through a significant period of transformation. However, unlike prior industry shifts, these changes will not be accomplished by incremental or piece-meal approaches. For example, Mr. Luecal|1~ spoke of the need to focus on providing the greatest total value to the CONSUMER, an acronym he developed to represent a wholesale change in a rural electric's future strategic mission. Mr. Collier|2~ described the new paradigm of competition in which the "3 R's" (retail consumers, resource competition, investor return) will replace regulated monopolies, price regulation, and sustained growth as the industry paradigm. A call for revolutionizing the way member cooperatives think about doing business. Finally, Dr. Luthans|3~ discussed how Total Quality Management (TQM) could be utilized to identify what rural electric customers want (outage prevention, utility rates, customer service), and how cooperatives can provide the best quality service in meeting those needs. Again, a call for change that requires transforming organizational processes.

These past articles have discussed needed changes in the global perspective of member cooperatives. In this article, we will present a method by which rural electric systems can look at their specific operating processes, evaluate their current effectiveness, and identify and initiate wholesale changes to close the gap between current operating deficiencies and these future visions. This discussion will focus around a recent development in the management literature called Job Reengineering.|4~ Job Reengineering is a procedure in which an organization "takes out a blank sheet of paper" and draws how it should set out to accomplish its strategic purpose. However, before we get into a detailed discussion of how to re-engineer, we feel a discussion of the history of management practices from which Job Reengineering emerged is warranted.

A History of the Design and Redesign of Work

In this section, we will point out past approaches to improving work effectiveness that have focused on incremental approaches. While each of the approaches to be presented have demonstrated their utility in past change efforts, they may be insufficient to meet the transformational challenges now facing the rural electric industry. Our purpose in here is to help member cooperatives use these practices to gain the limited benefit they can provide. However, this discussion is also intended to increase your awareness to the necessary depth of commitment needed to pursue the massive steps necessary for Job Reengineering.

Beginning with Adam Smith's|5~ famous thesis on the benefits of the division of labor, studies of economics, industrial psychology, and management have pursued methods by which employee productivity could be increased through the efficient design of the person-job fit. To start at the beginning, Smith demonstrated how the manufacturing of a straight pin (those things that impale us when we forget to search our new shirts carefully!) could be greatly increased by dividing the required process into 18 distinct operations. …

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