Academic journal article Outlines : Critical Practice Studies

Developing a Tool for Cross-Functional Collaboration: The Trajectory of an Annual Clock

Academic journal article Outlines : Critical Practice Studies

Developing a Tool for Cross-Functional Collaboration: The Trajectory of an Annual Clock

Article excerpt

Introduction

Today, well-being at work is tightly connected to an organizations' productivity, and consequently, its importance has increased in strategic business management. In large organizations, well-being at work covers a wide-ranging area of organizational activity, for example, maintaining employees' work ability; preventing occupational accidents; and developing professional skills, work practices and the functioning of work communities (Anttonen et al., 2008). Accordingly, the design and management of well-being related strategies and procedures are divided into specialized organizational functions such as human resources, occupational safety and occupational health services. This division of labour, in which the functions mainly focus on mastering their own area of expertise, places pressure on the design and implementation of more comprehensive well-being promotion agendas and correspondingly, on the creation of novel hybridized work practices and network-like collaboration (Launis & Pihlaja, 2007; Anttonen et al., 2008; Seppänen et al., 2012).

This intervention study examines the challenges that are related to the cross-functional promotion of well-being within a production unit of a Finnish industrial company, which was recently acquisitioned by a global corporation. It focuses particularly on how wellbeing practitioners from the aforementioned functions of human resources, and occupational safety and occupational health services representing the levels of local production unit, business line and corporation, build collaboration during an intervention process. An intersecting point of their collaboration, also forming the focus of the intervention process in question, is production supervisors' changing work. The starting point for the study was the examination of how corporate acquisition and transforming practices may have added confusion to supervisors' work. The aim was to learn how the functions could better support and serve the supervisors, whose responsibility it is to carry out well-being related strategies and procedures in their daily work on the shop floor, and who consequently have a substantial influence on frontline workers' well-being at work.

The article approaches this collective learning effort from the framework of Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) by examining how cross-functional collaboration evolves and the transitions through which it develops in an intervention process. The CHAT-based intervention follows the methods of Developmental Work Research (Engeström et al., 1996), in which collective work activity is developed through the expansive learning actions facilitated by researcher-interventionists.1 The data of the study comprises eight intervention planning meetings and three intervention workshops. This article focuses on a thematic cross-meeting trajectory of specific annual clock episodes.

An annual clock refers here to a co-ordinating tool, which is typically - in graphic or in written form - used in organizations to help in the planning, scheduling and managing of specific operations that take place within a period of one year. In this study, the idea of the annual clock emerged as the practitioners' attempt to synchronize the overlapping and inconsistent well-being-related practices assigned to supervisors. Here, I follow this collective endeavour of tool development by analysing six specific episodes, in which the practitioners discuss and develop the annual clock. The research question is as follows: How is the annual clock conceptualized and developed and how does it mediate crossfunctional collaboration? I will particularly concentrate on the empirical analysis of the case and describe how a combined analysis of tool formation and evolving collaboration can be conducted with the help of a framework that theoretically distinguishes between three forms of interaction: co-ordination, co-operation and communication (Raiethel, 1983; Fichtner, 1984; Engeström, 1992). …

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