The Unbundled Society

By Richard J. Cattani. Richard J. Cattani is editor of the Monitor. | The Christian Science Monitor, September 1, 1993 | Go to article overview

The Unbundled Society


Richard J. Cattani. Richard J. Cattani is editor of the Monitor., The Christian Science Monitor


OUR worklife is being unbundled around us. People are released from jobs in layoffs - the most radical form of unbundling. Others are released within organizations to regroup in new teams, alignments, or divisions, which themselves may last only months. Jobs are unbundled into part-time assignments or are farmed out to firms that specialize in short-term work. Electronic data banks, computer work stations, laptops with modems, and cellular telephones facilitate the process of unbundling.

When I was Midwest bureau chief for this newspaper in the mid 1970s, I would take the 5:30 train to Chicago's Loop on mornings when the temperature sank to more than 20 degrees below zero to file a story. I would first punch out the text on a telex tape and then run the tape through a machine, hoping that static wouldn't produce sheer garble in Boston. Today our writers can write on laptops at home, in hotel rooms, or just about anywhere, and file by modem. Unbundled from an office, they are freer to roam; this wider scope enhances their value. The focus properly becomes what appears in the newspaper, not where the writer's physical body happens to be.

Something parallel is happening at the home office. Page layouts that appear on every writer or editor's screen will enable everybody to work on the same project at once. Physical proximity with its roots in typewriter hard copy gives way to random stationing; editors and writers who can serve many departments will have to find in-house markets for their wares.

A consequence of this trend is the placing of greater responsibility directly on the individual. Supervision necessarily slackens - even though contributions may be registered electronically or in other ways. …

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