Participative design is a process developed by Fred Emery, with Merrelyn Emery and colleagues, to move an organization from a bureaucratic structure to a self-managing, democratic structure. In comparison to other popular redesign or re-engineering methods participative design is unique because in it:
  • People restructure their own workplace - they make their own choices and no designs are ever imposed...
  • There is no transition period following redesign - implementation is immediate...
  • The location of responsibility for coordinating and controlling work moves away from supervisors to the people who are actually doing the work...

The workshop usually consists of a group of about two dozen people from the organization working in small groups. How these groups are selected and organized is a diagnostic question relating to strategic direction and the size and complexity of the section under redesign. Depending on the make-up of the small groups, the workshop lasts either one or two days.

Phases of the workshop - There are three phases to the participative design workshop:
  • Participants analyze how their job is now done and then assess how far this falls short of meeting the six critical requirements (see below)...
  • They redesign for a better way of doing the work (after a presentation introducing the principles of democratic design and its relation to the six criteria and skills)...
  • They work out how the new design could be implemented.

Six critical requirements of work... Years of research show that six human requirements must be satisfied before people can be expected to fully develop responsibility and commitment to their tasks. They are the building blocks for designing any effective organization and are at the heart of participative design.

The first three requirements refer to the content of any job. These needs are experienced differently from person to person. The second three requirements relate to the social climate of the workplace. The six critical human requirements are:
  1. Adequate elbow room. The sense that people are their own bosses and that, except in exceptional circumstances, they do not have a boss breathing down their necks...
  2. Opportunity to learn on the job and keep on learning. We believe that such learning is possible only when people are able to set goals that are reasonable challenges for them and get feedback on results in time to make corrections...
  3. Variety. People can vary the work so as to avoid boredom and fatigue, and to gain the best advantages from settling into a satisfying rhythm of work...
  4. Mutual support and respect. Conditions: that support getting help and respect from their coworkers; that dont pit one against another; that enable the groups interest to deny an individuals capabilities or inabilities...
  5. Contribution. A sense that ones own work meaningfully contributes to social welfare. This includes both the quality and the worth to society of the product/service, as well as the participants knowledge and understanding of the end use or purpose of the whole product or service...
  6. A desirable future. Put simply, a career path which will continue to allow for personal growth and increases in knowledge and skills.

Meeting the needs of these six requirements means restructuring the workplace. This naturally happens when responsibility for interpersonal coordination and the control over effort and the quality of work is located with the people who are actually doing the work.

Participants work in groups to analyze their jobs as they exist. They do this by completing two matrices. First, an analysis of their jobs related to the six critical requirements. Second, an analysis of the skills they possess.

These matrices show where the gaps exist in both critical work requirements and skills. It also demonstrates where individuals and the organization need to work to create a self-managing work environment.

Participative design is highly flexible and adaptable to the particular nuances of an organization, including its technology, strategy, internal culture, and current efforts to reform its relationship with its competitive environment. It is not possible to give a set of rules to guide every participative design process

Source: Participative design works, partially participative doesn't by Steve Cabana -- which is much more comprehensive and should be read by anyone interested in this method.

Also see Collaborating for Change: Participative Design Workshop by Merrelyn Emery and Tom Devane

Participative Design - From the Electronic Discussion on Group Facilitation

[Participative Design Workshop][] - a chart from Peggy Holman and Tom Devane's //The Change Handbook: Group Methods for Shaping the Future//, Reprinted with permission of the publisher. Copyright *1999 by Peggy Holman and Tom Devane Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., San Francisco, CA, USA. Adapted to online form by Lisa Heft.

Category Practice | Category Large Group Intervention





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see where we are also listing similar practices

  --Michel Bauwens (Not signed in).....Sun Jan 31 00:53:33 -0800 2010

The Bohm Dialogue, especially Collective Reflection has significance for me in terms of artistic critique and dialogue.

If one wanted to connect this to Jungian thought I'd relate to that.

  --Srule Brachman (Not signed in).....Mon May 21 17:09:16 +0000 2012





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