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Research Area: Politics and industrial relations Progetto InnOLaP Innovation, Work Organisation and Participation
Status: Finished  
Members: Davide Dazzi; De Angelis Gianluca; Daniele Dieci; Daniela Freddi; Alessandro Grandi; Francesco Garibaldo; Loris Lugli; Marco Sassatelli; Giovanni Tani; Volker Telljohann  
In cooperation with
  • Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung; Hans-Böckler-Stiftung

In a rapidly changing economic environment, businesses can only respond to international competition with higher standards of product quality and distinctive skill-sets.

According to one body of economic literature, these objectives can be achieved, and rendered sustainable, only through new forms of organization that tend toward greater employee participation in decision-making and management. Traditional business theory sees the firm as an organization governed in the sole interest of a particular group of participants, typically the ownership. Business decisions are the result of a process aimed at achieving the objectives of that group. In the approach we propose here the business is, instead, seen as a coalition of different stakeholders. Workers, in this context, obviously play a significant role, alongside ownership and management, in making firm-level decisions. In this framework, all members of the organization must agree, implicitly or explicitly.

Human resources constitute, therefore, one of the firm’s most important assets. Employees are able to create, by contributing knowledge and skill, the aforementioned organizational surplus. The economic literature also emphasizes the impact of new organizational practices on the relationships among the social partners at the enterprise level. The new organizational models, of necessity, influence the processes of information sharing and negotiation between management and employee representatives. At its most profound, that influence can give rise to models of labor-management partnership.

The theoretical framework described will provide the region of Emilia-Romagna with a thorough analysis, using case studies, of organizational solutions and innovative forms of workplace organization, that give rise to creative and dynamic environments, effectively manage knowledge and learning, and promote competitiveness of individual firms through direct and indirect forms participation. Despite the generally regressive economic context, we identify and investigate replicable, progressive business actions in some the most emblematic, regional firms.

In this project, we analyze the organizational and management practices of three regional firms of excellence. The aim is, first, to evaluate the effective level of innovation achieved, using as a benchmark the Work-in-Net recommendations. Second, we evaluate those examples to understand the extent to which they can be used as a source of innovation in similar contexts.

The nature of the innovation necessary for change processes, as repeatedly pointed out by the Work-in-Net project, involves employees, not merely as “functions,” but as protagonists, each with his or her specific relationship to job tasks, to the environment in which they operate, the people with whom they share the task as well as management. These relationships are decisive for promoting (or blocking) the process of innovation. To evaluate the level and the potential for innovation in the chosen firms, the field research analyzes the “social changes” underneath the formal, more readily apparent data. Therefore what’s required is a methodology made up of a mix of quantitative and qualitative instruments, aimed at individuals or groups, with more or less interactive modalities, depending on the theme being studied.