The production-line approach to service is being challenged by an employee empowerment approach. Despite its growing popularity, many managers are till uncertain about empowerment’s impact. The authors describe the returns a company can expect from empowering service employees, which include a number of favorable business results, but new management changes as well.
1. See T. Levitt, “Production-Line Approach to Service,” Harvard Business Review, September–October 1972, pp. 41–42; and
“Industrialization of Service,” Harvard Business Review, September–October 1976, pp. 63–74.
2. See, for example:
C.R. Bell and R. Zemke, “Terms of Empowerment,” Personnel Journal, September 1988, pp. 76–83;
T.W. Firnstahl, “My Employees Are My Service Guarantee,” Harvard Business Review, July–August 1989, pp. 28–34; and
L. Schlesinger and J.L. Heskett, “Enfranchisement of Service Workers,” California Management Review 33 (1991): 83–100.
3. We presented our own thinking on these issues. See:
D.E. Bowen and E.E. Lawler III, “The Empowerment of Service Workers: What, Why, How and When,” Sloan Management Review, Spring 1992, pp. 31–39.
4. E.E. Lawler III, S.A. Mohrman, and G.E. Ledford, Jr., Employee Involvement and Total Quality Management: Practices and Results in Fortune 1000 Companies (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1992); and
E.E. Lawler III, S.A. Mohrman and G.E. Ledford, Jr., Creating High Performance Organization: Impact of Employee Involvement and Total Quality Management (San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, 1995).
5. See E.E. Lawler III, High-Involvement Management (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1986);
E.E. Lawler III, The Ultimate Advantage (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1992); and
Lawler et al. (1995).
6. For discussions of how service recovery can help lead to “zero defections,” see:
C.W.L. Hart, J.L. Heskett, and W.E. Sasser, Jr., “The Profitable Art of Service Recovery,” Harvard Business Review, July–August 1990, pp. 148–156; and
F.F. Reichheld and W.E. Sasser, Jr., “Zero Defections: Quality Comes to Services,” Harvard Business Review, September–October 1990, pp. 301–307.
7. The model in Table 1 is similar in its dimensions to the Job Characteristics Model. See:
E.E. Lawler III and J.R. Hackman, “Employee Reactions to Job Characteristics,” Journal of Applied Psychology 55 (1971): 259–286; and J.R. Hackman and G.R. Oldham, “Motivation through the Design of Work: Test of a Theory,” Organizational Behavior and Human Performance 16 (1976): 250–279.
The present model is intended to emphasize: (1) that empowerment can enhance the motivating potential of jobs, and (2) the importance of creating certain psychological states within employees as a key ingredient of empowerment. The face validity of this model seems strong, given what is known about job design and empowerment, but it should be noted that the model has not been empirically tested.
8. For research on how job redesign according to the Job Characteristics Model is associated with gains in employee satisfaction and quality, see:
B.T. Loher et al., “A Meta-Analysis of the Relation of Job Characteristics to Job Satisfaction,” Journal of Applied Psychology 70 (1985): 280–289; and
R.E. Kopelman, Managing Productivity in Organizations (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1986).
9. See, for example:
R.I. Beekun, “Assessing the Effectiveness of Socio-Technical Interventions: Antidote or Fad?” Human Relations 42 (1989): 877–897; and
E. Sundstrom, K.P. DeMeuse, and D. Futell, “Work Teams,” American Psychologist 45 (1990): 120–133.
10. For a summary of research on gain sharing, see:
E.E. Lawler III, Strategic Pay (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990). See also:
R.J. Bullock and M.E. Tubbs, “A Case Meta-Analysis of Gainsharing Plans as Organization Development Interventions,” Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 26 (1990): 383–404; and
C. Cooper, B. Dyck, and N. Frohlich, “Improving the Effectiveness of Gainsharing: The Role of Fairness and Participation,” Administrative Science Quarterly 376 (1992): 471–490.
11. See Lawler et al. (1992 and 1995).
12. J.L. Heskett, T.O. Jones, G.W. Loveman, W.E. Sasser, Jr., and L. Schlesinger, “Putting the Service-Profit Chain to Work,” Harvard Business Review, March–April 1994, pp. 164–174.
13. A summary of the employee satisfaction-customer satisfaction linkage can be found in:
B. Schneider and D. Bowen, “The Service Organization: Human Resources Management Is Crucial,” Organizational Dynamics 21 (1993): 39–52. See also:
B. Schneider and D. Bowen, Winning the Service Game (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1995).
14. Heskett et al. (1994).
15. See Bowen and Lawler (1992). The contingency model describes how three types of involvement (suggestion, job, high) represent increasing degrees of empowerment whose effective use depends on their goodness of fit with certain organizational and environmental conditions. The rationale for the choice of each contingency, and their implications for production-line or empowerment approaches to service delivery, are fully explained in the article.
16. For an elaboration of the idea that “type of organization” has become the basis of sustainable competitive advantage, see:
17. Reports of disillusionment with TQM include:
O. Harari, “Ten Reasons Why TQM Doesn’t Work,” Management Review, January 1993, pp. 33–36; and
J. Matthews and P. Katel, “The Cost of Quality: Faced with Hard Times, Business Sours on Total Quality Management, Newsweek, 7 September 1992, pp. 48–49.
18. Lawler (1992).
19. P.F. Drucker, “The New Productivity Challenge,” Harvard Business Review, November–December 1991, pp. 69–70.
20. P.S. Adler and R.E. Cole, “Designed for Learning: A Tale of Two Auto Plants,” Sloan Management Review, Spring 1993, pp. 85–94.
21. Ibid., p. 90.
22. “Autonony in Store: Self-Management at The Body Shop,” IRS Employment Trends 538 (1993): 6–10.
23. For more information on service blueprinting and service mapping, see:
G.L. Shostack, “Designing Services That Deliver,” Harvard Business Review, January–February 1984, pp. 133–139; and
J. Kingman-Brundage, “Technology, Design, and Service Quality,”International Journal of Service Industry Management 2 (1991): 47–59.
24. For perhaps the most recognized expression of this belief, see:
P. Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (New York: Doubleday, 1990).
25. Adler and Cole (1993).
26. The idea that job redesign in TQM often results in simple, tightly controlled work is addressed in:
E.E. Lawler III, “Total Quality Management and Employee Involvement: Are They Compatible?” Academy of Management Executive 8 (1994): 68–76; and
J.W. Dean and D.E. Bowen, “Management Theory and Total Quality: Improving Research and Practice Through Theory Development,” Academy of Management Review 19 (1994): 392–418.
27. See Lawler et al. (1992 and 1995).
28. B. Bluestone and I. Bluestone, Negotiating the Future (New York: Basic Books, 1992).
29. The human resources (HR) trap, and its relationship to seamless service and service quality, is described in:
Schneider and Bowen (1995).