What Is a Work System in an Organization?

A typical business organization accomplishes its work load by creating a series of tasks that are performed and carried out as required. These tasks can include purchasing materials, selling services, hiring employees or responding to customers. Placing those tasks into series of organized and interconnected systems may benefit the company by introducing efficiency and order to the workday and ultimately increasing the bottom line. Work systems allow everyday tasks to operate in a coordinated manner and provide a basic framework to produce services and products.

Define the System

A work system is a collective effort and is designed when a particular task or goal is identified as requiring more than one person to accomplish. Work systems incorporate technology, information and business resources to create services or products for customers both external and internal. The person or persons recruiting others to operate within the work system must first define and organize the system that will allow the goal to be achieved. The system must be defined to know which workers and machines are needed, what each will be doing and how the system will flow from one task to the next for maximum efficiency.

Types of Work Systems

No single type of work system exists because the concept of the work system is a shell that can be filled with an organization's goals and needs. Examples of work systems include an information system, a supply chain, a service for employees or customers and the system a buyer enters when ordering a product from the organization. Ecommerce websites can also be considered work systems that accomplish tasks such as marketing, customer service or managing transactions.

Some work systems are designed to accomplish a task and then end, such as a special project (conference, data collection) or a product that is manufactured for a specific time and then discontinued. Other work systems may link together to form a larger work system such as the work system that produces a product. For example, product production work systems (production lines) link the supply chain work system (material purchases), the design work system (engineering) and the packaging work system (produces a purchase ready product.)

Elements of the System

All work systems contain a series of elements that influence the work system. The elements are interdependent and operate together to create a whole system. These elements include the worker, the task, the organization's structure, the organization's policies and guidelines and the organization's leadership practices.

The worker can be an employee or a contracted worker. The task at hand includes what needs to be done and how the task should be accomplished. The organization's structure includes the individuals, the roles in the company and how the roles relate regarding the work to be done. The organization's policies include agreements, rules and statements that dictate the way the work needs to be completed. Leadership practices within the organization control and direct the accomplishment of the work system and help maintain focus and motivation.

Basic Framework

Although work systems vary greatly between organizations, there is a basic framework of components that can be used to fill the work system. These components include the participants, the activities and processes, the technologies, the information or data, the physical environment, process strategies and the end product. The framework components intertwine with the elements to produce the work system.

Revising Work Systems

The dynamics of revising an existing work system can be achieved by imposing a set of phases on the work system. Known as the work system life cycle, these phases are described as operation and maintenance (on-going improvements), initiation (new work system), development (new requirements) and implementation (installing, training, testing). Both planned and unplanned revisions and changes can occur when using these four phases. Planned changes use all four phases, and unplanned or unanticipated changes occur through each phase in the form of adaptations, experimentation and fixes.

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About the Author

Alex Burke holds a degree in environmental design and a Master of Arts in information management. She's worked as a licensed interior designer, artist, database administrator and nightclub manager. A perpetual student, Burke writes Web content on a variety of topics, including art, interior design, database design, culture, health and business.