The New American Workplace: Transforming Work Systems in the United States

December 31, 1993

Despite formidable obstacles, a small but growing number of U.S. companies recognize that today’s domestic and international markets require them to transform their production process. On the basis of more than ten years of survey data and the evidence of case studies, Eileen Appelbaum and Rosemary Batt analyze the experiences of these companies. Their findings reveal two distinct and coherent models of the new American workplace. One is an American version of team production, which combines the principles of sociotechnical systems with those of quality engineering and which decentralizes the management of work flow and decision making. The other is an American version of lean production, which relies more heavily on managerial and technical expertise, and on centralized coordination and decision making. The authors explain the organizational models from which high-performance firms in the United States have borrowed and outline the policies required to promote more widespread workplace change. They contend that U.S. firms can, in fact, compete successfully, while providing their workers with increased job security, livable wages, and enhanced job satisfaction. Certain to appeal to both union and business leaders, this volume also offers crucial insights to policy makers and to scholars of the new American workplace.