Inverted Hierarchies on the Shop Floor: The Organisational Layer of Workarounds for Collaboration in the Metal Industry
Workarounds, or practices that deviate from the official pathway to a target, are frequent phenomena in the organisational context. With respect to collaboration, they highlight an area of mismatch between normative versus lived work practices, and therefore depict a relevant research area deeply rooted in computer supported cooperative work (CSCW). Building on the theory of hierarchical opposition by Louis Dumont and empirical data collected through ethnographic research at a company classified as a small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) in the German metal industry, this paper addresses the emergence of workarounds in collaborative work processes by setting them into the wider organisational context. The organisational layer of analysis reveals that workarounds emerge to cater for inversed information power relations and information asymmetries in the shop floor setting, which require communication to flow against the hierarchical slope between planning and execution functions. By applying an organisational lens to the concept of workarounds, this paper contributes a novel empirical analysis that confirms the value of workarounds as a source of insight into collaborative practices.