Our  Focus Is
Development & Design of Work Organizations
 that embody  a mutual gains strategy.

Our practice is devoted to the support of
jointly ventured initiatives
of employees and employers
 in office and manufacturing  work.


     Professional Profile - Bert Painter CV,
(click here for 2-page printable PDF document)

Our role as "Facilitator" has been to enhance the capability of parties to solve issues and collaborate in design & leadership of their own innovation . We provide effective facilitation support to diverse group participation in:-                                                  

Conflict Resolution,
Organization Design,
Conferences & Meetings.

Our guiding principles derive from Open System Theory, Socio-Technical Systems thinking,  Personal mastery,  Participative Design, and most importantly, Action Research.

The  Modern Times Workplace was originated by Bert  Painter (B.A. Carleton; M.A. Sussex), consulting social scientist and long-time associate of  the British Columbia Research Council in partnership with the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (London, England) .   Since 1975, Bert Painter and colleagues have conducted action  research and facilitation of workplace change with over 100  employers and trade unions, primarily in western Canada, the United  States, and Australia.

    Our Facilitation of  Workplace Change applies in several areas of  work:-

 Job and Work  Organization Design ,
 Union-Management  Relationship-Building,
 Occupational Health and Safety,
 Work and Environmental  Protection,
Variable  Pay,  and
 Technological Change , which led  to the booklet: "Good Jobs With New Technology",  1992.


Modern Times  Productions:

In a related film-making venture, Modern Times Productions has directed & produced an award-winning series of over 15 documentaries about Workplace Innovation in North America. Recognized as the 'Silver Screen Award' winner by the World's Leading Competition for Business &Television Informational Productions (International Film & Video Festival, Los Angeles, CA.), this series includes the first Canadian video to show Workplace Change as a truly joint venture between labour and management. These productions are now available through  the Modern Times Store.

A Mutual  Gains Strategy*:

The foundation for all  this work has been a mutual gains strategy.   The  aim is to achieve Economic Competitiveness at High Living  Standards.  In today's world, this requires continual growth in  productivity (ie. exceptional quality, efficiency, innovation and  time-to-market).  Within a mutual gains strategy, this  is based upon development of high levels of skill, adaptability, and  commitment from Employees, with whom Employers share the economic  returns and invest those returns in ways that enhance the employment  security of the work force.

   * An excellent reference is "The Mutual Gains Enterprise",  authored by Thomas Kochan and Paul Osterman, and published by  Harvard Business School Press, 1994

Our   Recent  Project  Work 

National Science Foundation (USA) project for virtual organization in advanced Research & product Development -- within a major Pharmaceutical company , an international Media producer, a network of Alzheimer's Disease Centers, and a multi-University applied physics program

* Development of employee engagement in Reliability, Safety, and other aspects of the operation and maintenance of the Zellstoff Celgar pulp mill (Castlegar, B.C.)

* Multi-Stakeholder development of the Qualified Companies Project by the B.C. Forest Safety Council

* Facilitation for innovative contract negotiations to revive paper machine operations at the Port Alberni Division of Catalyst Paper Corporation and the C.E.P.

* Facilitation in support of World Class Safety within the pulp mills of Zellstoff Celgar Ltd. and P.P.W.C. Local 1 British Columbia, and Zellstoff Rosenthal and Zellstoff Stendal (Germany)

* Consultation with the Work Research Institute (Oslo, Norway) for a multi-employer and multi-union Collaboration in Industrial Renewal (Grenland, Norway)

* Joint development of a High Performance Work Organization by Rustad Division of Canadian Forest Products Ltd. and  USWA Local 1-424.

* Facilitation of World Class Safety and Operational Excellence by Pulp and Paper Divisions of Norske Canada and the C.E.P. and P.P.W.C. Unions

* Joint Safety Initiative in the Coastal Woodlands Division of International Forest Products Ltd. and
USWA Local 1-2171

* Relationship-Building and Joint Consultation on major Technological  Change by the B.C. Workers' Compensation Board and the Compensation  Employees' Union

* 'Designing for Sustainability' Project with the Architectural Institute of British Columbia, Canada

* Joint development of a  Work Systems Agreement for a new OSB 2000 Plant by Weyerhaeuser  (Canada) Ltd. and IWA-Canada Local 1-184, (Hudson Bay,  Sask.)

* Work Organization (Re)Design for current and  expanded Upgrading facilities, and  Negotiation of a new  Progression System for the Extraction operations, by Suncor Energy  Inc. and C.E.P. Local 707 (Fort McMurray, Alberta)

* Renewal of a Joint  Dialogue Process by Sask Energy Inc. and C.E.P. Local  649

 Examples of Other Major Projects 

* Development and Implementation of a new Partnership  Agreement by MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. and IWA-Canada Local 1-80  (Chemainus, B.C.)

* Joint Health and Safety initiatives  within the surface Coal-Mining operations of  Luscar Ltd. and  U.M.W.A., (Estevan, Sask. and Hinton, Alberta)

* Work Redesign to  relieve Telephone Operators' Stress and to improve Customer Service  by the Communication Workers of Canada, Local 5, and the Manitoba  Telephone System

* Joint Environmental Initiatives within the  Forestry & Logging operations of International Forest Products  Ltd. and IWA-Canada Local 1-71

* Study of Industrial  Participation and Technological Change for Australia Post and the  Australian Postal & Telecommunications Union

* Joint  development of Worker Participation in Decision-Making in  manufacturing operations of Fletcher Challenge and P.P.W.C. Local 18  (Mackenzie, B.C.)

* A Roundtable on High Performance Work  Systems by LTV Steel Co. (Cleveland,Ohio) and the Locals of the  United Steelworkers of America

* Joint process to improve  Labour-Management Relations in Airfield Maintenance by the Vancouver  Airport Authority and C.U.P.E.

* Joint action and research to  improve Labour and Community Stability, by a consortium of employers  and trade unions in the Skeena Manpower Development Committee  (Northwest B.C.)

* Participative Job Redesign in the joint  restructuring of health services delivery by the B.C. Ministry of  Health and the B.C.G.S.E.U.

* Workplace Re-Organization, a  joint process of consultation and workplace change in manufacturing  divisions of International Forest Products Ltd and  IWA-Canada

* A Search for Innovation in "Good Jobs With New  Technology" sponsored by General Motors (Canada) and the Canadian  Auto Workers Union

* Education of Labour and Management  representatives within Safety, Health & Industrial Relations  Training Fund of the Energy & Chemical Workers Union. 

A Sample of  Publications 

"Using Action Research to Promote New STS Theory & Practice", 2007 International Action Research Conference, Work Research Institute, Oslo, Norway.

"Action research Design of IT & Knowledge Work" , 2007 International Action Research Conference, Work Research Institute, Oslo, Norway

 "The Electronic Claim File: A Case Study of Impacts of Information Technology in Knowledge Work", 2002 Journal of Proceedings, ACM 2002 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, ACM Press, New York, N.Y.

  "Good Jobs With New Technology", 1992, a handbook on how labour and management can achieve good jobs in an era of technological change, based upon a report  commissioned by Labour Canada, General Motors, and the Canadian Auto  Workers Union

 "Benefits of a Partcipatory Safety and  Hazard Management Program", in Human Factors in Organization Design  and Management, ed Brown, O. et al, Elsevier Science  Publishers

 "Community Development and Worklife  Improvement: The Skeena Manpower Development Project", in A Casebook  of Canadian Experiences in the Quality of  Working Life, ed.  Cunningham, J.B. et al.

 "The Marriage of the Social  Scientist and Industrial Engineer", in Applied Systems and  Cybernetics, Vol. 1, ed. Lasker, G.E., Pergamon  Press

 "Experiences of Employee Participation in  Decision-Making", in Worker Participation: Success and  Problems,  Jain, H.C., Praeger

 "An Action Research  Approach to Organization Design", in Manpower Planning and  Organization Design, ed. Bryant, D.T. et al, Plenum  Press


Action Research(*) is a focused effort to achieve both:- (1 change/improvement in a practical (intra- or inter-organization/community/network) setting and; (2 meaningful contribution to the stock of social science knowledge/theory.

Action research relies upon an explicit collaboration between (internal or external) researcher(s) and an organization/community/network entity. Both parties need to share a real interest in the combination of "action" and "research" objectives, although their relative interest in each of these particular objectives may vary by degree.

This shared commitment to "action" and "research" relies upon a "reflective" attitude. "Research" needs to inform action, and "action" is required to ground theory and research. It is a continuous learning process with a typical cycle of four steps: plan (research), act, observe, and reflect (evaluate).

Put very simply, action research is "learning by doing".
A problem/opportunity/challenge is identified and data is collected for a careful assessment/diagnosis. This is followed by a collective postulation of possible solutions, from which a plan of action emerges and is implemented. Data on the results of the intervention are collected and analyzed, and the findings are interpreted in light of how successful the action has been. At this point, the situation is re-assessed and the process may begin another cycle.

Within organizations, action research is highly participative and a tremendous growth experience for people, so that it is often referred to as "action learning". See "Action Research at Mackenzie: Experiences of Employee Participation in Decision-Making".

What distinguishes action research from general professional practices, consulting, or daily problem-solving is the emphasis on "scientific" study, which is to say, the question is studied systematically, and much time is spent on refining methodological tools to suit the situation, and on collecting, analyzing, and presenting data on an ongoing basis.

At the same time, what distinguishes action research from other types of research is the immediacy of the researcher's interaction with, and indeed, vulnerability to the real-life complexities and unpredictable challenges in the social context of the research. See:"Action Research in an American Underground Coal Mine".

From the viewpoint of the "researcher", action research provides vital access to real-world, real-time situations that provide unique opportunities to test and develop social science hypotheses and theory, as well as to discover, often unintended, new knowledge.

From the practical standpoint of the organization or social entity, action research provides tools, methods, and an attitude for systematic inquiry that can support highly effective planned change as well as foster the capabilities and culture for a "learning" organization. See: "Action Research Design of Knowledge Work & IT: A Case Study."

(*) The term "Action-Research" originated with the German and American social psychologist, Kurt Lewin, in 1946, followed by extensive application at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, from the 1950's and on, until today, when it is a distinct approach to applied social research and organizational/community development. See:
"An Overview of the Methological Approach of Action Research".