Integral Logistics Management — Operations Management and Supply Chain Management Within and Across Companies

1.1.1 Work, Task, Process, Method, Object, etc. — Important Terms of the Working Environment

Intended learning outcomes: Produce an overview on terms of the working environment, such as work, task, function, order, procedure, process, method, object, business.

With designing of organizations, there is (too) frequent confusion among the terms task, function, and process (as well as task orientation, function orientation, and process orientation). By referring to etymological dictionaries, such as [MeWe18], and dictionaries of related words and meanings, we can find out how people normally understand the terms. While some branches of science traditionally give terms their own definitions, such definitions are arbitrary. However, a company best takes its orientation from everyday understanding, and uses definitions of terms that will be generally understood.

Figure defines the basic terms of the working environment.

Term Word origin, definition Related terms
work old: travail, toil, drudgery, exertion of strength
new: employment, activity that leads to an achievement
but also: something produced by mental effort or physical labor
job, task
task a piece of work that needs to be done regularly function; order; assignment
functionthe particular purpose for which a person or thing is specially fitted or used or for which a thing exists task; purpose
order a direction to buy or sell goods task
procedure a series of steps followed in a regular order process
processa series of actions or operations directed toward a particular result procedure; course of action
methoda procedure or process for achieving an end
also: orderly arrangement
objectsomething that may be seen or felt;
also: something that may be perceived or examined mentally
business something to be dealt with; task; concern;
new: a commercial or industrial activity or organization

Fig.         Basic terms used in the working environment.

The most important finding here is that the word work contains both the character of a process and of content and result. This dualityseems to be fundamental. The content of work, that is, its purpose or objective, is often expressed as task. The term function is clearly related to task. Function more strongly refers to the result of work, while task is more work’s content and purpose, whereby each term includes the other. An order arises when a task is assigned to someone else.

Procedure and process are practically synonymous and stand in dualityto the terms task and function. In most cases, a task or function can be structured as a sequence or as a net of subtasks, or subfunctions, and thus thought of as a process. Turned around, a process is usually seen as various works progressing in a certain sequence. Each of these works may be seen as a task or function, or as a part of such. Of course, there exist tasks and functions that finally are “nuclear” — they cannot be broken down further. In the area of company strategy, but also in R&D, we find tasks that are difficult to break down.

Note that business refers to the central term work, whereby in today’s usage, business means tradable work according to its new definition.

The following animation presents the basic term work, to which all other terms refer, as well as the terms task, function, order, course of action (procedure), and process .
To get more informations roll over the terms.

Continuation in next subsection (1.1.1b).

Course section 1.1: Subsections and their intended learning outcomes