Atom of Work

A Ten Tools Page
The Atom of Work was developed by Fernando Flores

We owe this tool, which we consider to be the foundational device of our set of TenTools, to Chilean writer and philosopher, Fernando Flores.

“Imprisoned for three years after the (1971) military led coup d’etat against the Allende government, he continued to reflect on the important question of how people work together to get things done, and began to formulate his ideas about communication and linguistic theory.”

from Conversations for Action. Buy the book here.

Why should you learn about the Atom of Work?

It’s simple. Work is on a very basic level a series of performances. Using the atom of work means that

Given a performance situation, you will be more effective in making requests to obtain what you need


be more effective in making promises to obtain what someone else needs.

If the people who work around you always give you what you need AND you’ve never had a breakdown with any of them in which they claimed you did not give them what they needed then the Atom of Work may not prove necessary to your life.

Here’s the catch: in 50 years in the workplace we have never met a single person who matches the above description of always getting what they need when trying to do a job and never hearing from other people complaints about failure to deliver something they expected to receive. Therefore, we think everyone can benefit from learning about The Atom of Work and we make it pretty easy to do just that through our videos and other supporting material.

The Videos

This link will take you to YouTube where you can watch 5 video segments explaining The Atom of Work tool.

Why is the Atom of Work (AOW) Important?

AOW Explicates the dynamics of how people BEST work together to get things done

AOW Clarifies what comes next in such a transaction

AOW Suggests ways around ‘breakdowns’

In this (Atom of Work) model, most transactions between people in business boil down to requests and promises on the one hand, and offers and acceptances on the other. What is often missing from these transactions is a clear understanding of the conditions of satisfaction, including the requested response time. Also, there is often no explicit declaration of the completion of a promise or a check to see if the performance was satisfactory to the customer.

A business process is a network of requests and promises linked across the company as performers become customers in requesting commitments and actions from other performers. … For recurring transactions, like bank loans, or order entry, formal systems are set up to standardize the requests and conditions of satisfaction. For system level or custom products, order entry is less standardized and reaching agreement on the condition of satisfaction is often the most significant part of a successful transaction.

From Ray Stata of Analog Devices:

Here is a link to an article about The Atom of Work by Garry Burchhill and David Walden if you wish to dig deeper.

The Atom Of Work Is A Means To Effective Collaboration At A Granular Level
from Burchill & Walden

The Atom of Work is at the center of SUCCESFUL business whether profit or non-profit, large or small, domestic or international, past, present or future

“Business is the exchange of entities to which values have been assigned”

  • Exchanges start with ASKING or OFFERING
  • They are the ‘atomic structure’ of all work
  • The Atom of Work exposes these exchanges at a more granular level both within and without the work organization as processes move to create value

To learn more and possibly follow along with the AOW videos at the link above, the PowerPoint presentation for that session is at the link below

Our Powerpoint on AOW