Monday, January 23, 2023

Fred Taylor & the Illusion of Top-Down Control - Part 2

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Last time I wrote about Fred Taylor and his Faustian bargain.

Taylor separated planning from production.

Productivity soared, but at a terrible cost:
  1. The alienation of front line team members, and
  2. the illusion of top-down control
"We can manage from a distance, by the numbers."

"What can front line team members possibly teach us?"


These are common expressions of this way of thinking, which, sadly, permeates our professional and business schools.

This mental model is so deep that nobody even thinks to question it.

Bottom-up management, by contrast, was the dominant mental model during what Ken and Bill Hopper call "The Golden Age" -- roughly 1920 to 1970.

(The Puritan Gift is their fine account of this period)

I see the pernicious effects of this way of thinking in our consulting work.

Well-meaning, capable executives who, nonetheless, believe they can manage from a distance.

And who do NOT believe in enabling front line improvement by involving all team members.

A revered sensei once asked me, "How will you motivate your team, Pascal-san?"

Another time, I asked him, "Sensei, why is involvement so important?"

"If involvement is high," he replied, "injuries, defects, cost and lead time are low. But if involvement is low..."

Best,

Pascal




In case you missed our last few blogs... please feel free to have another look…

Fred Taylor & Illusion of Top-Down Control - Part I
Jackie Fisher – Transforming the Royal Navy
Confronting the Business Haters
Viva Iceland


Monday, January 9, 2023

Fred Taylor & Illusion of Top-Down Control - Part I

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Been thinking a great deal about this.

Fred Taylor was the genius who, essentially, invented Industrial Engineering.

Taylor's innovations around time & motion studies, standardized work and scientific management helped to revolutionize manufacturing.

But by all accounts, he was a lousy manager.

(If you're interested, Kanigel's The Enigma of Efficiency is a fine biography)

So, he set out to revolutionize management too. His rationale appeared to be:

"If I'm a lousy manager, it must be because current management practice is all wrong!"

In Joe Juran's mind, Taylor's approach essentially separated planning from production -- a Faustian bargain if there ever was one!

Productivity soared, but at a terrible cost: the alienation of front line team members.

There was another unseen & equally terrible cost: the illusion of top-down control.

"We can manage from a distance, by the numbers."

The thing is, you can't. You have to go see; you have to get your hands dirty.

You have to understand your business in a visceral way.

Thereby, leaders have a chance at "grasping the situation" and developing strategies that make sense.

And more important, leaders thus have a chance at deploying the strategies so that everybody is involved.

A wise man once said, "Any damn fool can make a plan. It's the execution that screws you up!"

People are smarter, better trained & more capable than they've ever been.

Only a damn fool would fail to engage them.

Best regards,

Pascal




In case you missed our last few blogs... please feel free to have another look…

Jackie Fisher – Transforming the Royal Navy
Confronting the Business Haters
Viva Iceland
Beware Prizes, Belts & Self-appointed Experts


Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Jackie Fisher – Transforming the Royal Navy

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

Just finished Dreadnought, Robert Massie's splendid account of the years leading up to World War 1.

My favourite character is Admiral John (Jackie) Fisher who transformed the Royal Navy – just in time.

Fisher was a Lean thinker, far ahead of his time. His obsession was improving the speed and accuracy of Royal Navy operations -- in advance of the German High Fleet's challenge.

He used Lean thinking with intuitive flair. Go see was a favourite technique, as was standardized work.

He famously took a chair and table into the yard where some operation was to be carried out and declared his intention to stay there until the operation was completed.

The dreadnought, Royal Sovereign, was built in two years rather than three. Changing a barbette gun on a ship was reduced from two days to two hours. His example obliged all shipyards, both navy and private, to reduce waste, making savings in cost and allowing new designs to enter service more rapidly.

He once observed, "When you are told a thing is impossible, then is the time to fight like the devil."

He was also effective politically. Winston Churchill, First Sea Lord, was an important (on again/off again) ally.

Had Jackie Fisher been less diligent, would the Royal Navy have checkmated the German High Fleet (confining them to their Baltic ports)?

Transformation is a tough business. At best you partially succeed, and that makes all the difference.

Best regards,

Pascal




In case you missed our last few blogs... please feel free to have another look…

Confronting the Business Haters
Viva Iceland
Beware Prizes, Belts & Self-appointed Experts
Big Data & PDCA


Monday, December 12, 2022

Confronting the Business Haters

By Pascal Dennis (bio)

A while back I had read a fine piece by Jack Welch in an issue of Fortune magazine.

He would effortlessly get to the heart of complex issues.

I've encountered each of the four groups of business-haters that Welch cites.

Sadly, they are all too prevalent among our media, academic and political elites.

(BUSINESS = FAT-CAT-IN-A-TOP-HAT)

Do these elites see the countless small business owners who every day work hard to provide services or products that make our lives easier?

People like my parents, who ran a small family restaurant for four decades, employing dozens of people, providing thousands with good, wholesome food at reasonable prices.

(And putting their kids through school thereby, so we could start small businesses of our own.)

A big problem, if you agree that sound, stable ethical business is the way back for American and the world.

What to do?

For a start, each of us in business must reflect on our core values - and try to practice them every day.

Disgraceful behavior by financial leaders is a root cause of business hatred.

It'll take time, but through daily practice we can rebuild the good name of commerce.

Secondly, let's not be shy about calling out bozos that bad-mouth business with impunity.

Business (commerce) is an honourable calling which has fuelled prosperity, art & civilization for millennia.

Where there is free-wheeling, ethical commerce, arts, science, and democracy follow.

Classical Athens, the Renaissance & Elizabethan England are just a few examples of this pattern.

The Medici, great patrons of the arts, were businesspeople first.

If not businesspeople, who?

Do we put our trust in academics, politicians, labor leaders or media pundits?

Can anybody point to a flourishing culture that was created and sustained thereby?

Best regards,

Pascal



In case you missed our last few blogs... please feel free to have another look…

Viva Iceland
Beware Prizes, Belts & Self-appointed Experts
Big Data & PDCA
PDCA - the Pounding Heart Muscle of Life