Thursday, February 16, 2012

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

By Pascal Dennis

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,


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