"I favor general use of the psychic-prison metaphor to free people from the traps of favored ways of thinking and to unleash their power and creativity."
--Gareth Morgan
"We cannot just remodel the prison. No, we've got to get out of it."
--W. Edwards Deming

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Taylor and Deming

I hope the following quotes provide one contrast as I see between Taylor and Deming, where Deming considers management's "moral obligation" to the worker:

"It is only through enforced standardization of methods, enforced adoption of the best implements and working conditions, and enforced cooperation that this faster work can be assured. And the duty of enforcing the adoption of standards and of enforcing this cooperation rests with the management alone. The management must supply continually one or more teachers to show each new man the new and simpler motions, and the slower men must be constantly watched and helped until they have risen to their proper speed. All of those who, after proper teaching, either will not or cannot work in accordance with the new methods and at the higher speed must be discharged by the management." [the words 'enforced' and 'management' are emphasized in the Norton published edition, but not the Project Gutenberg electronic edition]

--Frederick Winslow Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management (http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext04/pscmg10.txt)

"The cause of a point outside the limit of variation of the system on the bad side may be permanent; it may be ephemeral. Someone that can not learn the job would provide an example of a permanent circumstance. The company hired him for this job; hence has a moral obligation to put him into the right job."

--W. Edwards Deming, Out of the Crisis, p. 115

Deming goes on to say that: "Likewise, someone who is worried about his health, or about someone in the family, may show poor performance. Counseling will in some cases restore confidence and performance...". I can't think of any treatment more humane that any of us can be afforded in our working lives than being extended some slack during times of great life crises that nearly everyone faces within the timeframe of their career: the serious illness and/or death of a parent, friend, or other close relationship. Neither can I think of any treatment more evil than the opposite of this. Some authors persuasively argue for such administrative slack even during normal times:

"The same stressful conditions that have led to an increase of employee abuse also serve to stifle creativity. Certain conditions are necessary for creativity to flourish, one of which is the time to play with ideas while in an open mode of thinking: relaxed, expansive, less purposeful, more contemplative (Cleese 1991). Organizationally, this translates into administrative slack....If employees do not trust their boss to support them, if they are continually feeling threatened and in fear of punishment and reprisal, there can be no creativity."

--Emily S. Bassman, Abuse in the Workplace, p. 149

Conversely, some don't seem to be in touch with some essential element of what it means to be human: workingwounded.com forum entry

I put Deming further along the spectrum here toward expressing a deep and abiding humanity. It's been argued--and I've secretly suspected that there's truth there--that many of us who work in scientific and technical fields have a touch of the Asperger's, an autism spectrum disorder also known as a "disorder of empathy", that shades into normal. Anyone who would read such quotes as the one above from Taylor and consider this the writing of a particularly enlightened and caring human being only bolsters my suspicion. Don't be too alarmed, as Asperger himself wrote: "It seems that for success in science and art a dash of autism is essential." The qualification that I agree with and think needs to be stressed again is to look at Taylor within the context of his time and place. But that qualification needs to be always remembered, lest Neo-Taylorism further rear its ugly head.