Cartoon from a presentation about the Better value sooner safer happier approach to business agility (BVSSH) by Jon Smart.
Have you ever tried to introduce agile or new collaborative ways of working in your organisation? Chances are you bumped into Frederick Winslow Taylor. Or more like the ghost of Frederick Winslow Taylor.
You definitely encountered Taylor’s legacy if you got stuck in all sorts of organisational obstacles ranging from budgeting to sign-off processes. You experienced these obstacles even if you had the full support of the Big Boss herself as well as an enthusiastic team.
In other words you clashed with the industrial mindset of yesteryear. Also called scientific management. It has sneakily embedded itself in the processes, hierarchies and ways of thinking. And it has been around for decades, a century even. So no wonder. There is nothing wrong with Taylorism per se – problems arise when it’s the ONLY way of thinking.
Tone down the Taylorism, please
Cartoon from a presentation about the Better value sooner safer happier approach to business agility by Jon Smart.
You encounter this efficiency oriented production logic not only in businesses but in schools, social care, healthcare, government departments etc.
The problem is that this approach thrives in predictable environments. And the world has become more complex and unpredictable. This is a big problem. Hence the rise of new ways of working like Agile that can handle at least some of that unpredictability.
Complexity is out to get you
And no, it’s not like the world has suddenly become complex – it’s always been complex. But thanks to globalisation and increasing interconnectedness it’s now in your face in a way that is pretty hard to miss. Even traditional management consultancies sell solutions that claim to help organisations “manage complexity”.
The problem is that it’s very difficult to rethink and redesign organisational structures and processes. The underlying principles behind them are like water to the fish: we are unaware of them. And we clearly lack the imagination to see alternatives.
You can’t change things now, I’m almost at the top!
And there is the fact that some of us have invested quite a lot in current ways of working. Our careers, our sense of self worth etc all depend on things working in a certain way. Some might perceive a fundamental shift in how an organisation works as an existential threat.
Do we need a new Frederick Winslow Taylor to sell us a different way of organising and working?
PS. I have nothing against Frederick Winslow Taylor by the way. On the contrary – I’m a fan.