When Doc was a young boy, if he was not in school or studying, he had to work on his parent’s farm. It was mostly repetitive, physical labour such as digging potatoes, mucking out the pigs, plucking fruit, cutting hay or clearing stones from the fields. Of all the tasks he had to do there was one he never minded and that was driving the tractor. However, the farm was small and its technology old, so it was on a fairly regular basis that he would have to call out “Pa, the tractor’s broken down again, I wonder what caused it this time?”
Now being exceptionally bright and with an enquiring mind, Doc was as curious to know the cause of the breakdown of the tractor as he was its eventual repair. But the only answer he ever heard from his parents was “stop asking questions and just fix it”. And so it was that Doc grew up in an environment where ‘doing’ was the only relevant criteria. Everything else was only a hindrance to productivity.
Far away from the Doc’s farm, in the large industrial cities of western Europe (but most especially in the UK) workers would regularly go on strike against their management’s efforts to ever increase productivity. Time and Motion studies were the fashion in a desperate attempt to try and keep up with the late 1960’s consumer demand.
But here we are in 2016 and to this day the Doc has never stopped working or enquiring; constantly learning from scientific journals and trying to improve his techniques of making people better. And just like Doc, smart companies everywhere are doing the same. But even so, from time to time I come across a manager that take’s delight in re-building broken processes which a previous manager had so painstakingly set up, without even asking ‘I wonder why it is broken’?
It’s a bit like a given project methodology. It might work fine in many companies but appear to be completely ineffective in another. This does not necessarily mean there is anything wrong with the methodology itself, it could be, for example, a lack of desire to use it correctly in the first place, or even for a more sinister reason. In one company, I once witnessed the equivalent of the subtle (but deliberate) dismantling of a perfectly good tractor to make way for a totally different crop. A crop where a tractor would not be needed at all. Using the argument of ever increasing maintenance costs gave the management team the perfect excuse to grow housing with an adjacent shopping centre instead.
Have a good week,