I attended the March 22 PDMA event hosted at Whiteboard this month. The guest speaker was Bill Farmer who spoke about the history of management paradigms of Taylorism vs. Demming models. He brought both into today’s challenges of innovation and product development. The talk began with the history of both approaches and how the United States became entrenched in the Fredrick Taylor model of hierarchal business management through a scientific method approach. Taylorism focuses on breaking work down into repetitive processes and steps so they can be taught, managed and evaluated. The primary goal is efficiency. Many of the early driving forces initially came from labor-intensive industries of agricultural and manufacturing. Eventually, the scale of the industrial revolution spread this management approach. The world wars also played a large role due to their scale and broad application of the hierarchical command and control needs of the military across all the industries that supported the effort. The end result of over ~150 years of the implementation of Taylorism resulted in it becoming institutionalized across business, education, and generations of people in the United States. The Taylor method is attributed to the rise and building of America’s success in the 20th century. In the aftermath of World War II, many of the industrial bases of other countries were decimated. Japan, in particular, was rebuilt directly by the United States and led by the efforts of Edward Demming. He was able to implement a different methodology based on his work that sought engage works in the development of higher quality and methods of production. This leveraged the experience and insights that the workforce had and empowered them to improve the overall system. The Demming model is attributed to the rise of post-war Japan into a manufacturing super power. Management experts, like Peter Drucker, grew up and studied in the Taylor model of America and were huge proponents of its approach in success. Later in his career Drucker experienced the rise of the digital technology, the internet, and the knowledge worker. All of which was transforming industry and challenging the management paradigm of Taylorism because skills, roles, and work where becoming very dynamic vs. pure repetition. In today’s innovation economy the knowledge worker’s role is both creative and increasingly dynamic in terms of skils and multitude of roles they play within organizations. Though Drucker felt that the America had been built with Taylorism in the 20th century, it would not work in the 21st century. The Demming model was more applicable to constant improvement and change. The talk also included examples of both models in operations and the cultural challenges inherint. It also had audience members participating in role playing excersizes to demonstrate principles more experiencially.
20th Century Process-Thinking limitations are being overcome by a management shift to Systems-Thinking. The holistic considerations of Systems-Thinking provide operational flexibility, feedback and learning as key parts of development, and a superior environment for knowledge work success in the fast-paced Information Age. This brief presentation, that kicks off our networking mixer, will make the distinction between the two approaches clear and inform you why and how to evolve your team towards Systems-Thinking.
Add Value Through a Systems-based Approach:
Productivity and Employee Engagement
Responsiveness to External Change
Improvements Generated at All Organizational Levels
Introduction to a Tool that Accelerates the Shift to a Systems Approach
Demonstration of an Exercise to Provoke Collaborative Imagination
See more images at the Cheval Innovation Gallery