Here are some of the things I learned via Twitter this past week.
@EskoKilpi “Control means being able to predict (if A then B); if we can’t predict, we can’t control.”
Between them, Taylor and Mayo carved up the world of management theory. According to my scientific sampling, you can save yourself from reading about 99 percent of all the management literature once you master this dialectic between rationalists and humanists. The Taylorite rationalist says: Be efficient! The Mayo-ist humanist replies: Hey, these are people we’re talking about! And the debate goes on. Ultimately, it’s just another installment in the ongoing saga of reason and passion, of the individual and the group.
Whether he was also a shameless fraud is a matter of some debate, but not, it must be said, much: it’s difficult to stage a debate when the preponderance of evidence falls to one side. In “The Management Myth: Why the Experts Keep Getting It Wrong” (Norton; $27.95), Matthew Stewart points out what Taylor’s enemies and even some of his colleagues pointed out, nearly a century ago: Taylor fudged his data, lied to his clients, and inflated the record of his success.
As I described last week, the last two decades have seen more British workers get higher levels of skills than ever before. And yet over that time they have come to exercise ever less control over their jobs. Official skills surveys show a plunging proportion of workers who report that they have much influence over how to do their daily tasks – from 57% in 1992 to 43% by 2006. If you’re an NHS worker or teacher you have targets or central curricula to meet; if you’re employed by an outsourcing company you’ll have two sets of bosses breathing down your neck – those in your office, and the client company too.
The labour-market academic Phil Brown has a phrase for this trend: Digital Taylorism [PDF].
The Job 2.0 era gives us all an opportunity to have more than one profession at a time. Plumbers don’t just do plumbing anymore. They have to be in marketing and PR as well and offer more related services than just plumbing to satisfy market demand. Architects aren’t just designing buildings anymore. They also design cities, furniture, books and gadgets.