Radical simplicity

Even though we have witnessed significant changes in the work we do, F.W. Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management (1911) still informs much of our business practice.

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 enforcing this cooperation rests with management alone.

Best practices are published in most business journals and management books, because the aim of an industrial business is to simplify processes as much as possible in order to replicate them at scale. Design once and repeat many times is also the foundation of our education and training systems. Maybe that’s why organizations are breaking down all over the place. Whether it’s oil companies, financial institutions, or military commands, they all have one thing in common – the command & control organizational chart. We engineered our organizations to get efficiencies of scale and then addressed problems as they arose by layering on support functions. What came first, the business or the human resource function? For organizations to function in complexity, they need to simplify:

“When you choose radical simplicity, the great industrial age systems of power and control begin to buckle and break. So simplify.” ~ Umair Haque

Taylor’s model needs to be reversed because our work has been reversed. From mostly simple tasks and a few complicated ones a century ago, we now have many complicated tasks and growing complex ones. There isn’t much simple work that anybody is willing to pay for any more. Much of it has been outsourced to the end-user, in forms such as automatic tellers or online ordering.

Radical simplicity or a more natural management framework for complex work environments could be described as follows:

It is only through innovative and contextual methods, the self-selection of the most appropriate tools and work conditions and willing cooperation that more productive work can be assured. The duty of being transparent in our work and sharing our knowledge  rests with all workers.

With simplicity, significantly fewer control methods and processes are required.

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