The first signs of systems thinking came in the middle of the last century in Japan. This is where W. Edwards Deming influenced the Japanese to start to understand their organizations as systems. They learned that the functional separation of work and budgetary controls led to sub-optimization and reduced performance.
When economies of scale first enlightened Frederick Winslow Taylor in the late 1800s it was a breakthrough for its time. The Japanese breakthrough was about taking a systems view to manage economies of flow an advancement so large it had US manufacturers pleading for protection.
Taiichi Ohno and Shigeo Shingo further developed these ideas at Toyota and Matsushita. As a whole this the work of these two and Deming largely made up the Japanese Industrial Miracle.
US service companies still follow the economies of scale approach in command and control fashion. Functional separation of work and budgetary controls that lead to sub-optimization. The problem with command and control is the design and management of the work. This thinking features separation of the decision-making from the work. The worker works and management makes the decisions. Work is broken into functions and decision-making (control) is achieved through financial goals and performance targets. Management focuses on output for business improvement and cost reduction. This focus assures sub-optimization by causing waste and preventing learning about the “what and why” of organizational performance. Another drawback is the damage it does to culture when those that understand the work can’t make decisions about it or when they are forced to targets they know damage the customer and create internal competition.
This command and control thinking will be abandoned eventually. John Chambers of Cisco says it will happen in 5 – 10 years. Will your organization be ready? What can be done.
Taking a systems view we can overcome this sub-optimal thinking. To improve performance we must change the system to change the system we must change thinking to systems thinking. Management thinking must change to improve the system . . . they are the owners of the system. The good news is with the right approach this thinking can change in a short period of time in service industry. Months rather than years to achieve business improvement, culture change, and business cost reductions.
Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public). He is focused on exposing the problems of command and control management and the termination of bad service through application of new thinking . . . systems thinking. Download free Understanding Your Organization as a System and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt.Share This: