I was asked to speak at a high school today and presented a historical timeline of management thinking.  The teacher wanted to be sure that I put something in about the future in jobs, which I did.  The picture I painted was probably more optimistic than I actually feel as jobs are outsourced or shipped over seas.

I gave them the usual timeline of Frederick Taylor and scientific management theory that led to the functional separation of work with incentives.  I added in the bit about Schmidt, Taylor’s worker that could increase his wage from $1.15 perday to $1.85 per day by increasing productivity.  This is the model American management still runs at great peril.

I told them about A.P. Sloan ad “management by the numbers” and the use of targets.  Sloan separated management and worker and lived by manager’s manage and worker’s work.  Management caught in the work or not making their numbers were frowned upon or fired.  Hasn’t changed  much here in the US, other than now you can get fired for making your financial targets because someone up the ladder didn’t make theirs.

I told them about Shewhart, Deming and the Japanese Industrial Miracle.  How we didn’t pay attention to what Deming taught us and we continue our decline that started in 1968.

We talked about bad service that we get in companies like Sprint, AT&T, Verizon and McDonalds ( hard to get no onions . . . this is important to a high school senior).  This led to a discussion on why companies give bad service, when it osts them more money and loses them customers.  I explained this is what happens when you manage by the financial cost, costs increase . . . always.

The hope is that these Seniors will be smarter than our generation and that fads like Lean and Six Sigma will die away in favor of better thinking.  There is great opportunity to change management thinking and redesign the work to serve customers.  The work is more interesting and the culture improves.

One student asked about an “aggressive customer” that might take advantage of the company if you do what the customer says.  Those people exist, but they are the exception.  The problem is that we design our systems as if they are the norm (common causes of variation), when they are not. Rules, procedures and inspection follow at great cost.

The teacher asked what is the one thing that a student should know.  I replied Statistical Process Control (SPC) should be required study for any student in high school.  Just the basics would be a huge differentiator.

I can only hope that an education system wraught with command and control thinking can see the way to better thinking . . . we can only hope.

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Make the new decade a profitable and rewarding one, start a new path here.  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about how to get started at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

Tripp Babbitt is a columnist (Quality Digest and IQPC), speaker, and consultant to private and public service industry.