Most of the feedback I have received about my Quality Digest column and other columns I write has been positive with respect to the need for management to get a brain enema.  Of course there is always one reader with a different view.  This reader believes that a brain enema means you have sh*t for brains.

An interesting take and may apply to this reader, but not my operational definition.

It plain terms it means there is a need to flush out old thinking and replace it with new and better thinking.

So, what is the old thinking?

  • Scientific Management Theory – Born from Frederick Taylor back in the early 1900s and created the functional separation of work that hampers most organizations.
  • Management by the Numbers – Initiated by AP Sloan back in 1930s GM.  Separated the decision-making from the work where manager’s manage and worker’s work.  Targets became fashionable and we now know the damage they create.
  • Economies of scale thinking – This thinking dominates manager’s minds where we now know that costs in the flow (economies of flow).  Costs are end-to-end from a customer’s perspective.
  • Valuing hierarchy over the work – In today’s companies, managers believe position is more important than knowledge.  This is how bad decisions get made.  Very few managers understand the work they manage which is a always a costly mistake.  Decisions made with the work can eliminate the need for excessive planning.
  • Information technology is a cure-all – Today’s managers (especially government management) believe that any manual process should be automated and if it is not should be obsolete.  IT is good for some things, but people absorb variety better.
  • Standardization is good – Too often managers work to standardize processes.  This thinking was born from manufacturing and is a costly assumption for service. Variety of demand is the biggest challenge for service.  Organizations standardize and entrap workers with technology.  Service companies need to absorb variety not turn it away.
  • Rewards and incentives make workers better – Nothing is more controversial than this topic in the US.  Workers and managers are definitely motivated by incentives, but the targets become the defacto purpose and drive the wrong behaviors costing money and customers.  Anybody still remember the banking crisis?

There are a slew of others that could be written about what to change.  This thinking is creating waste on a colossal scale.  Some may be offended by the analogy of a management brain enema.  But if the old thinking prevails and money and customers are thrown out the window than . . . hmmm . . . maybe my reader is on to something?

Leave me a comment. . . share your opinion!  Click on comments below.

Make the new decade a profitable and rewarding one, start a new path here.  Download free from “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 LinkedIn at

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