Bad standards

Against standards

I work in training, in many and varied companies. Here are my observations .

In modern working life, and indeed in modern production facilities, many companies are investing in production systems and production methods in an attempt to promote efficiency and tidiness.

A lot of these techniques are well known, such as the 5s technique or the Sigma six technique, or Kanban, or SMED, or QRQC, or PDCA, and so on.

These techniques all have some common points which I will outline.

  • They all aim at changing behavior in the worker towards a standard that was predefined over a short period and which isn’t based on any scientific methodology. The standard applied is often one from a benchmark, or copy pasted and not a product of observation or long term data, or the standard remains the same for years, even when the machine is changed, or the layout is changed, or even when the process is changed. Basically, the company is looking for an increase in productivity by scapegoating the worker.
  • These techniques all refuse their own objective of improvement. The techniques have been the same for years. No improvement there then!
  • Waste is a normal thing! Try not producing any when you eat!
  • These techniques all try to create habits in people, like brainwashing or Pavlov’s dogs, without explaining simple case studies to workers.
  • Workers are presented with ‘other’ cultural experiences/techniques but do not understand them.
  • These techniques forget the creative order of chaos. And Benoit Mandelbröt’s marvelous logic.
  • These techniques forget the basic human habit of regression to habit when faced with stress. Learning doesn’t happen, or habits aren’t changed. the learning process isn’t understood or explained.
  • Most workplaces are stressful places, and people don’t have time (or don’t take time or prioritize) to follow the steps in these methods.
  • These methods are, in themselves, a cost to companies, through training, labeling, storage and cleaning.
  • These techniques forget the pleasure people take from their work, and the pleasure they get from doing and improving, from learning on the job. A standard must be respected, and thus doesn’t allow for improvement. Or Pleasure.
  • The opportunity for practice is often forgotten with the putting in place of such measures

Of course, in business we need measures and guidelines, standards and good practice; but we also need the opportunity to innovate, to develop. When your vision is ruled by one company, you make no innovation, as you cater for that company’s vision and its tastes. We continue to use beams, when arches are better, or we continue to use arches when vaults are better, and so on. It takes someone from the exterior to come in and change things, but often they meet resistance. And change starts with yourself.

I often see consultants in business coming in, give their powerpoint presentation, and then go, (not forgetting the LARGE bill) and the company remains the same. They haven’t touched the essential practices. This is increasingly true in IT projects and so on.

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