Saturday, December 19, 2009

Losing Sight of the Long Term in Business and Education

The unnatural environment - Chartered Quality Institute:
In this global environment dictated by mechanistic thinkers with results-driven financial control over the economy, countless managers struggled valiantly to improve performance by implementing the specific practices that outsiders had seen in Toyota plants. Such practices included one-piece flow, standardised work, 5S routines, real-time problem recognition and root-cause analysis. Unfortunately, at the same time, they faced the financial executives’ manage-by-results wrecking ball – the demand that all changes in operations must meet stringent financial targets in the very short term, if not immediately. The mechanistic thinking underlying this manage-by-results policy condemned countless Western businesses to poor economic performance over the past few decades.
Toyota avoided this fate until the last decade because it did not regard results as outcomes that a business achieves by requiring managers to drive people to meet financial targets. It saw that results emerge from a process in which people carefully nurture a web of relationships. These relationships, strikingly enough, emulate the behaviour in natural living systems.
This article describes the overarching, but not widely understood, misstep of our business economy over the past few decades: a focus on short-term financial results that has been self-defeating. In the name of profits over and over we kill the goose that lays the golden eggs:  people and processes.

I have to wonder how much of this is due to our technological ability to increasingly feed ourselves immediate data but our cognitive inability to limit its influence--to step back from that data and see the big picture.

The connection with education and standards is sadly self-evident.

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