Optimal processes

May 14, 2022
Are you still held back by belief in the possibility of an optimal process?

Do you believe in optimal processes?

I just came upon an interesting list in a book I’m reading. It’s a list of modern-day effects of believing in the possibility of an optimal process, one of the tenants of Neo-Taylorism (the brand of Taylorism that became predominant after WWII):

  • Perfectionism—a belief that “best efforts”— will achieve optimal results
  • Management by objective (MBO) as a vehicle for enforcing perfectionism
  • Rejection of continuous improvement
  • Belief in certification as a guarantee of quality
  • Demands for repeatability of process
  • Denial or minimization of failures, and dismissal of the opportunity to learn from them
  • Reliance on reengineering and automation as a substitute for reducing inherent process complexity
  • Spreadhseet mentality in planning (assumption that fixed or linear relationships exist among variables)
  • Quotas and work standards
  • Hiring only high-GPA college graduates
  • Employee ranking and rating schemes
  • Imitation of others without understanding why, how, or even if they get their results
  • Concentration on measurement of outcome rather than understanding of the underlying system of causes

Ostensibly, practices like Agile Software Development, Lean, Kanban, and DevOps, are diametrically opposed to (Neo-)Taylorism. And while some of these items are clearly embraced by these communities (who doesn’t want continuous improvement?), I’m struck by how many items on this list are commonly preached in these groups.

Certifications? Best practices? Hiring only the best? Oh, and reliance on automation, as a substitute for reducing complexity? Who among us isn’t guilty of this one?

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