Deconstruction of the monolithic corporation

The corporate meltdown comments have begun to take on a life of their
own. The last two comments are a good starting point for an expanded
discussion of the possible humanization of industry as they illustrate
two sides of a complex issue.

Jill wrote:

I think over time large companies will have their young road warriors,
but as they marry, have children, grow older and burn out, these road
warriors will start their own businesses many of them outsourced or
home-sourced. I think technology will enable many of these to form what
Shoshanna Zuboff calls federations of free agents who come together to
create and perform "deep support" in people’s lives, something large
corporations cannot do.

Dan wrote:

I think that there is another factor that all of us forget. The economy
is not all about people sitting next to a PC… People manufacture…
and these things needs heavy equipment. examples: chip fabs, food,
machines (like cars or ships or planes)

…The PC+internet are powerful tools for creation (i.e writing),
but… there is more then writing things… there is still a real,
concrete world out there…

Dan makes a valid point. I am not suggesting we set up chip fab
operations in our garages. (Disposing of the byproducts would be a
royal nightmare!)

But, I am insisting that industry, even heavy industry, is no longer in
the position it was in the 20’s and 30’s when workers were viewed as
interchangeable cogs, and worked routinely in dismal, sometimes hellish

I have worked in a factory setting and am familiar with foundries and
assembly and welding operations performed in dimly-lit caverns. I have
a real appreciation of the errors that are routinely made because of
insufficient illumination and the numbing fatigue that comes with long
hours of deafening noise.

The mindset that uses people as robots is no match for those who think
outside the box and look at people as resources which are most
valuable when self-actuated.

America was throwing workers at the problem of welding and painting
automobiles and probably would still be doing so if the Japanese
hadn’t bypassed us by building robots to do those jobs faster and more

In a free market, those who are more efficient take business away from
those who are less efficient, assuming that the efficiency is
translated into lower prices and better service for the customer.

My purpose in pursuing this line of discussion, is to examine whether
self-actuated groups are inherently more efficient in a business
environment than groups using strict command and control protocols.

For openers, we could consider the success of Communism in Russia vs
the arguably inefficient and undisciplined methods of controlling the
American economy. Somehow, America’s free market system kept muddling
through and coming out ahead time after time.

Could it be that distributed decision-making has some peculiar power
and unexpected efficiency?  Sounds like blogging and the blogosphere to
me. Perhaps we should throw some more bloggers at the problems of humanizing industry.

More on this later…


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0 Responses to Deconstruction of the monolithic corporation

  1. If you look at the industry we’re in, which you’ve already referred to regarding manufacture, welding and industry, you’ll find the so-called warriors started disappearing along time before the age of the PC/internet.

    And what happened? The larger companies remained, but found themselves having to outsource to those that left in the first place. The larger companies have all the necessary legal credentials, but lack the necessary manpower and the smaller companies possess the skills, but can’t afford the required credentials.

    Yes, a vast amount of manufacturing has gone abroad and/or been computerised – another thing the smaller companies can’t afford to do. However, there are still some skilled people floating about and, in turn, a skilled industry that harks back to a bygone era.

    But, you can sit next to a PC and fabricate chip fabs. I’m currently writing this from inside an old Victorian foundry with a hydroform blaring in my ear.

    It amazes me how many ex-sheet metal bloggers there are floating about.

  2. Dale says:

    The mindset that uses people as robots is no match for those who think outside the box and look at people as resources which are most valuable when self-actuated.

    I couldn’t agree with you more. A little while ago, my wife and I were sorting out how to arrange for me to stay home with our sick son tomorrow. Part of that analysis was me running down the list of things I can get done from home. As a result, tomorrow is going to be my best-planned work day in about three weeks. The freedom I enjoy in not being tied to my office inspired a burst of creativity.

  3. Rosa Say says:

    David, I met a former corporate colleague for coffee recently, and I was amazed at how the conversation about her working life had not changed much since the time I’d worked with her – nearly 2 years ago.

    As evidenced by much of the discussion your posts have generated, many of those who are blog readers have the good fortune of now being outside and looking in – at least in their own awareness if not yet physically.

    The sad thing is that the vast majority of those who are still fully immersed in today’s corporate cultures can’t see the forest for the trees. We have to wonder how we can somehow get louder and command more attention to the future we see as so inevitable.

  4. The people I know who are still “living” the corporate life, are doing the same. Their conversations contain the same complaints year after year.

    We will reach them by caring for them and communicating that care, not by getting louder and more insistent. They are overwhelmed by loud and strident demands every day. What they don’t get is caring communication.

    I think that you and I have messages that will resonate strongly with them. Their responses will tell us what we need to do in order to help them.

    I think that bloggers will play a large part in the humanization of work in the next few years.

  5. Rosa Say says:

    David, you are so right: I find that my management coaching practice has become more satisfying than ever before, and the people we do touch with aloha and with malama (the caring you speak of) are now able to effect positive changes for themselves much more quickly than in the past.

    One of the things that is so encouraging about blogging, is its’ emergence as a new communications forum for coaching – in many diverse disciplines. I’m loving it, just as I know you are.

  6. Carrie says:

    I had a comment but lost it somehow. I do agree with Jill because I’ve seen that happen already several times in different industries. I also agree with Dan.

    And your observation that freedom to think is more efficient is correct, I believe. Innovation rules more efficiently and produces better quality and attention than power and control domination. That’s been my experience at least. 🙂

  7. I am still on the inside and not prepared to give up the battle. Companies can be better places to work that satisfy employees and customers.

    David, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s books including “Good Business” [read my Amazon review] give both examples and research to the question you pose in this blog about self-actuated groups. When businesses get desperate enough to try this radical change they will find not just efficiency but effectiveness.

    This is the same history of “Lean” principles, in the auto industry, Detroit had to get so desparate they were willing to try something radically different. To this end the enormous stress we encounter is a positive force for change, had we all been ‘patriotic Americans’ in the 1970’s and only bought American cars we would still be paying a premium price for an inferior product. In the 1990’s the money was flowing and the mantra was ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’, now that we see it is broke it is going to get fixed.
    TITLE: Organised Intelligence
    BLOG NAME: noirExtreme
    DATE: 02/10/2005 08:14:53 AM

    This blog I was reading is supposedly on the phenomenon of Groupthink in Blogging but it doesn’t really make any point (well I guess that is why it is called “Part I”…).

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