Efficiency & effectiveness
You can make a baby in a minute. But you can’t make love in a minute. Either way can be effective if all you want is a baby. The first method wins on efficiency – takes less time and uses less energy. Many folks, however, find making a baby distasteful. For those who do, they might also want to reconsider modern management practices.
Management theory didn’t start in companies but in the classroom. In 1843, Horace Mann’s “Seventh Annual Report” called for a revolutionary new model for public education. He proposed that the Prussian schooling be brought to America to replace the English system. Mann believed the English model, based on mentoring, was inefficient for filling the demands of the new industrial society. America needed a more efficient system for producing workers. Horace Mann’s Prussian model was designed to render the populace “manageable,” educator John Taylor Gatto writes.1
This new educational system overlapped nicely with the revolutionary ideas of Charles Darwin, published in 1859. On the Origin of the Species suggested that humans are merely highly evolved animals. With Darwin’s “science” and Mann’s “system,” the stage was set for Frederick Winslow Taylor’s revolutionary new modern management theory.
In 1899, the Bethlehem Steel Company asked Frederick Winslow Taylor to improve worker efficiency. Taylor started with a simple question: “How many tons of pig iron bars can a worker load onto a rail car in the course of a working day?”2 He reviewed company records and estimated the rate at which Hungarians loaded iron. He offered to double their wages if they worked harder. They huffed and puffed and loaded sixteen and a half tons in under fourteen minutes. Taylor extrapolated fourteen minutes into a full working day. The Hungarians howled at their quadrupled workload.
No problem, said Taylor. He hired “high-priced men” – Pennsylvania Dutchman – whose intelligence he compared to that of an ox. That’s right – animals. They came close to meeting the goals and Taylor went on to write The Principles of Scientific Management and become the founding father of modern management. But Bethlehem profits didn’t increase and they fired Taylor in 1901, throwing out his systems. Taylor later admitted his “scientific management” wasn’t based in much science. He defended his “wags” (wild-ass guesses, in M.B.A.-speak) as the product of his assumptions about people.
Assuming people are animals became the working definition of reality primarily because it overlapped with the ideas of the culture-shaping institutions of the day. In the spring of 1908, Taylor met with Harvard professors and later that year Harvard opened the first graduate school in the country to offer a master’s degree in business. It was based on one assumption – people ought to be “managed” by “experts.” By 1924, H. L. Mencken noted that the aim of public education “is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality” – to render the populace “manageable.” Oink oink.
The odd thing is that the Bible says we never “manage” people. We only manage animals, our appetites and assets. We mentor people. Mentoring is a highly effective method of apprenticing people as thinking, creative, responsible individuals – but it’s not as efficient as “managing” people. It’s the difference between making love and making a baby in a minute – but that’s a whopping divergence.
The Bible says people are not highly evolved animals but are made in the image of God – we are responsible individuals. God created us to “have dominion,” using our head to produce economic and social capital. The result is capitalism, which comes from the Latin caput meaning “head.” The best method for crafting responsible people is mentoring and apprenticeships, not managing. This idea is grounded in scripture yet gained its moniker from Greek mythology. Mentor was the son of Alcumus and, in old age, a friend of Odysseus. When Odysseus left for the Trojan War he placed Mentor in charge of his son, Telemachus, who became Mentor’s protégé.
“The concept of efficiency – and I don’t mean just business efficiency – has done irreparable harm to the way we operate our institutions, our organizations; it doesn’t belong in any organizational setting,” says Dennis Bakke, co-founder and former CEO of AES, a worldwide power supplier serving one hundred million people.3 Under Bakke’s leadership, AES had no shift superintendents or foreman in any plants, no HR department, and no safety department, although AES has one of the best safety records in the industry. AES threw out “19th century ideas that mankind could be manipulated,” Bakke says.4 He started with an assumption “that people are thinking, creative, responsible individuals, and a whole panoply of things have followed from that.”5
Similar to Dennis Bakke’s company, Matthew Stewart founded a firm that grew to over 600, but it wasn’t about bureaucratic control or efficiency. “It was about love,” Stewart says. Making love is mentoring, effective yet somewhat inefficient. Making babies is merely managing, more efficient but less effective. You can get a baby either way, but would you want to be the child raised in an “efficient” home? It’s small wonder why people – “managed” under the ruse of making the company more “efficient” – chafe at the bit. They’re not animals. And its small wonder why people – mentored at AES while Bakke held the reins – flourished. They were treated like humans.
1 John Taylor Gatto, “Against School: How public education cripples our kids, and why.” Gatto is a former New York State and New York City Teacher of the Year and was a participant in the Harper’s Magazine forum “School on a Hill,” which appeared in the September 2003 issue.
2 Matthew Stewart, “The Management Myth,” Atlantic Monthly, June 2006; Volume 297, No. 5; pp. 80-89.
3 “Values Don’t Work in Business,” Max L. Stackhouse, Dennis P. McCann, and Shirley J. Roels, with Preston N. Williams, ed., On Moral Business: Classical and Contemporary Resources for Ethics in Economic Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), pp. 713-717.
4 “A Reluctant Capitalist” http://www.businessweek.com/1999/99_50/b3659121.htm
5 “Values” pp. 713-717.