Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Hey Taylor, you should have read "A Connecticut Yankee..."

Many of my fellow bloggers tended to write about Taylor’s use of efficiency throughout the text. I, however, would like to spend some time on training, and how I see its results in the workplace, or rather, the efficiency therein—both on a personal and grand scale.

In the very beginning, Taylor notes that one of his primary objectives is, “to convince the reader that the remedy for this inefficiency lies in systematic management, rather than in searching for some unusual or extraordinary man.”

I’ve interpreted this idea of a, “system,” as basically a training kernel; a series of steps which grooms a person into a model employee, i.e., one who achieves his/her maximum output. To continue, I would even go so far as to agree with Taylor; there must be some sort of training—rather rigorous, in fact—to ‘build’ this prototype of employee. Ok, so I would say that Taylor’s ideas are correct; however, I think his outlook on the cultural and economic development of America is terribly shortsighted and results in a technique that, albeit sound, has become inapplicable in the modern-day United States.

I’d like to make use of some different examples to illustrate this. To make it a bit more personal, I’ll start by incorporating my experience this summer working for a landscaping company. My time there was pretty typical, and it mirrored much of what Taylor discussed: we respected my employer, but, at the same time, we didn’t ‘seek out’ more work. In other words, if we finished the job early, we took our time cleaning up so that we could just punch out once we got back, rather than starting an entirely new job. Well, moving on, my boss always told us how he wanted to hire Mexican labor, citing a fellow landscaper who had already done so. The workers: they didn’t know a lick of English; the employer: not a lick of Spanish. How did the employer manage, then, to get the most out of his employees? Simple. He spray-paints a line on the ground and uses a shovel to signal that they were to dig that deep. A lax day by his employees? No problem. He takes the weakest one, fires him/her, and the rest works twice as hard for the rest of the day.

Now, how does such a method works with one group of people (i.e., these Mexican workers) but not the other (me and my co-workers)? Before, I get to my point I’d just like to cite another example: the Japanese. The Japanese aren’t in the same position as Mexican immigrants; they aren’t fleeing their home country in hopes of finding higher wages in another. Yet, the Japanese are renowned for maintaining a frivolous pace of work, like a well-oiled machine (a real coincidence, eh?). This strangely cold system of work (like w/ the Mexican workers) can flourish here, too; but, again, its applicability in America seems rather limited.

So, what does in fact drive one group of people to work in a manner more systematic than the other? Well, it seems as if Taylor ought to have read more Twain, because Hank knows exactly the cause:

“Training – training is everything; training is all there is to a person. We speak of nature of nature; it is folly; there is no such thing as nature; what we call by that misleading name is merely heredity and training…All that is original in us…can be covered up and hidden by a cambric needle, all the rest being atoms contributed by, and inherited from, a procession of ancestors that stretches back a billion years…”

What Hank seems to realize, whereas Taylor does not, is that this training isn’t conducted with a stopwatch and camera, but rather with years upon years of society’s advancement. To put my main argument in more simple terms, American’s are determined (if you wish to portray it positively) or stubborn (if you wish to portray it negatively); if we don’t like something or someone, we tell it to go to Hell, or we adapt to overcome the problems met with this object or person. Taylor acknowledges these facts, albeit a bit indirectly, quoting, “The greater part of the systematic soldiering, however, is done by the men with the deliberate object,” i.e., a conscience adaption to, “[keep] their employers ignorant of how fast work can be done.” What Taylor significantly underestimates is our country being built on the ideals of everyone pursuing their own goals as they wish. Countries such as Japan certainly have freedom equivalent to ours, but hereditarily its people are raised on ideals and tradition entirely different from our own.

Well, I’m running out of space, so I’d like to finish with this quote from The Simpsons, which, I believe, correctly demonstrates this attitude we possess:

“Lisa, if you don't like your job you don't strike. You just go in every day and do it really half-assed. That's the American way!”


Charlie said...

Forgot to add: this is for graded blog #6 (Group 2), question 2.

Adam Johns said...

Wonderful combination of Taylor, Twain, and contemporary life. It occurs to me that your entry and Josh's are almost twins - he provides more of the praxis, you more of the theory. Reading them together really illustrates the advantage of doing our written work in blogs instead of in papers - a third person, in theory, ought to get quite a bit out of reading your two entries together.

So, do you agree that there is nothing but training to a person? Your point about training being a long, not a short process is masterful (and Taylor is not wholly ignorant of that - hence his interest in comparing his establishments to the educational system, which does take the long view) -- it also raises lots of questions.