From the Dark Side of Productivity, Part 1 of 2
By focusing strictly on metrics that could be easily measured, the system actually penalized associates whose selling style depended on longer interactions with customers, even though such relationships often assured continued customer loyalty. Others found their hours cut back to the point where they could no longer afford to make the trip to work.
During busy times, the formerly congenial staff began competing for customers, sometimes stealing them away from one another. While productivity did increase, perhaps the most surprising, unintended result of the system was that this story, with all its unflattering aspects, was splashed across page A1 of The Wall Street Journal.
Ironically, just a few days before that story appeared, the publication carried a remembrance of Michael Hammer, often called the “Father of Re-Engineering,” who passed away at age 60 on Sept. 4. The article noted that Hammer, author of the 1993 business best-seller, “Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution,” was a remarkably successful and influential consultant. He revolutionized many businesses. Among his achievements, he helped Schneider National cut the time it took to complete a job bid from two weeks to two days, and he helped Royal Dutch Shell improve reliability and reduce costs by focusing attention on refinery safety and efficiency. He was recognized and lauded by Time and Forbes, and commanded huge consulting and lecture fees as a result.
Yet Hammer also had second thoughts. In a 1996 interview, he admitted that he and other re-engineering proponents hadn’t paid enough attention to people. “I wasn’t smart enough about that,” he admitted. “I was reflecting my engineering background and was insufficiently appreciative of the human dimension. I’ve learned that’s critical.”
Because of that early omission, the article notes that “re-engineering had a dark side, as the streamlining of processes often went hand in hand with reductions in workers. Often the term became jargon for mass layoffs.”