Greg Satell, one of our go-to thinkers on organizational culture has a recent post where he identifies the tension between leading for organizational efficiency and leading for a high-performing, high-trust work culture.
This is especially pertinent for educational institutions, who, as we're often reminded by historians of education, are heirs to the traditions of Scientific Management, Fredrick Winslow Taylor's turn-of-the-20th-Century theories of organizational efficiency. Taylor had a huge influence over organizational thought, writes Satell:
Before long, Taylor’s ideas became gospel, spawning offshoots such as scientific marketing, financial engineering and the six sigma movement. It was no longer enough to simply work hard, you had to measure, analyze and optimize everything.
Sound familiar? "Measure everything" has been the driving mantra in accountability-based reforms for some time now. This isn't even a bad thing - being technically efficient and understanding, for instance, where the achievement gaps occur is critical in public education has been key to identifying problem areas and improving outcomes for at-risk populations.
The problem, says Satell, is that it's possible to go to far to one side of the equation: "When you manage only what you can measure, you end up ignoring key factors to success." While we work to be more accountable
The drive for efficiency must be balanced with the drive to be attentive to the needs of the human beings in the organization. Satell:
The 19th century philosopher Immanuel Kant believed strongly in the notion of dignity, which he defined as treating people as ends in themselves, rather than as means to an end. As I’ve explained before, the same principle applies managing an enterprise. Nobody wants to be a cog in somebody else’s machine.
When we talk about human-centered solutions, we're really talking about this balance between technical efficiency and putting the development of the individuals of the organization at the center of how the organization operates.
-Michael N. Martin