The manager’s myopia

Frederick Taylor claim to fame was his habit of measuring the productivity of industrial workers with a stop-watch. When labourers loaded sacks of pig-iron on railroad carriages, he stood by the side and measured how many they could load in 15 minutes.

Taylor believed that workers were inherently lazy and they needed a manager to measure their productivity and motivate them using rewards and punishments. His interventions gained enough traction during the industrial revolution to earn Taylor the title, ‘the father of modern management’. Taylor’s assumptions and his crude early 20th century methods continue to influence managers today. Managers everywhere are still hooked on measurement, monitoring and metrics.

Yet, the problem arises when you treat any process like an assembly line. Take nursing for instance. Several nursing organizations today measure their nurse’s productivity in number of visits they make per day, number of injections administered etc. The nurses are then penalized if they don’t meet their daily targets. The nurses have little control over the patients they are assigned to – they could meet new patients every day and never treat them again. Now given that several nurses choose the nursing profession while foregoing more lucrative career options out of the joy of serving their patients, how satisfied are they going to be when every move they make is monitored by a crony with a stopwatch?

The manager’s myopia stems from addressing every problem as though it were a productivity problem and treating every process like an assembly line.

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