People vs the System

Much debate (here Thinking Allowed) since the recent financial crisis on the future of capitalism and global industrialisation, and the failure of economists to keep their eye on the underlying “systemic risks” in the trading of ever more convoluted financial derivatives. (Watched that excellent dramatisation of the Lehman Brothers demise just a couple of evenings ago too. Quality stuff.)

Anyway, talking of systems, I was reminded by David Gurteen that in 1923 F W Taylor wrote

“In the past Man has been first.
In future the system must be first.”

Scary ? Like shooting fish in a barrell to ridicule Taylorism nearly a century on for the excesses of scientific management and it is of course where my agenda started.  As David points out, context matters and no surprise, Taylor’s next sentence starts:

“… however
… the first object of any good system, must be
… first class [people] “

The reason David’s quote caught my eye was a (cover to cover) re-read in the last few days of  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Pirsig is often cited as being against “social programs” – in polarizing Capitalist vs Marxist slanging matches – a meme which usually takes about three dialectical exchanges to sink to the level of Hitler & Nazism or Stalin / Mao & Totalitarianism. Bad people. Of course Pirsig too was careful to qualify what he meant:

” … [No] enthusiasm for big programs
full of social planning for big masses of people,
that leave individual Quality out.”

Oh, and how could I forget, the subject of the Denning piece that David Gurteen quotes is Dilbert or maybe Dilbertism. How often Dilbert mirrors real organizational life … now that is scary.

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