Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Must-Have Missionary Book

A few weeks ago, BYU Studies held an annual meeting for some our supporters. This year we invited a rather unusual speaker. His name is Robert Lively, dean emeritus and former professor of religion at the University of Maine at Farmington. Rob is not LDS. So why would we invite a nonmember to speak at our annual meeting? Because of the book he self-published in late 2015. It is titled The Mormon Missionary: Who Is That Knocking at My Door?
Many years ago, when Rob was working on his PhD at Oxford, he became interested in the LDS Church and its missionary program. He also met Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, who became aware of his interest and opened doors for him. Well, Rob landed eventually at the small university in rural Farmington, and he started inviting representatives from various religions to make a presentation to his class. When he proposed inviting the Mormon missionaries, the class balked. They had all seen the young people with the nametags, and they had mostly avoided them. Some had refused to answer the door when they knocked. “If we don’t invite them into our homes,” one student asked, “why should we invite them into our classroom? Do we have to invite them?” Exercising his professorial prerogative, Rob said, “Yes!” So two sets of missionaries came, two elders and two sisters, and the students were absolutely fascinated by why these young people would give up eighteen or twenty-four months of their lives to go around being rejected by everyone. The next class period the students talked about the missionaries’ presentation, and when Rob asked whether he should invite them back in future semesters, the answer was a unanimous “Yes!”
Eventually, it dawned on Rob Lively that no non-Mormon had ever written a book about Mormon missionaries, explaining to a non-Mormon readership who these young people are, what they do, and why. So he decided to. The result is impressive. He has interviewed almost 300 missionaries who have served from the 1930s to the present, all across the U.S. and in forty-seven foreign countries. He has interviewed President Hinckley, other General Authorities, mission presidents, MTC presidents, local ward and stake leaders, and parents of missionaries. He has left no stone unturned. I’ll be honest; I have served a mission, my wife has served a mission, we have sent three sons on missions, I taught for three years at the MTC, and when I worked at the Ensign, I was responsible for all the missionary-related articles, so I know a bit about “missionary stuff,” but I have learned quite a few new things about the LDS missionary program and about the missionary experience from reading Rob’s book. What he has done is truly amazing.
He starts with an overview of the Church and explains our missionary impulse. He then delves into the preparation (and pressures) to serve a mission in both LDS culture and LDS families. He covers the interview and application process, the receipt of the white envelope from Salt Lake, the MTC experience, and the arrival in the mission. He explores every significant aspect of missionary life, including illnesses, bad companions, transfers, mission president interviews, finding, teaching, and baptizing. He devotes chapters to sister missionaries and senior couples and international missionaries. He then discusses the departure from the mission, including the sometimes difficult transition and what comes after, both good and bad.
Because Rob is a non-Mormon, he can deal with both the positives and negatives without coming across as either boosterish or critical. And he is entirely nonjudgmental. His whole intention is to tell the story of Mormon missionaries, often in their own words. He is able to deal with issues the Church probably never would in an official publication, including stories about some missionaries who leave the Church after returning home, or who leave the mission early for a variety of reasons, and how they are treated when they come home early. He also presents the positives of the mission experience in his engaging and even-handed manner. There are a few statistics in the book, but mostly the content comes from his interviews, and every point is illustrated with stories from real missionaries. This isn’t a theoretical analysis of missionary work. It is a bunch of stories woven together into an intricate tapestry that tells the story of what a Mormon mission is all about.
Rob is a friend to the Church in the very best sense of the word. He is fair and honest, and the reader is absolutely certain that he cares a great deal about his subject matter and the people whose lives have created it. But he isn’t afraid to bring up uncomfortable topics.
Because of the nature of this unique book, BYU Studies has published a collection of excerpts from it in our latest journal, which will be available online within a week or so. The book itself can be purchased on Amazon, here. When I say that he leaves no stone unturned, I mean it. That’s why the book is 510 pages long. And it doesn’t read like a book from an outsider, someone who doesn’t understand LDS culture. He even gets the vernacular right. Sometimes he does it better than I could.
As I’ve been reading, it has occurred to me that while this book will be interesting and informative to Mormon and non-Mormon readers alike, perhaps the reader who could benefit most from it is the prospective missionary. I remember being pretty clueless before leaving on my mission about what exactly I was getting myself into. I wish I had had a book like this. Because he has interviewed missionaries from all over the world, and because he allows them tell their stories, he gives a very clear picture of what it is like being a missionary in a variety of locations and cultures. As Dante said, “The arrow seen before cometh less rudely.” A book like this would let prospective missionaries see some of those arrows in advance. The consequence might be fewer who are thrown for a loop (or permanently damaged) by the difficulties inherent in serving a mission.
As I said in my review on Amazon, this book really is a one-of-a-kind treasure. I doubt that anything like this will ever be written again. I mean, how many Yale- and Oxford-educated professors of religion are there who are willing to spend thirty years interviewing LDS missionaries and then write their story without being at all judgmental?
So take a look. If you’re interested in the LDS missionary experience, you’ll probably find it a fascinating read. And if you’ve got a son or daughter, a niece or nephew, a grandson or granddaughter who is thinking about serving a mission, this could be the most valuable gift you could give them.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Can More Government Involvement Make Us More Free?

One of the articles of faith of modern conservatism is that government is intrusive and meddlesome. This goes back to Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address. Part of this belief is that government intrusion in our lives inevitably takes our freedom away. One influential conservative framed the movement’s goal as making the government small enough that we could drown it in a bathtub. And much of the anger on the Right is aimed at this image of government that has been so effectively painted by people with more air time than common sense. A good portion of the reasoning is that the more government we have in our lives, the more we have to be taxed to pay for it. And, of course, taxes are evil. A significant part of the conservative view of freedom is freedom from taxation.
Well, here’s a heretical thought in these days of rampant antigovernment rhetoric. Can more government involvement actually make us more rather than less free?
This thought occurred to me in a particular context, and that context is health care, although there are certainly many more contexts where this question applies. But let’s look at health care. I served a mission in Germany and still have friends in that green country. I’m sure my German friends are convinced that they have more freedom in terms of health care than I do as an American citizen. When they are sick or injured, they are free to seek care from a variety of options. Because I have good insurance, I too am free to seek care, but only from providers who happen to have contracts with my insurance company. If I go outside this network, I either pay everything or I pay a higher percentage of the total bill. This certainly limits an important freedom. And if I were to fall into one of the gaps where I could not afford insurance and did not qualify for government assistance, I would have very little freedom.
Yes, I understand that there are certain inefficiencies and inadequacies in the various “socialized” health-care systems around the world, but these pale in comparison to the deficiencies of the American system, even with the Affordable Care Act in place. None of my German friends would ever want to trade their system for ours. They would view this as a decrease in their freedom. This is a case where the free market does not make people more free.
Another conservative article of faith is that government regulation is intrusive and should be curtailed. Rather than looking at specific regulations, the politicians just condemn regulation categorically because this sells well on the campaign trail. The argument generally is that regulations hamper businesses in some way (infringe on businesses’ freedom to do business the way they want). But most regulation is aimed at protecting individual freedoms from business overreach, because most businesses are hard-wired to cut corners and take advantage of any angle they can find to increase their bottom line. As long as it isn’t illegal, it is usually fair game.
So regulation occurs at the intersection of business freedom and human freedom. Conservatives generally favor increasing business freedom at the expense of human freedom. Liberals favor individual freedom over business freedom. But relaxing regulation under the ludicrous assumption that businesses can be trusted to self-regulate definitely damages certain individual freedoms. Take pollution standards, for example. Imagine where we would be if corporations had been allowed to self-regulate regarding their pollution of our air and water. Businesses would have enjoyed great freedom to externalize certain costs, but American citizens would have lost the freedom to breathe clean air and drink clean water. Of course, in reality government regulations have still allowed plenty of freedom to pollute, so we do not actually enjoy clean air and some communities (think Flint, Michigan) are not free to drink clean water.
One final example. Just last week I saw statistics showing that nearly half of all American families have no retirement savings. None. Among citizens between ages 51 and 60, the average retirement savings is less than $17,000. This is probably partly due to poor planning, but primarily it is a result of falling wages for most Americans and corporations eliminating pension plans. When labor is considered a cost to minimize, decent-paying jobs get either shipped off to Third World countries or replaced by technology. The result is a pinched middle class. So a huge segment of the workforce has been unable to save anywhere near enough to retire on. I imagine that these people would consider Social Security benefits a boon to their freedom, not a constriction of it.
Similar arguments can be made for any number of areas where government is involved in our lives. While there are certainly areas of government overreach, quite often increased government involvement results in increased freedom for the majority of citizens. Maybe it’s time to put another of Ronald Reagan’s myths to rest.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Productivity and the Mormon Busyness Ethic (Part 2)

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38–42).

Because managers feel compelled to somehow measure work—and because in most modern workplaces anything related to Taylor’s time and motion studies is irrelevant—they often simply measure hours worked. Sometimes they divide up the hours and assign them to various tasks. This measurement often has no direct connection to the actual product being produced (because most work today is not the easy-to-quantify factory work Taylor focused on), so managers end up measuring inputs in the productivity equation but not relating them in any meaningful way to the output (often because there is no way to mathematically connect the two). When this happens, management is simply focusing on activity, the more the better. And the message workers hear is that they should fill their days with many activities, regardless of whether or not they are actually productive activities. This measurement approach rewards busyness. It also rewards people for working more hours than they actually need to, creating a culture of workaholism, which is a good description of our American economic culture.
In America we put a premium on hours worked. American jobholders work more hours in a year, on average, than workers in Japan, Canada, Sweden, or the UK, to name a few. We even work more hours than the industrious Germans. According to statistics from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in 2010 Americans worked on average 360 more hours than their German counterparts. That’s nine regular 40-hour workweeks, by the way. The discrepancy is partly due to Germany’s myriad holidays and legally guaranteed four weeks of vacation time. By contrast, the United States is the only industrialized country with no statutory minimum employment leave. Even the overworked South Koreans, who regularly top the list of workaholic workforces, are guaranteed ten days of employment leave per year. Australians get five weeks off. Most Europeans get four to six. And which country works the least? The Netherlands. The Dutch work 400 fewer hours annually than Americans do.
A different OECD study compared countries according to the combination of paid and unpaid hours worked. (Unpaid work includes such activities as cooking, cleaning, and shopping.) Interestingly, Mexico topped the chart and the United States came in ninth, ahead of South Korea (perhaps because the Koreans are so exhausted by their long workdays that they have little energy to work around the house). At the bottom of this list came the Belgians, preceded by the Danes, the notoriously hardworking Germans, the South Africans, and the French.
So Americans stack up fairly well against other nations in the total hours they work. And American Latter-day Saints, I think we could safely conclude, are probably above average in their industriousness. I suspect, on the whole, that Latter-day Saints are probably also more inclined than the average American to focus on activity for the sake of activity. In fact, we even categorize members as being “active” and “less active,” as if activity were the ultimate objective of our existence. If we are not keeping up with Sister Bustle down the street—who is raising six straight-A students, running a candle-making business out of her home, volunteering with the PTA, baking bread three times a week, winning awards for her flower gardens, taking in stray pets, and training for a marathon—we feel guilty. And this is only the cultural side of Mormonism. Add to this all the organizational demands that come from the institutional side of the Church (which adopted a corporate management mentality as part of the Correlation movement of the early 1960s),1 and it could easily be argued that we Latter-day Saints are among the busiest people on earth. We’ve taken the Protestant Work Ethic and transformed it into the Mormon Busyness Ethic. We even use a beehive as one of our most ubiquitous religious icons. What unspoken message does this send? Of course we don’t want to be lazy, but the unfortunate consequence of our emphasis on activity and busyness is that we too often confuse these with productivity.

The Power Nap
What is productivity anyway, beyond the simple ratio discussed in the previous post? What does it mean to be productive in your work, or in your life, especially in terms of your religion? Does it mean putting in a lot of hours? Does it mean filling those hours with activities intended to show management (or your fellow ward members) how indispensable (or faithful) you are? Has productivity come to mean nothing more than unfocused, activity-oriented deception, perhaps even self-deception?
A few years ago I worked with a woman (let’s call her Ruth) who was the busiest worker I have ever seen. Ruth was always on the go, always talked a thousand miles per hour, and seemed to have her fingers in everything. If anyone appeared to be indispensable, it was Ruth. Then one day she found another job. She left us. We wondered how on earth we would replace her. Fortunately, she left us a long and detailed list of her activities and responsibilities. It was an impressive inventory. But as we analyzed it with the intent to divide up her responsibilities among the rest of the staff, we gradually came to the conclusion that it was mostly a smokescreen. As we waded through her lengthy job description, we realized there was very little we really had to worry about. We ended up replacing Ruth, but the new employee received assignments far different (and more urgent) than the activities Ruth had been involved in. Most of her very busy activities simply vanished into thin air, and we never missed them.
As I think about this experience, I wonder what could disappear from modern Mormonism that wouldn’t leave a hole? The General Authorities speak often of reducing and simplifying, but when push comes to shove, we seem to be addicted to busyness. We somehow conclude that no programs or activities, regardless of how peripheral, are indispensable. But what cost do they exact in terms of stress and family dysfunction and mental health challenges?
So, I ask again, what is productivity? Let me give a couple of personal examples. I worked seven years as a magazine editor. What if, on a typical day, I spent an hour thinking about an important question, read a thought-provoking article related to the content of the magazine, took a few minutes to study a language issue in my style guide, visited with my coworkers about things that were happening in their lives—and these activities took up my morning? What if, in the afternoon, I then edited an outstanding article on raising a child with a disability? Would you call that a productive day? Would you consider it more productive than, say, sitting in a four-hour meeting in which no progress is made and no significant decisions are reached, then spending the rest of the day answering pointless e-mails, filling out bureaucratic forms, and putting out fires ignited by managers who are busily trying to justify their jobs?
Or, for the sake of argument, let’s say I spent four hours slipping in and out of consciousness while reading manuscripts, because I was tired. Would that have been more productive than taking a half-hour nap, then reading those same manuscripts in two very alert hours?
What does it mean to be productive? I think sometimes we worship appearances and forget substance. If we look busy, that’s all that matters. And what we measure has a great influence on how we spend our time. In 1948, President J. Reuben Clark jotted in his office diary a concern regarding the consequences of “appraising Church activities by business asset-liability procedures. [Can spiritual development and achievement be measured statistically, or will the use of statistical measures of success and failure in Church activities actually undermine spirituality by glorifying external piety? . . . Could efficiency become the end rather than spirituality?]”2 So, have we learned anything in the past sixty-eight years? Or have we justified President Clark’s fear?
So we might as well ask the obvious question. What would Jesus measure? The story about Martha and Mary from Luke suggests that he sees productivity in exactly the opposite places from where we’d normally expect to find it. The Beatitudes mention being poor in spirit, sorrowful, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, being merciful, pure in heart, peaceful, and persecuted for righteousness’s sake. Nowhere does Jesus suggest a life crammed full of meetings, activities, programs, or a regimen of organizational demands that distract from the essence of the pure religion he preached, a religion focused on personal attributes and interpersonal relationships.

All Strung Up
Hugh Nibley once accused Latter-day Saints of giving “young people and old awards for zeal alone, zeal without knowledge—for sitting in endless meetings, for dedicated conformity, and unlimited capacity for suffering boredom. We think it more commendable to get up at 5:00 a.m. to write a bad book than to get up at nine o’clock to write a good one—that is pure zeal that tends to breed a race of insufferable prigs and barren minds. One has only to consider the present outpouring of ‘inspirational’ books in the Church which bring little new in the way of knowledge: truisms, and platitudes, kitsch, and clichés have become our everyday diet. The Prophet [Joseph Smith] would never settle for that.”3
And speaking of the Prophet Joseph, Elder William M. Allred said this about him:
I was with him in the troubles at DeWitt, Adam-ondi-ahman, and in Far West. I have played ball with him many times in Nauvoo. He was preaching once, and he said it tried some of the pious folks to see him play ball with the boys. He then related a story of a certain prophet who was sitting under the shade of a tree amusing himself in some way, when a hunter came along with his bow and arrow, and reproved him. The prophet asked him if he kept his bow strung up all the time. The hunter answered that he did not. The prophet asked why, and he said it would lose its elasticity if he did. The prophet said it was just so with his mind, he did not want it strung up all the time.4
Consider what the Prophet Joseph accomplished in his very abbreviated lifetime. When I come to the end of my working years, I certainly don’t want to look back on my career and say, “All I accomplished was that I stayed busy for forty years.” I would like to think it was a productive forty years. And I certainly don’t want to look back on my life and say, “My, what a busy life I’ve had.” I would want to consider my time on earth a productive sojourn. And no mathematical fiction will make me feel better about my failure if I fall short of that goal.
1. See Edward L. Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005), 249.
2. D. Michael Quinn, J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1983), 106, bracketed text in JRC’s diary.
3. Hugh W. Nibley, Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless (Provo, Utah: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1978), 270–71.
4. In “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” The Juvenile Instructor 27 (1892): 471.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Productivity and the Mormon Busyness Ethic (Part 1)

Several moons ago, Sunstone published an essay of mine with the title above. In this post and next week’s I will reproduce the original essay I sent them. What the good folks at Sunstone actually printed included some material they insisted on adding. Since I was sort of partial to the unexpanded version, I’ll post it here. This week’s installment is about productivity. Next week’s will tackle the more intriguing topic of the Mormon business ethic.

For nine years I taught operations management at Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Management, and one of the topics I taught was productivity. The first year or so I preached the corporate party line, namely, that increasing productivity is a near cure-all for woes experienced by both businesses and economies. But then I took a closer look at the idea of productivity and discovered something unexpected. Not only does productivity improvement produce some distinct disadvantages for both the labor force and the economy in general, but also, when it comes to measuring productivity, the numbers get as slippery as a greased pig and are as meaningful as mud. Even more important, the way we measure productivity in businesses sometimes produces unintentional results, such as encouraging unfocused activity instead of the productive use of time. This organizational tendency has ramifications beyond our workaday lives and can even affect how we live our religion. (Bear with me; I’ll get to this last point eventually.)

Playing with Numbers
Let’s take a quick look at how productivity is measured. The basic formula for calculating productivity is the simple ratio of output/inputs. On a national level, this simple ratio can become a quagmire of confusing statistics. For example, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics measures productivity, it excludes many categories of economic endeavor, such as general government, nonprofit institutions, and paid employees of private households. Compounding the difficulty is the fact that in our economy less than 20 percent of workers produce tangible (read “easily quantifiable”) goods. The rest of us are secretaries, salespeople, lawyers, bus drivers, editors, insurance agents, managers, custodians, computer support technicians, and others who perform services to keep the economy running. The only way to estimate the output of this majority is to translate their services somehow into dollars. This dubious figure is then adjusted for inflation and divided by the number of hours these people work. And here we run into a second problem. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has no idea how many hours most people work. The government doesn’t know how many lunch hours stretch to 70 minutes, how many workers leave the office early for a dentist appointment or soccer game, or how many managers burn the midnight oil. In addition, the government doesn’t even pretend to know just how a manager’s activities affect the company’s product or service.
To compound the measurement dilemma, the mixture of outputs and inputs in the economy is not constant from year to year. In fact, as manufacturing declines as a portion of the economy, easily measurable production and labor figures make up a smaller portion of the whole with each passing year. This means that the government’s productivity statistics can’t be compared to themselves accurately over time, and they certainly can’t be compared with productivity statistics from other countries. In other words, the numbers are virtually meaningless or, worse, deceptive. Every time I see a newspaper article boasting of America’s productivity gains, I am reminded of the quip “Torture numbers and they’ll confess to anything.”
This predicament improves only slightly for an individual business. Corporate executives may feel they have a pretty good handle on the quantity of product their workers turn out and how many hours these people work, but total product/labor hours is still a single-factor measurement. In other words, it measures only labor productivity. But what about all the other factors that influence productivity, such as capital investment, research, energy, raw materials, and technology? If a manufacturer invests in new equipment and the firm’s labor productivity rises dramatically, does this mean the laborers are working harder or more efficiently? No. It may mean the exact opposite. The entire productivity gain may be due to technology, and the workers may be underutilized. Because of this dilemma, some have tried to come up with a total-factor measurement, translating all inputs into dollars and using this figure in the denominator of the ratio. This presents a different view of productivity, but with total-factor measurements, how do you know which factor is actually affecting the final quotient? It’s extremely difficult to quantify exactly how much of the productivity increase is due to one factor and how much is due to another.

The Service Economy and Quality
Perhaps the most significant issue regarding productivity measurement for the economy as a whole and for many individual businesses is that the United States has increasingly become a service economy. Measuring the productivity of service workers is notoriously difficult, to say nothing of increasing it. For instance, how do you measure the productivity of a bus driver? Number of stops per hour? Can you increase her productivity without destroying the quality of the product? How do you measure the productivity of a night watchman or a customer service clerk at Walmart or a receptionist? How do you even define their product?
Behind these questions, however, lies an even more important question: Why do we want to measure the productivity of workers in the first place? The only reason an organization might want to measure productivity would be to increase it. Why? Because increasing productivity is seen as a universal positive in business. But what if the attempt to increase the productivity of most workers is actually counterproductive? Hold that thought for a moment.
Some businesses produce a tangible product, and yet the work that goes into that product is inherently unquantifiable. Take the work of a magazine editorial staff, for instance. How do you measure an editor’s productivity? Pages edited per day? Articles per month? If the total printed pages of the magazine are fixed and do not vary from week to week or month to month, you can’t really increase the total output. You can decrease the input by reducing staff, but this may affect the quality of the product and the morale of the remaining editors. What about circulation? Obviously there’s a connection between editorial work and circulation, but measuring that connection accurately is impossible. Is the level of a magazine’s circulation a function of quality, or of effective advertising, or of overall economic conditions, or of something we would have to call serendipity or dumb luck, or of some completely undefinable factor? How do you assign the credit for increasing subscriptions (or the blame when they decrease)? With a magazine, as with many other products, quality is perhaps the most important issue. But measuring quality statistically is virtually impossible. It is too subjective. Quality, like beauty, is largely in the eye of the beholder. Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, went crazy trying to define quality. For these reasons, trying to measure the productivity of a magazine editor is an exercise in futility, and the very act of measuring work may create stress, deflect the editor’s focus toward meaningless activity, and therefore be counterproductive.

Frederick Winslow Taylor
In spite of the difficulty (or impossibility) of measuring productivity in a meaningful way, most managers feel compelled to measure it anyway. If they are not increasing their organization’s productivity, as evidenced by some sort of mathematical proof—even if the numbers are a complete fiction—they somehow feel they are not doing their job. Where this managerial measurement compulsion comes from is debatable, but my money is on Frederick Winslow Taylor, who in 1892, with his stopwatch, single-handedly ushered in the era of scientific management. Taylor’s intention was to prescribe the most efficient way to perform factory production tasks by eliminating any wasted motion. The assumption driving his efforts, of course, was the notion that people are machines and should be treated as such. His theory, that an engineer could devise the most efficient way to perform a production task, totally ignored the fact that most workers, on their own, will instinctively find the easiest, most efficient way to do the work they are assigned. Workers are incredibly ingenious, they understand the work processes better than any manager or engineer can, and they hide their ingenuity only when their job security is in danger. So, what puts their job security in danger? Productivity improvement. (Remember that thought you were holding? This is where it comes in.) As productivity goes up, a business can produce the same amount of product with fewer workers. But if workers have job security, know that they are trusted, and receive rewards for their innovative ideas, they will come up with all sorts of ingenious ways to save the company money and increase the quality of the product. Do most managers understand this? No. Instead, they lay people off as a reward for being more productive.
Taylor’s scientific management, which still lies behind most managerial attempts at making sure the workforce is efficient, is a theory based on the belief that people can’t be trusted. And when irrelevant measurement tools are used in an attempt to quantify essentially unquantifiable types of work, employees hear the message loud and clear that their jobs are in jeopardy. Why else would management focus on efficiency when quality is the major issue? They simply want to “do more with less.” What that really means is “less money for the workers and more for the owners and executives.” But when workers understand what management is up to, they do two things: they hide their ingenuity (because efficiency rather than innovation is being rewarded), and they become activity oriented instead of results oriented. In other words, they act busy to preserve their jobs.
More on encouraging pointless activity, or busywork, next week.