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Is it time for Command and Control to Go?

In the early days of work, the boss was the one who knew how to do the work better than any the worker and workers only worked as hard as they were forced.

Command and control has served society for a long time, since the early days of society, where the Lord protected the farmer in exchange for taxes of food and labor. It experienced resurgence in the Industrial Age, especially with the assembly line, where a worker’s contribution to the overall product was small, often insignificant. As one ascended the workplace structure, one received a broader view of the overall work and where one’s contribution fit into the overall product. Because of distrust, spurred by labor- management disagreements, much of the work was limited in scope to limit the influence any one worker held over the company’s success.

Fast forward to today, where global access to information is a mouse-click away and global business information is available with similar ease from ERP systems. With a similar breakdown of work into small blocks, the integration of information is wasted in order to control work in manageable blocks, the size that a manager can be held to account for. This structure holds businesses back in the Industrial Age of work, instead of moving forward combining the speed of technology available today with the trust in the capability of people to produce work in their interest.

As any change, the timing moves in surges, and the latest surge is coming on the heels of the economic downturn. Of the people moving to new jobs in mid-2010, after sitting firm through 2009, nearly two-thirds stated they would not stay at their current employer, even for an increase in pay. Specific reasons included excessive work or time expectations, little respect, lack of trust, no allowance for personality in work, no recognition. The economy has held the baby-boomers in the wage generation for a few years longer, albeit with a different attitude: boost retirement savings to recover the retirement date lost to the market loss.

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