Our predecessors endeavored to make men into machines; we are endeavoring to make machines into men.
—Charles Edward Jerningham
The uncaring culture that dominates our corporate way of life is deeply rooted in the mechanistic beliefs that formed during the industrial revolution. Our current management ethos evolved in this era, and with it our view of workers as machines. This mind-set still governs how we organize and treat our knowledge workers, directing them like unemotional automatons—just parts—versus the thinking, emotional professionals they really are.
During the industrial revolution, machines inspired awe, as they converted raw power into mechanical energy, which turned materials into finished goods. Man was the master; he controlled and directed these deaf and mute slaves, each one dutifully working around the clock if necessary. Acquiring the machines required large capital investments, so management focused on increasing usable output to maximize return on investment, and it succeeded by embracing Taylor’s process efficiency (see Chapter 1); the “human resources” were incidental.
Quite to management’s liking, the machines were unfeeling and easy to understand. Business now had the ability to break work into discrete steps, yielding an environment that was simple to grasp and manage. Moreover, the human resources were assigned basic tasks that were also easy to comprehend and perform. This followed the ...