Thursday, October 1, 2015

Innovation or efficiency

For F.W. Taylor, the scientific management guy, success was to be found in efficiency. He was the guy with the process stop watch and the job descriptions. But recently, efficiency has given way to innovation, even in PM. Traditional methods, honed and efficient, have been displaced by agile and empirical methods, not particularly efficient they are, but resilient with failure, to be sure.

WW II  and innovation
Now, it may seem that a war that ended some 60 years ago this summer is a bit distant to connect to contemporary dots. But no! WW II ushered profound changes into the culture and society of the United States that is fuel for the innovation fire.
  • WW II empowered 50% of our workforce for the first time. Women entered the workforce in large numbers doing jobs never open to them before. They have never looked back

    WW II beget the 'GI Bill' that sent millions to college and all but invented the modern middle class from which yet more innovation, inventiveness, and entrepreneurship has arisen.
The scope of WW II projects was unprecedented, leading to the military-industrial complex that defined and codified program management, system engineering, risk management, analog simulation, and a host of other project practices heretofore unknown or undefined.

  • WW II unleashed innovation as no other world event. The modern research university was empowered. During the war, the laboratories at MIT and CalTech and Stanford were at the forefront of new ideas, inventions, and applications. Since then, a multitude of research universities have been drivers of the innovation explosion in the United States.
  • Although the war drove atomic science, atomic science drove quantum mechanics, an understanding of the sub-atomic structure. From this we have all manner of semiconductors that have in turn been the underpinning of the information age.
Throughput won the war
The enormous industrialization of WW II all but put defined process control on the map. Repeatable process and process control gave us unprecedented throughput. Who knew you could build 55K ships and 600K aircraft in four years?

And now, we have "throughput accounting" which many say is the only way to value projects: the value is in the "add", ignoring the infrastructure and permanent staff sustaining cost that gets allocated into the project overhead.

The "good" war?
It sounds like "...there's nothing like a good war".  But that's not the case.  The emergency of warfare has always raised the bar.

Before the U.S. civil war in the mid 19th century, railroads as a means for tactical support for forces was unheard of; so also electronic messaging ... the telegraph in those days ... changed not only the timeliness of reporting, it changed forever the influence of "high command" on the tactics of the moment.

What we can say:
Innovation, as a consequence of great national emergency, is the sidebar that always gets a boost.

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