The Human Assembly Line

If there is one thing that absolutely terrifies me, it is the assembly line. The thought of pressing the same button every day, week, month, year, absolutely nauseates me. Well, living in a post-industrial America, I shouldn't have to fear that any more...or should I?

As I survey the way that most businesses are organized, it is very comparable to a human assembly line. For some reason, we think that the best way to organize effort that leads to output is within very narrow, hierarchical units. The larger the organization, the more narrow, and the more hierarchical it becomes.

But is that really the most efficient use of resources? If you hired multi-talented people, couldn't they be able to perform multifaceted roles? It seems that the greatest loss of efficiency comes from one person trying to communicate to another person exactly what they are thinking.

For example, a strategist writes a document that outlines her strategic plan, and then an account person needs to pass that along to the client to get feedback that gets passed back to the strategist, and then the consolidated document gets passed to a project manager that breaks each element of the strategy down into smaller tasks that can be assigned to various talents. By the time it reaches the end-- no matter how well the initial concept is documented-- there is substantial disconnect between the people executing the idea and the idea's originator.

What if instead, they could just execute what they were thinking? Instead of investing in technology, and books about process, and consultants to help us break down tasks into smaller and smaller pieces that can be inserted into a queuing system and managed by yet another set of resources-- would it not be more efficient to cross train employees to be multi-talented? Looking back on all of the various projects that I have been involved in, I've found that I've been most engaged, most fulfilled, most stretched, and most rewarded on projects that I've been able to take from drawing board through results presentation.