Freedom From Command And Control | John Seddon

Summary of: Freedom From Command And Control: A Better Way To Make The Work Work
By: John Seddon


Dive into the insightful world of ‘Freedom From Command And Control: A Better Way To Make The Work Work’ by John Seddon to better understand an alternative and more effective approach to management. This book details the drawbacks of the traditional ‘command-and-control’ leadership, which originated from the early twentieth century through Fred Taylor’s ‘theory of scientific management.’ Discover how Taiichi Ohno’s method at Toyota diverges from the typical command-and-control system by focusing on customer demands and empowering workers. Learn about the importance of reevaluating the way businesses measure performance and carefully recognizing the role of management in promoting a healthy and productive work environment.

The Failure of Command-and-Control Leadership and the Toyota Approach

The book describes the flaws of the traditional “command-and-control” leadership style and illustrates how Toyota’s “pull system” approach to production, which prioritizes customer needs over quotas, has revolutionized manufacturing and could help the service industry.

In the early 20th century, engineer Fred Taylor popularized the “command-and-control” leadership style with his “theory of scientific management,” which separated decision-making from work. Workers were directed to follow instructions rather than think for themselves, a system that was highly productive but ultimately alienating for the workforce. Conversely, Toyota’s Taiichi Ohno recognized the importance of customer demand and sought to create a production line that was responsive to it, using a “pull system” that prioritized quality over speed.

The traditional approach to service delivery, which applies Taylor’s principles to the service sector, often fails to take customer needs into account, leading to customer dissatisfaction. In contrast, Ohno’s system has proven successful not only in manufacturing but also in the service sector. By empowering workers to make decisions and prioritize customer needs, service companies could increase efficiency and improve customer satisfaction.

In conclusion, the outdated “command-and-control” leadership style lacks the flexibility and adaptability required for modern business, particularly in the service sector. Instead, businesses should adopt the Toyota approach, which prioritizes customer needs and empowers workers to make decisions for themselves. This shift could lead to significant improvements in both efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Targeted Goals and the Pitfalls of Measuring Customer Service

A bank established call centers to reduce customer service costs, but the increased call volumes exposed the shortcomings of setting targets. Targets often hinder productivity, raise costs, and fail to improve customer service. Measuring performance should focus on the system’s capability metrics, align with business objectives, and involve workers in assessing their own performance. By considering variation and understanding the purpose, managers can avoid the pitfalls of targeted goals and prioritize meeting customers’ needs.

Embracing Systemic Management

This book emphasizes the importance of replacing command-and-control tactics with systemic management. The central idea is to empower workers to make decisions and improve the system, which then leads to positive outcomes in customer service and revenue. This requires a shift in traditional leadership approaches towards collaboration and mutual learning. The check-plan-do cycle is a useful tool for examining the purpose and capabilities of the organization and creating value for the customer. The book also challenges the effectiveness of performance appraisals and incentives, suggesting that systemic factors create higher variability in individual performance. Managers and leaders who want to adopt a systemic management approach must be willing to redefine their roles and confront opposition from higher-ups.

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