Service Feudalism

Lower air temperature today. Almost comfortable in park for constitutional. I reflected on the implications of the earlier discussed terrorism scenario and considered why we wait on constables?

This led to a consideration of our so-called “service society”. To give it a colorful (?) name, we live in what is increasingly a “Megahard IT” society.

The MegaHard IT model is used by almost all large organizations. It is based on the idea that workers should only work on their tasks. They shouldn’t waste time trying to fix their computer themselves. If their computer is futzed, they are supposed to call the IT people and wait for them to fix the computer.

This sounds nice on a superficial, Sloan schule case study basis, and it would be if we were task and machine operators on a factory assembly line. But it isn’t for knowledge workers. Or for an overworked, underfunded, understaffed IT shop.

The workers have to wait for the IT guy to arrive, wait for a diagnosis, wait for a fix. If they knew something about computers – and were listened to, the other problem of the MegaHard IT model, then less time might be spent and it’s wasted time anyway from the standpoint of the worker, who is the reason for all this.

As a manager I have a tough choice between wanting my employees to only know what I want them to know and have them tied strongly to the organization or learning as much as they can and risking departure. Burnout is a strongly possibility in both cases, incidentally. Rationality wins through for good managers who select the latter because it gives them a more capable suborganization (and organization as a whole) even if the worker moves on to a better job. That, incidentally, helps recruit good replacements.

Now let’s overlay that model on our society. It has become one where people are only supposed to know certain things and not learn anything more. This is reflected VERY strongly in our educational system: standardized testing; more and more restrictive disciplines; certification requirements. If something goes wrong, we call the right person/organization and wait for them to fix it. 

And that’s part of what makes terrorism possible.

We don;t live in a democratic society; we live in a feudal one.