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It’s fascinating watching the incredulity on LinkedIn when somebody suggests that staff should be able to duck away for an important family event. “Impossible! You can’t run a factory/shop like that!”
Absolutely you can.
The drive to efficiency in business, to deliver maximum money to owners (Friedmanism), has led to understaffed teams and rich owners.
Gary Hamel’s new book Humanocracy covers this well.
But efficient systems are fragile, as shown by the collapse of global supply chains in 2020.
In this VUCA world, our top priority has become adaptability not efficiency, and that requires the agility and resilience that slack capacity gives us.
Tom Demarco covered this in the book Slack twenty years ago.
And Drucker and Deming said it even longer ago.
With slack capacity in a team, and proper empowerment to allow self organisation, they can work it out amongst themselves like grownups.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a shop or a factory or a hospital.
Once you stop staffing for 100% (or 110%) people utilisation, i.e. stop staffing for minimum cost, and start staffing for resilience and agility, acknowledging the unpredictable world, then you build slack capacity.
And if you start treating employees like grownups, and empower them to self organise, then if somebody needs to duck out for a couple of hours they can work it out amongst themselves.
And if managers start serving instead of commanding, inspiring instead of coercing, then people will want to get he job done.
Theyre not slaves. They’re people with complicated lives. Be human. Work to live not live to work. We should not subjugate people to work.
Note: there is a flip side to this. There is an enormous productivity potential to be unlocked in most work systems. We may not need more people if we can fix the bureaucratic constipation of the existing system. Humanocracy covers that too.