Many leaders have this question: “If I am not controlling the situation, then what value am I adding to the organisation?”

The answer is: More than you could possibly know. The good news is there is a logical reason why that answer is difficult to appreciate. And it can be found by turning back the clock to the turn of the 20th century.

Moving From The Productionised Mindset To One Of Cultivation

Throughout the 1900s, one person having full control of any organisation was a part of daily work culture—it was the norm, along with every worker having a specific task that they completed before submitting for sign-off or approval. It was a factory-like process introduced to the world in the late 1800s by Fredrick Winslow Taylor, and came to be known as Taylorism.1

In its heyday, Taylorism was extremely successful. It led to an unprecedented scale of output for US factories just before World War II. It enabled organisations to accurately predict and control their workloads. The delegation of tasks flowed, and, once complete, the leader would sign-off on the task and then assign the next task.

The person responsible for sign-off was the leader and specialist, and they would have reached this senior position due to having that specialist knowledge.

Since then the world has changed. Our workplaces have become more demanding, complex and fast-paced. The factory-like process does not accommodate these new demands that call for not only more speed but also flexibility and ability to adapt or ‘pivot.’ Waiting for sign-off hampers this ability significantly.

You’re a key decision maker in your organisation, and it’s likely that you’ve earned this level of respect. But, have you found that the numbers of key decisions are growing? Have you also found that the line of people waiting for approvals has also grown? Is work proceeding at a slower rate, and are there also far too many committees for your liking?

If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then it’s highly likely that you may be stuck in the past. You might not even be aware of this; however, the reality is that this approach may seem like it is mitigating risk and driving superior results, but it is slowing you and your organisation’s rate of productivity, which ultimately is costing you far more than you’d like to admit.

At one time, the command-and-control process of Taylorism was necessary. By controlling what the workforce did and separating tasks into repetitive units as part of a big machine, it enabled factories to get work done effectively by allowing for maximum efficiency.

The Cost Of Being In Control

But a problem started to arise when applying Taylorism to other types of work. Taylor’s main belief was that money motivated all workers and they would work harder to receive their fair share.

This process works well for non-thinking, repetitive work; however, when you apply it to knowledge work, where thinking is required to solve problems—software engineering, accounting, pharmaceutical development, medical research and other thought-based work—then repetitive, controlled work impedes workers’ ability to think and create. In your workplace this translates to employees not contributing and finding other ways to occupy their time. Employee feedback will describe a lack of motivation, and feeling as though they’re not a part of the ‘big picture.’

In short, intelligent people don’t respond well to controlled, repetitive work, as it makes them feel they are a part of the machine. Instead, they crave a motivating environment that stimulates their thought processes and empowers them to achieve results.


1Web Finance Inc. Taylorism. Business 2018.