Speeding up our own assembly line

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Henry Ford invented the moving industrial assembly line. It probably only took a week or so before he or someone else tried speeding up the line to increase production.

In 1972, the General Motors Assembly Division used that tactic in the Lordstown Ohio assembly plant. The idea was to increase production above the 55 vehicles per hour standard. Technology was supposed to do most of the job of increasing production to 100 vehicles per hour. When it didn’t, management sped up the line.

Workers who used to have 60 seconds to complete their job now had 36 seconds. There were two dramatic results. First there was a huge increase in the number of partially and poorly completed vehicles. More importantly, the speed-up resulted in one of the classic strikes in US business history.

Tony Schwartz’ article, “More Reflection, Less Action” sparked memories for me of Lordstown. Schwartz is writing about a speed-up in the tempo of work and life. Only this time we’re cranking up our own knowledge worker assembly line and that’s not good. As Schwartz points out:

“The more complex and demanding the work we do, the wider, deeper and longer the perspective we require to do it well. It’s almost impossible to do that when we create no white space in our lives.”

We need space for reflection, so we can get the most value from hard won experience. We need downtime to recover our energy and equilibrium. We need to put in the time to maintain and improve the parts of our life that aren’t work.

Read Tony Schwartz’ article for more. Then read some of the following.

From Ken Nowack: The Art of “Leaving the Office”
“How many of you in committed relationships have really two partners: 1) Your significant other; and 2) Their computer or mobile phone?”

From Chief Executive: Most CEOs Rise Early; Few Complain About Work/Life Balance
“The Guardian newspaper’s Tim Dowling, Laura Barnett and Patrick Kingsley spoke to seven CEOs including AOL, Vodafone, Virgin Money, and Ericsson about their work/life habits and learned than most CEOs start their day by rising as early as 5:00 Am in order to sort through their commitments. The reporters sought to learn how seven successful people manage their affairs and become high effective.”

From Katherine Reynolds Lewis: Stop blaming your boss for your crazy work-life
“Several workplace experts say it’s time for employees to take their share of responsibility for an overwhelming work-life.”

From the NY Times: Daniel Hendrix of Interface Inc., on Work-Life Balance
“This interview with Daniel T. Hendrix, president and C.E.O. of Interface Inc., a designer and maker of carpet tile, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.”

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