I've just been rereading all about the Toyota Production System to contrast it with Semco SA when I was struck by the fascinating realization that in many important ways, they are total ideological opposites.
Yes, both focus on the long term, on teams, on developing people, on mutual responsibility between workers and managers, and empowering workers so they have some means of directing their work. But concerning what it is these systems control and what they let workers decide, they are total opposites.
In Semco, the ONLY thing that matters is your output. Everything else is up to yourself and your team. In TPS, the only thing that matters is your INPUT, your effort and the ingenuity you put into the system in order to freely but continuously improve output.
In TPS, your workflow is very bureaucratically watched, though you are free to change it however you wish so long as it objectively 'reduces waste' (and you leave it in a state that those following you can learn from). But while output is meant to always improve (in quality or cost) this is NEVER predictable nor are there ever any specific expectations about it.
Both Semco and TPS micromanage ONE thing and systematically leave the other as a free variable. But what they choose to micromanage (micro-negotiate really) and what they choose to leave free are opposites.
Finally, TPS works in a constant state of crisis whereas Semco works in a constant state of relaxation. And Semco feels like totalitarian anarcho-communism whereas TPS feels like benevolent cooperative fascism.
What I really want to know is what I can learn about political systems design from this. It seems like there's a very important lesson here. My hypothesis so far is that you need to micro-manage either the input or the output and stay the fuck away from the other so the people involved don't feel like you're turning them into robots.
But does that mean you must micro-manage one side or the other in order to eliminate corruption? And is there another way of splitting freedom vs authoritarianism other than input vs output? I suspect no. More likely, have I gone off the rails somewhere?
Ah yes I have. Already I see that micro-manage isn't the right word. The right-word is micro-negotiate.
Are the political lessons learned from politico-industrial systems even applicable to other kinds of political systems? I would like to think so since politico-industrial systems are particularly harsh and unforgiving. But the industrial aspect introduces an external reality which most political systems lack. At least, political systems other than China since China's obsession with industrializing means that it is, essentially, just an industrial company.
I still don't fully understand why one variable has to be left totally free. But it probably has to do with keeping a psychological comfort zone for workers to retreat to. No, not quite. In Semco it provides such a comfort zone from the external requirements of output. In Toyota there is simply no external requirement and no comfort zone from it - everything is input, intrinsic, internalized. And that's all negotiated in what I see now as a creepy way since you're negotiating your ego.