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Tag: Boeing 787

Work in the next 10 years and emergence


I am tidying up and I glanced through a notebook from 2 years ago. I was utterly fascinated by ‘emergence’, the phenomenon where a flock of birds, for example, emerges from simple behaviour of birds.   With three very simple rules – join the flock, keep up and keep a respectable “stopping distance” – birds individually, and probably without thought, create a flock that looks as if someone did think it up.

Emergence, business & management

We are fascinated with “emergence” in a business context because a naturally-forming flock undermines the idea of the all knowing and ominiscent leader.  The planning, leading, organizing & controlling management theory of Fayol goes ‘for a loop’.

At first, I was puzzled that university departments hadn’t taken up this idea more vigorouosly, and more practically.

Including emergence in the theory of management

Two years on, I’ve found my thinking has drifted.  Yes, it is certainly true that the role of managers is probably exaggerated (with their pay).  But the project of changing management is unnecessary.  Overmanaged firms will self-destruct, possibly at great cost to themselves and others, simply because managers have to be paid for and management that is not necessary simply makes a firm unweildy, inefficient and unprofitable.

The real issue is where our better understanding of organization is emerging in business.  The best example that is written up is the motorcycle industry of China. The best example where an industry is trying to use similar processes is the aerospace industry in UK and the production of the Boeing 787.

Moving along to understanding emergence in business

The challenge now is to understand the variations of self-organizing networks.

I think, perhaps, the basic principle is that emergence, by definition, is not willed.

  • We can prevent it happening.
  • We can illustrate the principle.

But in real life, the probably the best we can do is create conditions for it to happen.  What are those conditions?

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2010 and the age of networked manufacturing

We can turn a plane on a dime

The 787 flew ~ at last ~ 2.5 years late.

The 787 was put together with a 20 page specification and takes 3 days to assemble parts from around the world rather than 40 days to assemble the plan manufactured on site.

We can turn a plane on a dime.  And if we can manufacture a plane in a global network of local modules, then we can make anything.

Is modularizing work a good thing ~ for us?

Harvard Business Review blog are awed and skeptical in equal measure.

  • They are sure the world will copy the “lego” model.
  • They are sure that Chinese firms will give Boeing a run for their money.

I too, am sure that Chinese firms will Boeing a run for their money.  They will give all of us a run for our money.  What interests me is who will win the race, and how this new race will change the future of work.

Key skills in the future of workn

Clearly there are key skills in this new form of work

  • Clicking the “lego” parts together
  • Negotiating the specification of the parts and adjusting for inevitable “drift” as parts are made
  • The credibility to organize the network of suppliers, customers and capital.

It strikes me that clicking the parts together is not key.  Managing networks is the key.  A firm can be judged by the size of the global network that it can organize and manage profitably.

Welcome to 2010 and the race to networking skills and managing global networks of local manufacturing modules!

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