You may think this a funny title for a post but given my previous blog posts perhaps you will not be surprised at it. Nonetheless it is a serious matter to me. How can I think this of a long-dead entrepreneur who is credited with leading
a revolution in the car industry and more widely in manufacturing? Some people will talk as if he, Henry Ford was doing a great service to the ordinary person and would look upon him
as a hero.
Well, I don’t, I see him and others like him as partly responsible for some of society’s ills. . . I will explain my theory further in this post but for now, let me just say “when it comes to the dreaded
‘performance targets’, ‘KPI’s’, ‘division of labour’, ‘specialisation’ and ultimately ‘Productivity’-
You Could Blame – Henry Ford… and others like him!”
I said this at the meal table once and was subsequently mocked and talked down by others present. They put it down to me being me and just the usual ranting and raving.
Funny how some of these same people at the table have previously complained about their jobs and these so-called workplace terms such as 'Key Performance Indicators' etcetera...One even called them 'Wank Terms' and in the same breath as 'Total Quality Management'
and the like.
First of all, I am now creating a small business of my own as mentioned in the previous post titled ‘The Educator’
and I have been thinking about what it means to be ‘in business’ and not just an employee. I have been somewhat busy with business planning and marketing. There is a big difference between an employee and self-employed, see here…. Though
i'm not a manufacturer.
Oh yeah and I currently drive a Ford vehicle and have found it pretty reliable as automobiles go. This particular vehicle has been with us for several years now and has certainly served it purpose. However,
I didn’t purchase it for the brand name of Ford. It was simply the best priced used car at that time and of a type that suited my needs.
I could have chosen from a range of vehicles but I needed a larger vehicle with
4wd ability and I didn’t want to pay too much. There was time pressure on me at that point and so I saw the Ford advertised through a car sales website, I made an enquiry and ended up purchasing it. The Ford range has sure come a long way
from the days of the ‘Model T’s’.
I am not much of a ‘car’ person, I see a vehicle as a means to getting me from A to B. I see them
as a ‘necessary evil’ in this day and age. This means that I don’t have much in the way of brand loyalty and in my driving history so far, I have owned several different makes and models. These have included the Mitsubishi Sigma,
a Hyundai Excel, a Toyota Echo and now the big Ford Escape. Watching the V8s race at Bathurst on television in the comfort of my lounge room occasionally is about as close as I get to enthusiasm for cars. Most times I prefer to watch documentaries
and am entertained by other things on tv as I have mentioned before.
From all that I have read and seen in documentaries about Henry Ford, he was a pacifist and an anti-unionist who tried to control the lives of his workers while at the same time offering them more pay than was available at the time. He used a local heavyweight to control the actions of his
workers even in their social lives. He was a supporter of the Nazi Party in Germany and even did a deal with Hitler regarding the selling of Ford cars in
Germany and he received an award from the German nation at that time.
He was, by all accounts an anti-semite
and even published a newspaper and book based on his views. Perhaps it was the time period that he lived that made him that way? My question is: Did Ford use slave labour in their factories in Germany during the Nazi dominance? If so, did
Henry Ford know this? We know that other manufacturers used them in those times in Germany, why not Ford?
Henry Ford is credited with measuring performance and instituting ‘specialisation’ and the division of labour. These last terms are talked about in less than positive ways these days. We have lost the ability for individuals to be a ‘jack of all trades’ because of this division of labour. I have heard many older folks complain about the fact that we have lost the ability to fix things yourself when it’s broke.
Of course, most people can not fix their own cars these
days, the cars now contain computer chips and complicated technology which only a specialist knows about. People often talk about their jobs as if it defines who they are and we all know the problems when the ‘right hand doesn’t know what
the left hand is doing’. The general skills are lost but what has this got to do with Modern Day Australia… Well, how about the loss of our car makers for starters??
Now, I don’t want you to think that I’m
espousing communist/socialist ideology because I’m not. The fact is we live in a capitalist society and Ford was a capitalist and an entrepreneur but he was no servant of the people. The rank and file owe him no greater respect than any other
man in my opinion. He was simply self-serving and part of that was having control. His institution of measuring the time it takes to do each job and then set that as the ‘benchmark’ for all to satisfy is about controlling the process.
There is a theory out there in psychology that says that there is a number of psychopaths in the general population
and not all are serial killers, some/most will do better in business. The signs of a psychopath are a need for control, a need to divide and conquer, little or no empathy and ultimately self-serving in the extreme. Sound familiar? I’m
not saying that Ford was a psychopath and that would be a hypothetical that I don’t want to go down.
Measurement is partly to blame for society’s ills, it defines who we are mostly in our careers. We measure ourselves
against what we see as the ‘norm’ and often we come up short. You could say that a person is measured by what job they do, what they have or alternatively by what they don’t have. This is what the 'free market' does and it is
pure ‘commercialism’, of this Ford would be proud. It runs through The great division of rich and poor is so evident in most countries these days.
Timing and measurement has now sent jobs off-shore from countries like Australia, we have seen it increasingly more recently. The jobs are going to countries with virtually ‘slave labour’ wages and of course, we have found that we can not compete. However,
Ford did espouse paying his workers more and seemed to suggest that others would follow his example. He knew that there were ‘bad managers’ out there, perhaps he would see them as the ones now ‘offshoring’ the manufacturing
jobs? This is happening now across a range of industries including banking, call centres and even accounting. I have talked about this
in previous blog posts.
An ‘entrepeneur’ is someone, in my estimation, with the ability to turn a humble idea into a going concern. Someone who
comes from nothing and makes it in the world of business and certainly Ford fits the bill. This term does not apply to those who inherit wealth and privilege and simply take control of the empire left for them. We do tend to treat those who have
accumulated a lot of money as though they were heroes, don’t we? There is nothing wrong with the entrepeneurial spirit and the things that this spirit delivers.
Why is this so? This is the same society that makes
sports people and even those who just seem to emerge as celebrities into idols even role models. However there is a problem with this model… as a wise man once said “to err is human” and we have certainly seen in the media a
lot of errors made from people who bleed the same as the rest of us.
Speaking of psychopaths and people who bleed… my next blog post is about one of my favourite tv shows ‘Dexter’ so stay tuned for that…