Errors LO12277
30 Jan 97 09:50:04 +0100

Replying to LO12233 --

Andrew makes a nice point about the systemic implications of all problems,
but there still remains the question of empowered action by individuals.

I happen to believe that our market-driven economic system is
unsustainable and will eventually lead to total collapse, but apart from
political activity that doesn't help me in solving microeconomic problems
based on the business situations I find myself in.

If the problem is that we're continuing to deliver products late to the
customer, analysis of the form of "well, the economic system is
unsustainable so we need to campaign for sustainable development" is not
very helpful. I know there are people working on sustainable development,
particularly in Northern Europe, but that again is at a macro level.

The question for me is 'what action can we take at a micro level that is
at least helpful in the short to medium term', as being all that is
realistically possible for most human beings.

While taking action at the micro level I do use systems archetypes to help
people be aware of the impact of their solutions on other parts of the
organisation, and if I ever worked with corporate executives I might raise
issues of sustainable development, but most of the time I would use pretty
linear problem solving tools to help people deal with the issues that they
are able to tackle to make a difference to their working lives.

The business problem for me is that if, as I do, you believe the economic
system is unsustainable at a macro level, where do you put the boundaries
of the system you are dealing with. Where you conceive the boundaries of
the system determines what kind of action you take - we tend to work with
shopfloor teams and middle management, and therefore choose the boundary
of our system to be the company or business unit. This gives us an
environment we can act in, while being aware that macro-economic factors
may negate our work in the long run:

One example:

Ford have chosen to lay off people at an English assembly plant
(Halewood), rather than in Spain and Germany, due to overcapacity in
Europe. At a micro level Halewood have raised productivity so that the
decision is not based on the productivity levels of the different plants,
rather it seems to be based on the fact that it is easier to lay people
off in England than in Spain and Germany because of employment laws.

Now say you are working for a multinational company with over capacity in
the industry and plants throughout Europe, do you stop trying to improve
productivity at your English plant because you know you may be at the
mercy of a macro-economic factor - employment laws, or do you work to
develop a world class plant in the hope that this might have some bearing
on the eventual decision. I would go for the latter every time, although
I might also campaign for a government that aimed to harmonise employment
law across Europe.

Best regards

Malcolm Jones
Productivity Europe Ltd


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