The Taylor Bathtub and Management Changes

William Meller - The Taylor Bathtub and Management Changes
Niels Pflaeging in the book “Organizing for Complexity” mentions Taylor, stating that there are still many of his ideas in 21st-century companies. 

The Taylor Bathtub or the Bathtub Curve is a graphical representation of the life cycle of a product or technology. 

In Taylor's view, the new type of organizational science is nothing less than a "revolution" that would end the productivity constraints of the industrial age. An organizational system established by Taylor gave wings to the industrial age's quest for efficiency.

During the twentieth century, Taylor's scientific management was the basis for management.

Niels Pflaeging argues, however, that over time, the simplicity of this model in organizations compensated for the social gaps with hierarchical divisions, the functional gaps with fragmented responsibilities, and the time gaps between thinkers and nonthinkers.

The curve is divided into three distinct phases: the early failure phase, the useful life phase, and the wear-out phase. 

The early failure phase represents the period of time when a high number of failures occur due to manufacturing defects or design flaws. 

The useful life phase is the period of time when the product or technology is operating at its intended level of performance with minimal failures. 

The wear-out phase is the period of time when the product or technology is approaching the end of its useful life and the likelihood of failure increases again.

William Meller - The Taylor Bathtub and Management Changes

"... Many companies have made the shift to become more decentralized. Many more were born that way and have reasonably maintained radical decentralization as they grew, resisting the tendency to turn themselves into pyramids..." - ManagementQuotes

The curve is commonly used in reliability engineering and product design to predict and plan for the product's life cycle and identify areas where improvements can be made to increase the product's longevity.

As the graph shows the historical trajectory of market dynamics and the recent growth of complex markets, it is referred to by Niels Pflaeging as the "Taylor Bathtub." 

It symbolizes the market's dynamism between the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. 

Following a century of inventive strength put to the service of mass, standardized production, with large markets being explored among few competitors, until the beginning of the twenty-first century, when a globalized market, open and accessible technology, and customer-centered approaches were introduced.

Classical management, however, was forever changed by one factor. That one factor is complexity. 

"... Those days are gone. High-dynamic value creation re-emerged around the 70s, due to the rise of global, high-competition markets and the return of more individualized demand that made customization paramount and enabled mass customization. High-dynamic value creation, in turn, calls for an increase in the human part of problem-solving processes..." - Niels Pflaeging

Older models become roadblocks. A significant level of transformation is required for organizations to enable the current dynamic to be absorbed.

The decision-making process must be drastically decentralized. Essentially, they need to learn how to be agile.

In conclusion, understanding the Taylor Bathtub curve is not only crucial for product and technology development, but also for organizational development and leadership. 

By predicting and planning for the future of a product, organizations can improve the reliability and longevity of their products, and ultimately improve their bottom line. 

As Niels Pflaeging puts it, "it's not about avoiding failure, but about managing and leading it."

References, inspirations, recommendations, or further reading:

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