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How Slavery Inspired Modern Business Management | Boston Review
"The most striking parallel between slavery and scientific management can be found in the “task idea,” which Taylor described as “the most prominent single element in modern scientific management.” The task system is closely identified with Henry Laurence Gantt, who is well known today for the Gantt chart, a scheduling tool, which still bears his name. During the heyday of scientific management, Gantt developed a “task and bonus system,” which paired a flat task and a time wage with bonuses for overwork. Workers would be paid a base wage plus an additional piece rate for production above a certain minimum. By combining an achievable (rather than a maximal) task with bonuses, workers would enjoy the security of a minimum payment but also be encouraged to strive beyond it."



"Writing in 1918, historian Ulrich Bonnell Phillips acknowledged the parallels between scientific management and slavery. As Daniel Joseph Singal notes, when Phillips described the sophistication of southern management strategies, he liked to reference a series of articles in the Southern Planter by H. W. Vick, whose “analysis of stance and movement” resembled some of the most advanced industrial studies of his own time. Perhaps Phillips’s own rosy views of slavery enabled him to see these connections. One of the most influential historians of slavery, his work was infused with racial bias. He famously characterized slavery as a kind of “school” for the enslaved, and his descriptions of the interactions between planters and their slaves bear striking similarities to the ways Taylor described the ideal interactions between managers and workers. In 1911, during the many months of congressional hearings on scientific management, Taylor attempted to distance his system from that of slavery by describing it as a school for workers who did not know how to work: this “is not nigger driving; this is kindness; this is teaching; this is doing what I would like mighty well to have done to me if I were a boy trying to learn how to do something. This is not a case of cracking a whip over a man and saying, ‘Damn you, get there.’”

Half a century after Phillips, Keith Aufhauser again described the extent to which the theory and practice of the slaveholders conformed to Taylor’s system of scientific management. During a decade of heated debate over the nature of southern slavery, Aufhauser argued that there were deep parallels not just between planters’ tools and those advocated by scientific managers, but also about the power relations they reflected. He wrote, “As far as discipline at the workplace goes, . . . the master-slave relationship is quite similar to the capitalist-wage-laborer relationship in scientifically managed enterprises.” Two decades after Aufhauser, historian Mark Smith would again describe aspects of plantation management that looked strikingly like scientific management. Smith focused on the role of time discipline on the plantation, pointing to the widespread use of clocks to assess how much labor the enslaved could perform.

Despite this research and more, the parallels between present-day business management practices and slavery have been persistently neglected in mainstream discussions about the history of U.S. enterprise. So much so that in 2003 management professor Bill Cooke argued that the failure of management scholars to account for this history amounted to “denial.” Cooke wrote that information about slaveholding business practices was widely available in published sources and thus had been willfully overlooked.

In some cases, the evidence for slavery can be literally read between the lines. Take the example of Gantt, whose task and bonus system so closely paralleled the one used by some slaveholders. Gantt is still sometimes profiled in modern management textbooks and web guides. In a phrase copied between them so frequently that it is hard to be sure of its original author, Gantt is said to have been born to a family of prosperous farmers in Maryland, but that “his early years were marked by some deprivation as the Civil War brought about changes to the family fortunes.” Those “changes,” so easily elided, were wrought by the more than sixty enslaved people who escaped from the plantation and took their freedom. The legacy of slavery is simultaneously acknowledged and erased.

To move beyond denial requires not only an acknowledgment that slaveholders practiced a kind of scientific management but also a broader rethinking of deep-seated assumptions about the relationship between capitalism and control. Though there are many exceptions, histories of business practices—at least those that reach a general audience—tend to be both individual and social success stories. They tell stories that are win-win, with businesspeople earning profits and customers, laborers, and communities benefiting along the way. This can, of course, be true. The shift from seeing trade as zero-sum to positive-sum was one of the most important transitions underpinning the rise of capitalism. But capitalism does not make this win-win inevitable.

Growing the pie brings no guarantee about how it will be divided. The sharing of rewards depends on how the rules are written or, differently put, on how markets are regulated. Slavery shows how one particular set of rules enabled precise management but paired its efficiencies with horrifying costs. Slavery also illustrates how certain kinds of market expansion—allowing lives to be bonded in labor and sold—can produce radical inequality. Economic growth can accompany the expansion of freedom and opportunity. But, as in the case of slavery, the expansion of market freedoms for a few can depend on the limitation of all kinds of freedoms for others. Growth can accompany choice, but it can also build on violence and injustice.

Certain kinds of management flourish when managers enjoy a very high level of control over their workers. The rise of scientific management in the late nineteenth century should be seen both as a moment of innovation and as the reemergence of old technologies of control. With the closing of the frontier, workers had fewer opportunities to leave the factory to return to the land. With immigration and rising inequality, manufacturers enjoyed access to a plentiful labor supply. The age of trust and monopoly limited outside options, and collusion meant that even when workers could legally go elsewhere, the circumstances were not necessarily better. Only in circumstances such as these did it make sense for managers such as Taylor to attempt to calculate “what fraction of a horse power a man power is,” with the expectation that this maximum rate of work could be acquired for an hourly wage, or perhaps a wage and a “bonus.”

Modern narratives of capitalist development often emphasize the positive-sum outcomes of many individual choices. They suggest that free, even selfish, decisions go hand in hand with growth and innovation. They often assume that vast wealth accumulated by a few accompanies improved circumstances for many. The history of slavery’s capitalism warns against all these expectations. My new book, Accounting for Slavery, as well as work by historians such as Daina Ramey Berry and Calvin Schermerhorn, shows that slavery in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was highly adaptable to the pursuit of profit. Free markets for slaveholders flourished, and their control over men, women, and children expedited production, both by pushing up the pace of labor and by transporting it to new, more fertile soils. Slaveholders’ manipulation of human capital compounded it into massive fortunes—both through financial maneuvering and through human reproduction.

When Harvard Business Review marked its ninetieth anniversary in 2012, Taylor made it into all three featured essays, offering an inspirational point of reference for the ability of managers to transform the broader economy. The business history of plantation slavery offers a very different point of reference—a cautionary tale that warns us what profit-seeking can look like when everything, including lives, is up for sale. The heritage of U.S. business includes both stories of innovation and those of extreme violence. Often the two are deeply intertwined. This was true in specific ways for scientific management, and it was undeniable for plantation slavery. Reckoning with these uncomfortable histories can help us to see the deep connections between capitalism and control and, perhaps, even to find a more humane way forward."
taylorism  management  slavery  unschooling  deschooling  schooliness  schooling  2018  caitlinrosenthal  economics  injustice  socialjustice  scientificmanagement  henrylaurencegantt  scheduling  motivation  keithaufhauser  ulrichbonnellphillips  danieljosephsingal  control  hierarchy  tasks  capitalism  dainarameyberry  calvinschermerhorn  markets  growth  frederickwinslowtaylor 
september 2018 by robertogreco
Pasta & Portfolios: Assign tasks, not tools | Principal Interest
"A recent sojourn into the wonderful world of portfolio process design has convinced me that we need to increasingly, in our schools, assign tasks - not tools. Underneath the structures of portfolios (the ‘document’) and student led conferences (the ‘conversation’), we want deep reflection on both learning and self-as-learner, the real purpose.

Any extraneous restriction/imposition, not serving the purpose that supports that reflection forms a superfluous distraction, generating an artificial focus, potentially (but not necessarily) diminishing focus on what really matters the most.

When I make pasta for friends or family, the purpose is to create  an experience – not a dinner set or a specifically shaped piece of flour & egg. If I spent too much time worrying about what bowls someone told me to use or how thick someone told me to make each strand, it could potentially (but not necessarily) detract from the ‘dining experience’ – the real purpose.

It seems that when students are creating that ‘reflective experience’, allowing them to choose their own paths, as much as possible, would allow them to retain a focus on this real purpose.  Choose the bowl yourself - one that suits your purpose. There are lots of bowls out there."
portfolios  teaching  learning  howweteach  howwelearn  containers  bowls  tasks  tools  damianrentoule  reflection  2014  flexibility  purpose  conversation 
may 2014 by robertogreco
ifttt
"ifttt puts the internet to work for you by creating tasks that fit this simple structure:

ifthisthenthat

Think of all the things you could do if you were able to define any task as: when something happens (this) then do something else (that).

The (this) part of a task is called a Trigger (). Some example triggers are "if I'm tagged in a photo on Facebook" or "if I tweet on twitter."

The (that) part of a task is called an action (). Some example actions are "then send me a text message" or "then create a status message on Facebook."

Triggers and Actions come from Channels. Channels are the unique services and devices you use everyday, activated specifically for you. Some example channels:"
ifttt  internet  web  social  management  tools  tasks  automation  twitter  facebook  del.icio.us  email  phones  weather  onlinetoolkit 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Frank Chimero - Designer’s Poison
"1. lack of definition for design…ironic that group of communicators can’t summon definition for their practice…2. public’s general understanding of design as noun…many clients believe value of designer is things that they make…designer, meanwhile, believes that core of their value comes from process, strategy…3. Not considering design a liberal art, & entrenching ourselves in opinion that this is craft for few, rather than skill for many…4. miseducation of a designer…Schools would be wise to focus activity around objectives rather than tasks…5. Asking the wrong questions.…How, the other on Why…6. Designers wanting a seat at table, but frequently not inviting clients…7. The self-serving nature of design…8. Villainizing criticism…9. Undervaluing philosophy…The core question of Aristotilian philosophy and ethics is “What is the good life?” How is such a desirous question not brought up more frequently…10. Our cognitive bias towards uniqueness of our challenges."
frankchimero  cv  advice  design  communication  why  how  craft  tasks  objectives  business  clients  criticism  philosophy  happiness  well-being  meaning  values  clarity  ethics  bias  cognitivebias  definitions  2011  thisishuge  practice  holisticapproach  authority  dicussion  aiga  work  glvo  twitter 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Carpe Diem
"Carpe Diem helps you do something new everyday. A series of daily do's. The kind of little do's that get our imaginations going, make some memories and get us learning a bit more about ourselves & the world around us.

The tasks come from all over the place, including a few from the lovely folks over at the School of Life. They range from the thought provoking to the spontaneous and light hearted, some even have little rewards to help you on your way and give you a nudge in the right direction. Follow all the daily do's and by the end of the year you'll have done all sorts. From the delights of having a hygge, to partaking in some random acts of kindness, and dabbling in a spot of poetry.

Take part in the tasks every day and your life will change (for the better, more fulfilled sort we hope) and the handy thing is that Carpe Diem Daily comes in app form, so you can get the tasks straight to your phone."
android  collaboration  schooloflife  carpediem  happiness  inspiration  life  nokia  tasks  community  do  doing  creativity  interestingness  observation  daily 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Tuttle SVC: Common Core -> New Tests -> Curriculum Aligned to Tests
"Hirsch doesn't seem to understand plan being implemented. There's no pretense of going from standards to curriculum to assessments of understanding of the curriculum. There are standards, there will be assessments of standards -- of enumerated standards, not Common Core or anyone else's commentary on standards, not of knowledge of recommended texts. There will be curriculum, textbooks, etc. aligned to assessments. There will be increasing emphasis on online assessment which is detached from rest of curriculum...There will be increasing use of regular diagnostic tests at higher grade levels for specific reading standards, e.g., this group needs to work on comparing structured poems to free verse, while this one works on analyzing how a dramatic production of a work departs from original text. There will be standards-based assessment, where standards are not "understandings," "skills," or "knowledge," but tasks.
tomhoffman  edhirsch  curriculum  commoncore  standards  standardizedtesting  assessment  2010  testing  tests  knowledge  skills  tasks  understanding 
april 2010 by robertogreco

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