July 13, 2020

“Not with the people I’ve got” Or, how to waste talent efficiently.

Back in the 70’s there was a TV series called ‘The Troubleshooter’.

Each week, captain of industry Sir John Harvey-Jones would visit an ailing British manufacturing company, and advise them on how to turn around their fortunes.

One of his insights really stuck in my mind.   It goes something like this:

“These people working for you, have a rich life outside work, where they build complex systems, run clubs, manage budgets, research everything there is to know about their particular interest, invent things.  You make them leave all of that at the door.   What a waste!”

Whenever I tell people about Matt Black Systems, a manufacturing company with no managers, no administrators, and almost no overheads, the reply I most often get is “I couldn’t do that, not with the people I’ve got.”

It’s not the people that are the problem, it’s our model of what a business is.   50 years on from ‘The Troubshooter’, we’re using AI and automation to track and reward attendance, not contribution.

That’s an efficient waste of talent.