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Systemic Practice and Action Research

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 75–89 | Cite as

The Perils of Command and Control

  • Justin WattsEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

This paper is written by a manager working within a food manufacturing business specialising in the production of snack foods. It is based on a manager’s reflections and shows that the ‘command and control’ management logic (Seddon, Freedom from command and control: a better way to make the work work. Vanguard Education Ltd., Buckingham, 2003) can cause as many problems in manufacturing as it does in service organisations. The paper details how far command and control thinking had driven the business away from doing what its customers actually wanted. Although this paper will look particularly at this specific business, the findings are meant to be representative of what, in the author’s experience, are typical command and control discussions in conventionally managed organisations. The paper will describe the business’ background, its culture and the existing state of affairs. The organisation will be looked at from two perspectives: the business managers’ perspective and the perspective of the people in the work (front line workers and their line managers). The paper will then discuss the current business logic and its impact. It will examine what it was like to work in this system. The paper will go on to look at the model for ‘Check’ (Seddon 2003, p. 112) and its application in manufacturing, before detailing what the managers in the business would have seen if they had applied the model. Finally, it will describe what improvements could have been expected through the move to a logic built on systems thinking principles.

Keywords

Vanguard Method Variation Demand System conditions Capability Flow Management thinking 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NewportUK

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