Thursday, 12 April 2007

The Puritan Gift

Peter writes ...

Future students of mine will be required to read 'The Puritan Gift' by Hopper and Hopper. This is a warm-hearted but unflinching critique of our Western managerial and technological culture. It is in many senses "a hymn of praise to America" but, in this, sees the cracks, cranks and follies, as readily as it bears witness to nobility and fortune.

Early on, the authors report that in its infancy and prime:

"A subtle but robust blend of respect for the rights of the individual and the group - which, in its managerial expression, may be described as collegiality - lay at the beating heart of America's evolving commercial and industrial life."

Later, focusing upon "the Business School Counter Culture", the authors talk of how "Collegiality was succeeded by the worship of the all-powerful or 'imperial' chief executive."

A full review will follow, possibly as a last post to DC 2007.

I have borrowed the picture of the Chrysler Building, one of the world's greatest buildings, from RachelleB


B1RDIE Num Num said...

I read a couple of Ayn Rand and Upton Sinclair books - they pretty much gave me a view of how the west was really born.

The drive for rich reward is uppermost in the economy, and sometimes, just sometimes, game changing management styles emerge that allow inordinate shifts in the game.

I'm waiting for Guerilla firms - the macrocosm of the venture capitalist approach in micro format.

Kenneth said...

From Kenneth Hopper
See “The Puritan Gift” by Kenneth Hopper and William Hopper.
If it is welcome, I would like to contribute some comments on the modern history of manufacturing as I saw it in P&G’s manufacturing operation in Trafford Park in the 1940s and 1950s. There is much confusion about who did what first.

The Japanese deserve every credit for creating and applying advanced manufacturing techniques such as JIT and QC Circles in the postwar decades and teaching them to others. Bunzaemon Inoue, one of Japan’s postwar leaders in management innovation gave me details in meetings and in an extensive correspondence, of how his company, Sumitomo Electric Industries, won its 1962 Deming Prize by, for the first time, using participative methods extensively. That prize was “epoch making” according to Professor Yoshio Kondo, (1979 Kyoto interview). Inoue wrote me that SEI did not invent QC Circles but was the first Japanese company to apply participative methods widely and then tell the whole of Japan about it.

When I joined P&G in 1948, I found numerous practices applied that are now often regarded as purely Japanese. I found P&G applying rigorously what would now be called, “Just in Time”. Also, typed up, bound operating standards (again often credited to the Japanese) were carefully prepared up and formally revised (my memory tells me) on a six month basis. In the Spring of 1957, as Head of Mechanical Methods and Planning, I was responsible for making the first introduction of P&G’s successful worker participation scheme outside the US. It was called, simply Group Methods Meetings. P&G’s Cincinnati based industrial engineer, the late Arthur Spinanger, had developed it. Many years later, in the early 1980s I was able to meet and correspond with him and asked how P&G had developed its scheme. His answer was simple, “the workers in the factories were my teachers.” He was clear that P&G had developed this practice independently.

Blue Daz. Change-over time.
Production control used several overlapping schedules to manage with JIT as is now common. (Long Term. Monthly. Weekly and daily) The Department where I was engineer, (P&G’s first Standard Tower Unit for making powder detergent outside the US) was informed that we would be making a new synthetic detergent, a blue powder, called DAZ. At first sight this seemed thoroughly impractical. The change from white Tide to blue Daz might not be too difficult but to go from blue to white would be a different story: even specks of blue in white Tide would be unacceptable. The problem would not lie in the initial chemical processing but in the subsequent drying chamber, belt conveyor etc. and air handling equipment. Such was the volume of the product that no production run could be for more than a week.

The first changeovers took days. Air handling ducting had to be removed for deposited powder to be literally dug out. The 100 foot high drying chamber required special cleaning. Yet, after a few changeovers, we had reduced changeover time to a few hours. Spare lengths of ducting were hung nearby so that Tide and Daz had separate lengths ready to be swung in or which could be cleaned during the week and modifications were made to the drying tower. (The plant shut down most week-ends.) Most of the innovative suggestions came from the workers.

British manufacturing had not been doing well and I had been looking for the best managed American owned manufacturer in Britain to find what the American did better. I was advised (see “The Puritan Gift”) that P&G was it. I had a first class Hons Glasgow B.Sc. in Mech Eng and had started an apprenticeship as a marine engine fitter with G&J Weir of Cathcart before taking Metrovick’s famous two year Graduate Apprenticeship (“There are only two kinds of engineer in the world: those who served a Metrovick Graduate Apprenticeship and those who did not”, Takeo Kato 1969).

P&G had taken over the small British soap manufacturer, Thomas Hedley of Newcastle and had worked hard to introduce its American ways of managing. Consequently, the company had a strict practice of not employing anyone with prior British manufacturing experience. The only exceptions were for engineers. I was not disappointed in my choice of P&G in Trafford Park.

Unlike the practice I had observed in Weir’s and Metrovick, where all foremen were promoted workers, half of their opposite numbers in P&G had good technical degrees. In the US, P&G called them “foremen” but making allowance for us sensitive British, we were honored with titles like “Section Engineer” and “Department Manager”. In 1965/66 I was able to research “graduate foremen” at the Harvard Business School. I found no existing research on the subject and was given differing reasons why by British and American sources. Brits all assumed foremen had to be from the shopfloor. (One senior Unilever personnel executive told me, “the shopfloor belongs to the workers”. A very important Unilever advisor warned me that putting young men with promise into such a low level job could give them a bad focus on detail that would prevent them ever holding a high level position.) Americans, on the other hand, thought it was so self evident that young graduates would benefit from the experience that there was no need to research it. Also they thought technical departments often benefited by having a technically qualified supervisor.

The practices that I found in Trafford Park were so different from those in Weir’s and Metrovick that I tried, unsuccessfully, to report them to the Manchester Business School and elsewhere. The full story will have to wait for another occasion. Always I was reminded of the Hawthorne Experiments finding that if you listened to the workers everything would be well.

Kenneth Hopper

alain said...

This is something that I find interesting. We need the full story. Is it in the book? I will buy it. Are there national differences and if there are such national differences, do they come from the educational systems of the nations? If they do, then maybe they are resistant to even a multinational.

alain said...

This is something I believe to be true from my time also working in France. It is my view that Britain has little pride in its engineers and academics. However, contrary to its established image, it does have great pride in its artists and designers.

Peter said...

I recall as a young child that workmen would sometimes knock on the door of our house and ask my mother to fill their cannisters with tea. They would be walking or cycling to Trafford Park, some three or more miles from where we lived. This would be in the early 1970s; it feels, in so many ways, an alien culture now. These were the dying days of Trafford Park, and though it was quite a regular occurrence to us and other neighbours back then, how would we react today if some stanger dropped by asking for tea on the doorstep?

To my knowledge, and even with six children about her knees, my mother never refused.

The tragedy of management failure is that, in the end, it was these craggy faced men who lost out. Many of them, I imagine, might have fought in WW2.

From poor management followed closed factories and no longer did our streets, some three miles east of Trafford Park, swell each evening with shift workers walking home.

To be honest, now, I can scarcely believe the memory.