Processes, automation and human potential

I have been working with an article that captures the essence of my recent professional work, during the last year or so. Brendan and I have been consulting several organizations with the aim of helping them achieve better results – be it more revenue or profit, more efficient use of time, customer satisfaction, better cooperation or above all releasing individual initiative, responsibility and creativity.

I release the article here first to invite feedback from the wonderful and smart contributers on this blog. If you read the article and give some valuable input, you may be credited if you want.

The article is here: “Processes, automation and human potential

31 thoughts on “Processes, automation and human potential

  1. Great creation Geir. This work has layers.

    Needs some light but very necessary editing. You miss a lot of tenses and have typos that slip past spell check that just jump out and bite the reader. Just hand it to a good copy editor for 15 minutes.

    An example with your equation would be helpful in the next edition.

    I would drop the quantum consciousness thing because it doesn’t really add to your message or the usefulness of your ideas. It’s not a matter of it being true or not, but more of a matter of relevance to your ideas to the subject. It makes your solid ideas sound “new-agey” when they are really very practical.

    It’s like talking about how to fix a bicycle and then it’s suddenly “Woo-hoo it’s quantum physics folks and guess what? We create the universe together.”

    It just felt random.

    Really enjoyed your view on how automation relates to different types of jobs.

    Your equation at the end really needs an example (next version?). Because determining the inputs on some of the values would be a real bugger for some as you mention. And determining those inputs is what your consulting side would be all about. It would seem to me that the metrics for those values would vary depending on what the business was doing.

    The equation is where nitty meets gritty.

    1. I didn’t want to give the equation at the end too much space, because then the article would seem to be mainly about that. It serves best as an appendix IMO.

      As for the reference to QM; I think it is needed as that is the most tangible evidence for what sets man apart from machine. (Note; I am not interested in a long discussion on just that topic right here – it is covered many levels deep other places on this blog 🙂 )

      I am very much interested in typos and improvement in English throughout the article. Please shoot.

      1. I’ll have to agree on the QM-stuff as well. It will seem odd to most of the recipients, as they probably won’t feel the need for that evidence at that point There will of course be exceptions, but they won’t be persuaded by that short bit anyway.
        As for the equation I agree with you Geir, but a link to the original paper, a website w examples etc would add authority.
        I’ve noted a few typos, you’ve got mail 🙂

      2. Geir, I do proofreading and light editing. I’m only half-way through your article but I’ve been making a little list of typos and errors in grammar and punctuation as I’ve gone along, thinking that might be the best contribution I’ll be able to make. When I’m done, I could send it to you in an email if you like.

    2. A separate document for an example that is all dolled-up, revved up and driving home the details would definitely be a better approach.

      After all, this is a treatise rather than a manual.

      But when I finished the document I was left with “Okay, this looks like a bunch of promising concept maps and a complex equation with no real example with working metrics.”

      But you are a smart guy with smart people. You’ll figure it out.

  2. I assume the business case includes:

    – forecasting market possibilities and probabilities — i.e. not much value in automating buggy whip manufacturing when the product is subject to extreme market development or complete phase-out.
    – consequences of reducing personnel to assembly line in terms of lost of innovative or creative input in challenging market environments.
    – cost analysis in terms of development time/cost and new technology roll-outs — i.e. software obsolescence factors.
    – product testing, including features analysis before extensive re-tooling — i.e. testing for market demand before extensive implementation.
    – upgrade/maintenance analysis, particularly on high tech equipment and/or custom software/systems development. This includes impact of software upgrade paths as in Oracle, Delphi, Microsoft backwards compatibility.
    – innovation vs automation — sunk cost has a tendency to dismiss innovation because of investment into a particular system/procedure or development line.

  3. Hi Geir,

    Thank you for this – I find the article to be outstanding – brilliant!

    I picked up one typo on page 8, third paragraph from the bottom of the page, second sentence: “If the one responsible is restriced….” should read: “restricted.”

    I have one question which is probably already covered in the article under “responsibility”, but I would appreciate more clarity on how it fits into this model.

    My question pertains to the polticial dimension in human relations. You can get some very creative, innovative and dynamic people working in a group, but personal agendas of the need to gain power often enter the equation. I have personally witnessed and experienced how one or a few individuals want to gain “supremacy of control” over a company. While some of these types of individuals may be talented enough to ensure the success of the enterprise, often it is at the cost of losing or eliminating other individuals with great talent who are perceived as a threat to the individuals wanting power.

    Could you elaborate on how this dimension would be addressed by your model?

    Thanks very much again, I really enjoyed this brilliant article.


  4. in an organization there are 2 different groups of persons in need of processes and automation to achieve overall effectiveness. in first place the staff in need of proper logistics ( as properly surveyed on them ) and then it comes the processes and automation of production of products and services that will be received or delivered to the customers or public segment ( as properly surveyed or assessed for them ) .
    so, stops in production do not happen in both levels and human potential is in the maximum.
    may be, the existence of sub-processes for the most common contingencies could be benefitial.

  5. I acknowledge your post, but I do not have time to read it and comment on it.

    Busy with my own processing and helping a couple of others.

    (I did read a couple of pages of the article and I saw some good stuff. If and when I have time I would like to read the whole thing. But with the way things are today, with so much new data constantly coming in, it seldom happens. )


  6. Geir, you are really burying your lead in this piece although your writing style is very lucid.

    The first page doesn’t really state WHAT you are doing and WHY it matters. All the information is in the piece, but it’s flow of information works like this:

    HOW THE STRUCTURE WORKS NOW: “After I tell you this business story let’s take a shower, get dressed, drive fifty miles to that cool new club, meet hotties and GET LAID!”

    HIT IT COULD WORK: “LET’S GET LAID! After I tell you this business story let’s take a shower, get dressed, drive fifty miles to that cool club and meet some hotties!”

    1. You describe a big problem solved by a big idea later on. I just suggesting you make it your banner concept from the first sentence.

      1. I’m thinking this sentence on page 4 is a condensed overview:

        “In order to fully understand the ramifications of automation and introducing processes in business or other areas, one must first tackle the basic concepts of automation, processes and human potential.”

      2. Just for fun, I put together some sentences from p.3 and p.7 to get the following as a basis for a synopsis:

        “Automation or the implementing of business processes are not silver bullets. They are tools that in some cases have immense value for a business and in other cases may destroy a business. In order to fully understand the ramifications of automation and introducing processes in business or other areas, one must first tackle the basic concepts of automation, processes and human potential.

        “[Next,] [o]ne should work out what the intended result is and then seek to do the tasks and use the tools best suited to help produce that result. When the emphasis is on “following procedures”, “executing orders” or “process compliance” rather than personal responsibility for achieving a certain result… “.

  7. My twoo cents:
    Once I worked on reel fed offset printing machines. Those machines are usually running 24/7, except 12 hours on the weekend for maintainance. They handle endless paper on reel, and produce 40-60000 promosheets, or papers (max 48 pages) per hour. The last step of all work is to compile a bundle of about 100-200 sheets dependent on the thickness of a single sheet/paper. The bundles were tied up, crosswise by a small plastic ribbon, also done by a machine.
    Then at the end of the assembly line a guy picked up the bundles and put them on a palett manually. This was done since the company existed 50 years or so…….
    When the company ordered in 2005 a brand new machine ( about 10 million Euros investment ) they had the glorious idea to order a robot who is doing the job of the guy at the end of the assembly line. In order to save labour cost. *loool
    The robot was additional 500 000 Euros.
    The robot did not work properly. It was a high complex technical device which could not be programmed for specific failures which happened from time to time.
    Result: They had to place a guy there who was supervising the robot and fix the robots mistakes manually. Soemtimes it was just to move the bundle one inch forward, to the right or left. But sometimes big mess happened. If the bundle machine did not work properly the robot cound not “see” that the bulk was properly bundled and hundreds of papers or promosheets became “flying parts”. *loool
    You see it does not matter wether those incidents happen once per hour or once a day. Someone had to be there STAND BY. NO WIN no more profit.
    You see this is an example that automation has limits.

      1. This video should give you an idea what i was talking about.

        at the end of the video you see a short scene of a guy standing beside the palett.

  8. Geir, you have two people who have promised to copy edit this and they are darn smart.

    Regarding your introduction statement. It’s already in your document. You need only slighetly modify the words.

    1st Paragraph: The bottom paragraph of page 3.
    2nd Paragraph: The NEXT to the bottom paragraph on page 3.
    3rd Paragraph (the big idea) a modified version of the second paragraph on page 12.

    You may want to replace the concluding paragraphs before the equations with a concrete summary of your big ideas and a practical showing they can all work together.

  9. I found an intriguing quote on a grammar site: “Style is the ultimate morality of mind.”

    Then I searched and found it on a mathematics blog! This at first seemed even stranger than it being quoted on a grammar site, until I read the same quote as part of the excerpt below, from The Aims of Education by Alfred North Whitehead. I’m posting it here because I think it is applicable to your article, the writing itself and the subject matter – both have style. I was inspired by that and by Whitehead’s description, which you could also call a description of professionalism – and even it has style. 🙂

    “The most austere of all mental qualities; I mean the sense for style. It is an aesthetic sense, based on admiration for the direct attainment of a foreseen end, simply and without waste. Style in art, style in literature, style in science, style in logic, style in practical execution have fundamentally the same aesthetic qualities, namely, attainment and restraint. The love of a subject in itself and for itself, where it is not the sleepy pleasure of pacing a mental quarter-deck, is the love of style as manifested in that study.

    “…Style, in its finest sense, is the last acquirement of the educated mind; it is also the most useful. It pervades the whole being. The administrator with a sense for style hates waste; the engineer with a sense for style economises his material; the artisan with a sense for style prefers good work. Style is the ultimate morality of mind.”

    1. Excellent post, Miraldi.

      I would say that another word for style is “class”.

      On the lighter side, this reminds me of what they used to say out in the wild west:

      She /he has about as much class as the south end of a northern bound horse.


  10. I got a worse one – “smells like the south end of a horse that died going north.”

    (I know, even jokes can lack class. :-D)

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