“We’re in this era of measurement but we don’t know what we should be measuring” ……….

Taylor’s Time and Motion study to enhance worker productivity was introduced in the early 20th century in the USA. Now we are in the 21st century. Despite all our advances and progress, measuring worker productivity continues unabated as reflected in the following NYT article: The Rise of the Worker Productivity Score:   Across industries and incomes, more employees are being tracked, recorded and ranked. What is gained, companies say, is efficiency and accountability. What is lost? By Jodi Kantor and Arya Sundaram; Produced by Aliza Aufrichtig and Rumsey Taylor.  Aug. 14, 2022   https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/08/14/business/worker-productivity-tracking.html?

Following are couple of quotes from this NYT essay:

In lower-paying jobs, workplace monitoring has already been ubiquitous. But now, across industries and incomes, more employees are being tracked, recorded and ranked. We’re in this era of measurement but we don’t know what we should be measuring,” said Ryan Fuller, former vice president for workplace intelligence at Microsoft.

The comment from the former Microsoft executive is telling. It speaks volumes on the quandary we all face in this “New Economy”, “Knowledge Economy”, “Digital World”, “Information Economy”, “Flat world”, “Globalization”,  ………….. whatever you wish to call it? Any of these economic orders began their roots in the late 1970s and took a firm hold by the dawn of the 21st Century!

We refer your attention to two books that address this need to measure, assess and manage worker productivity at all levels in the 21st Century ! https://stimsinstitute.com/20151207books/ 

In the book published in the year 2000 – The System Approach – A strategy to survive and succeed in the global Economyhttps://www.amazon.com/System-Approach-Modern-Machine-Books/dp/1569902550  we address the issue of Productivity at the enterprise level as well as the worker level:

“Globalization” requires a constant strive to improve productivity.  If the productivity improvement is incremental – we shall call this a “Better Mousetrap” it is difficult to identify the benefit of such improvements.  Frequently such incremental improvements may get lost in the “noise” or “variability” in measurements.  The “noise” becomes larger as the factors and their measurements are considered on a worldwide basis.  

On the other hand, if the productivity improvements are large or quantum in nature, we shall call them, “Different Mouse Trap.”  If such advantage can be perceived on a worldwide basis, then such individual or enterprise remains successful in a “global” economy.

Any success in a “global” economy for any enterprise requires the following: 

·         Are there approaches or strategies that help to define the activity of the enterprise in terms of an “input/process/output” system with its associated value or benefit to the participants in the system? 

·         Once the input/process/output system is defined, are there approaches to achieve quantum improvement in the output of such systems?

From the above analysis (for details please see the book), a set of conclusions may also be drawn from the point of view of individual employees:

·         There is a profound change in the workplace, where “task” oriented job functions are being eliminated and replaced by fewer “solution” oriented jobs.

·         This change is occurring at all levels – from the lowest level worker to the highest executive in the organization.

·         This diminishing employment opportunity can be managed through “shared sacrifice” thereby lowering the living standard of all involved.

In retrospect, after four decades we find this approach a loosing proposition, even dangerously challenging the vitality of the nation as a Democracy.

·         Alternatively those few that find the means or ability to transition to a “problem solver” role or solution driven job function, survive and succeed in the changing employment marketplace.

·         These “problem solvers” are often described as entrepreneurial, system oriented, holistic or ultra-preneurs.  

In the subsequent sections of the book we describe the “System Approach” to define any job as a solution oriented activity. We also identify the parameters that belong to each aspect of the “system” and how to measure them!

Above views are not merely theoretical concepts. Instead they were reduced to practice and implemented as useful tools, which saved scores of jobs in a high attrition manufacturing work space. These productivity tools also helped scores of others to rise through the ranks, even as the organizational layers were reduced and flattened! This practical, results oriented outcome was further reduced into seven “Transformational Skills”. They are described in detail in a book published in the year 2013 titled: Thriving in the 21st Century Economy – Transformational Skills for Technical Professionals”. https://www.amazon.com/Thriving-Century-Transformational-Technical-Professionals/dp/0791860167/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1371673516&sr=1-1&keywords=Transformational+Skills+Subramanian 

These Transformational Skills also offer means to measure and manage the productivity of workers in any profession in the current workforce. They are:

  1. Develop a “Common Language” – on the “What?” is required and “Why?” – these are the “Technical” and “System” outputs of the job, assignment or solution!
  2. Maintain and manage the “System View” of the job as a “Solution” – Input/Transformation/Output” System – and not a random collection of tasks.
  3. Emphasize on the integrated use of three Dimensions of Core Capabilities:
    1. Individual: Knowledge, Experience and People Skills
    2. Project / Team: Science, Engineering (Application of Science) and Management (Operations and Strategy)
    3. Solution / Enterprise: Physical Technology, Digital Technology and Market/need drivers.
  1. Relentless focus on Data, its analysis and use. More Digital, the better!
  2. Develop an Ecosystem that promotes and fosters items 1 to 4 above. It is never lonely out there!
  1. Emphasis on End to End Innovation – Define/Discover X Develop X Deploy / Implement. In the above equation, if the value is Zero for anyone of the three parameters, the overall score is Zero!
  2. Emotional Intelligence: Win with others! Winning only for one’s sake is never sustainable nor satisfactory in the long run. After all, you are a human being!

A brief Video on Transformational Skills

On Sep. 4, 2021 Dr. Subramanian presented a Webinar under KITE Webinar series hosted by AMTDC at IIT Madras, Chennai, India. This is part of a series of Webinars https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb2CvpVcCQ_rgt3JwEjWuyA useful to young professionals to succeed in the 21st century workplace.

A brief edited version of the webinar can be seen at  https://youtu.be/_emiqz7yRx8

After a brief introduction (First 3 minutes), Dr. Subramanian takes the viewer through a series of episodes in his professional life, which required and shaped his views on System Thinking and Transformational Skills.

The second half of the video (about 20 minutes) uses a set of few slides and their description to make the concepts of ST and TS more concrete and easier to follow for any professional.

Enjoy the viewing and learning!

IT or DT is not the only “Technology”!

This morning as I was reading the following, I felt vindicated in some small scale! https://www.quora.com/We-know-the-wi-in-wi-fi-means-wireless-but-what-does-the-fi-mean We know the ‘wi’ in ‘wi-fi’ means wireless but what does the ‘fi’ mean?

WiFi is short for “wireless fidelity.” This is not the case. WiFi is simply a trademarked term meaning IEEE 802.11x. The false notion that the brand name “WiFi” is short for “wireless fidelity” has spread to such an extent that even industry leaders have included the phrase wireless fidelity in a press release. You’ll also find references to WiFi being short for wireless fidelity on a number of well-known and respected technology-focused publications and websites. The truth is, WiFi isn’t short for anything and it never was.

The above is equally true for the common use of the term “Technology”!

In a recent post https://stimsinstitute.com/2021/12/03/futureofwork/ we have mentioned the following:

Science, Engineering and Management — Integrating the above is Technology. 
Digital or IT is NOT the only “Technology”. It is just one form of Technology.
Using the word “Technology” and imply DT or IT is a very vivid example of lack in common language. This singular failure across the globe (of the word technology and its meaning) has made all education other than IT / Computer Science appear less relevant or valuable in public perception! It also illustrates a lack of discipline and in-depth knowledge across the media professionals, pundits, educators, policy makers and politicians who merely use the words for their sound bite and not as a means to communicate what they truly mean or understand.

This lack of common language permeates every where. Do we really know what the words Democracy, Conservative, Liberal, Safety-net, Religion, Spiritual, …. truly stand for?

Do we teach our students the difference between Science, Engineering and Management and their integration in STEM education? Or do we simply cloak the “T” in STEM for IT? The “M” in the STEM education stands for “Mathematics” or “Management”? How can you teach anything analytical without “M” for Mathematics? Why is that singled out in STEM? Management implied skills for Strategic thinking and operational excellence. What good is it to teach STEM, if such education does not contain “M” for Management?



Yes, we are tired of Digital Technology and its onslaught on everything “normal”. Like the old battle cry leading to the revolutionary war – “the British are coming” – there is now a chorus saying “AI and Robotics are coming”. This change in the nature of work began in the the late 1970s. In the year 2000, our first book was published titled “The System Approach – A Strategy to Survive and Succeed in the Global Economy” https://stimsinstitute.com/20151207books/ where we stated “if you merely repeat what you have done before and there are others who can do the same, then the lowest cost person will remain employed. To Survive and succeed in this Global Economy, you need to be a System Thinker – figuring out what needs to be done and why and make that happen – and not merely a task oriented person (doing what you are asked to do without questioning)!”

Since then we have explored this need and the means for survival in professional life, with modest success. More than that, we have been able to mentor and train a large body of fellow professionals across the globe. This resulted in the summary – Transformational Skills – published in 2013 with co-author Prof. Rangan. https://stimsinstitute.com/20151207books/ The Transformational skills all are interconnected and not sequential or hierarchical. They are:

  1. Always develop a common language
    • Our biggest challenge today in our Digital world is that we are rich in words (information), poor in their meaning and common understanding. 
  2. 3D view of core capabilities:
    • Personal: Knowledge, Experience, Interpersonal skills
    • Professional: Science, Engineering and Management
      • Integrating the above is Technology 
      • Digital or IT is NOT the only “Technology”. It is just one form of Technology
        • A very vivid example of lack in common language.
        • This singular failure across the globe (of the word technology and its meaning) has made all education other than IT / Computer Science appear less relevant or valuable in public perception!
    • Enterprise: DT (Digital World), Physical Technology and Finance / Market Drivers.
  3. Always frame the situation / problem / opportunity as an “Input/Transformation / Output” system. 
    • The whole is always larger than and different from the mere sum of its parts!
  4. Emphasis on analysis, reasoning, data and inference
    • We are in a Knowledge Economy. Knowledge requires using our intellectual skills extensively.
  5. End to End Innovation: 
    • Solution and its impact matters.
    • But you can not get there without diligence
    • Nor can you get there without a shared vision and emotional intelligence (6 and 7 below).
  6. Develop and maintain a network for shared vision, goals and efforts..
    • Opportunities for collaboration and shared vision are limitless. All constraints in any form (nation, gender, family, self, rich/poor, have/have not, race, religion, intelligent/dumb, etc.) are all self imposed constraints.
  7. Emotional Intelligence.
    • Think and do good for others; it might be the only right thing for you to get better!
    • May everyone and indeed everything exist in peace and harmony!

Today I was watching a PBS episode titled: Future of work  https://www.pbs.org/show/future-work/
Using many visual examples the show arrives at a model for “Barbell Economy”, where the middle is depleted while strengthening of the two ends (high income jobs and low wage jobs). Actually this is a poor model of reality. The depletion in the middle is not equally pushed to either side like the barbell. See: https://stimsinstitute.com/2016/05/23/do-americans-really-miss-the-unions/
We have captured the changing nature of work more accurately as “Binary Economy” in our book titled “Thriving in the 21st Century Economy – Transformational Skills for Technical Professionals” published by ASME Press in 2013 – nearly 9 years ago:https://stimsinstitute.com/20151207books/

At the end of the PBS show, after an hour long lament on what is happening, the show leaves with a vague plea for change, with no formal or structured solution at the end! :-( Honestly, I felt depressed that at the end of the show there is nothing concrete to advance the society. But, this is nothing new. Most essays and movies on this topic rehash the past rather than leading the charge for change to the future. https://stimsinstitute.com/2020/11/22/commentary-on-american-factory/

Contrast that with our book where we lay out the Binary Economy model (the why?) in the first half, and we end with a clear set of Transformational Skills (the what to do about it) and the necessity for sustained education towards that in the second half of the book.
 The gravity of this issue and the solution have been further condensed into five simple illustrations:  https://stimsinstitute.com/2021/07/22/5-significant-lessons-for-any-professional-in-the-21st-century/

Will some one interested in workforce development (Educators, policy makers, parents, students) take a look at the Transformational Skills needed and adapt them as part of a sustained education and communication effort?

The forces of Digital Technology are the same in terms of challenges for companies to survive and succeed. The same Transformational Skills are also equally applicable to enterprises as they apply to individual workers.