We seem to be going through one of those periods – real or imagined – when “nothing works”.
Our digital revolution has given us a welter of new “systems” covering, seemingly, virtually all human activity. But try as we may, something almost always seems to go wrong – the internet salesperson doesn’t know they don’t ship to post office boxes so a purchase wanders around for weeks, the courier [even with his Global Position System] insists our address doesn’t exist, expensive telephone “information” gives us a wrong number, the instructions for reading our telephone messages appears to be translated from Japanese, etc., etc.
We have a terrible, frightening suspicion that the essence of American economic management which introduced our improvements on the industrial revolution may have gone too far. The essence of the system was to reduce complicated manufacturing jobs or other economic positions to a single decision. Then, poorly trained or inefficient members of the workforce could do minimum damage and the system would move on.
Digitalization has simplified, in theory, the whole process even more.
Now computers bear the burden of much of the decision-making and the individual worker just pushes a button for a single action. Thus the once vaunted role of cashier – an individual who could engage the customer, calculate the purchase or purchases, pacl them into containers, take the customer’s money or examine his personal bank check, calculate the change, and send him on his way with a generous greeting and welcome back is gone.
Today – and all signs point to even this single action going by the boards [to coin a phrase] tomorrow – is to move the items across a sensor and either take the currency offered or more likely watch anonymously as the customer swipes his xredit card on an automatic machine.
You have to wonder what are the psychol
But, ultimately, decision-making has to take place at some human level in every organization. And despite what is generally regarded as intensive training – in the so-called business schools and company programs – we have to wonder if the dumbing-down process hasn’t seeped up the salary scale.
ogical implications of this change in the cashier’s role, from celebrated multitasking expert to an anonymous robot facing the customer as he departs.
It’s all done in the name of efficiency. Take for instance the decision to move “call centers”, that is central inquiry and instruction service, overseas to cheaper wage respondents.
More than once recently we have had the maddening experience of reaching a call center in India or Timbuku or even the Philippines where the respondent was neither a native English speaker nor had a clue about American geography. After an excruciating circular conversation, mostly one-sided as the respondent overseas while speaking some kind of English answered in rote messages, a screaming session took place calling for a supervisor, who if luck were with you, was an English-speaking native back in the U.S., who immediately solved “the problem”.
We cannot believe that there is anything efficient in that whole system, and that, in fact, instead of saving money, it isn’t costing the operators in time and expenses. Wages, after all, are measured in service to the operation rather than dollars and cents [or pesos and paisa].
Bottom line: the dumbing-down process which has reduced the individual worker to one motion, one job, one idea, may well so cripple his psyche that he isn’t even very good at that one action. And we don’t even want to think about the possible destruction of a normal healthy personality this process incurs.