Management by algorithm. It’s not just the gig-economy platforms that are using code to apply factory-style productivity principles and redefine the nature of employment. Software to manage shifts and boost sales is fast spreading to the retail and service economies (The Financial Times) and turning the lives of workers there upside down. In one sense, this trend is simply the rebirth of the stopwatch-driven “scientific management” techniques that Frederick Taylor introduced a century ago, when “Taylorism” became synonymous with a kind of dehumanizing focus on productivity metrics. In another, it represents an entirely new way of approaching the relationship between employer and worker: less committed on both sides, more fluid, continuously tweaked. If we manage this change thoughtfully and sensitively, it has the potential to make businesses way more efficient and give employees much more freedom. But if we blow it, we could be in for an era of labor-management strife like we haven’t seen since — well, since the era of Taylorism.
The perfect company, piece by piece. In a new series, Quartz sets out to find companies that have aced specific aspects of their businesses. WordPress maker Automattic, for example, makes a fully distributed organization work by regularly swapping new tools into its communications kit. Japan’s MUJI tackles sustainability through nuts-and-bolts thinking rather than flashy do-gooder campaigns. Online furniture merchant Wayfair rethinks customer service by hiring millennials with a passion for gaming who are good at problem-solving, then giving them the power to authorize returns or take other quick steps to resolve issues. You can’t cut and paste these exceptional parts into any kind of “perfect” whole, of course. But there’s plenty to learn from each patch of the quilt.Read More