Employing industrial age points-of-view are something all organizations should be examining closely. By applying an industrial age lens, efficiency and productivity suggest the first order metrics: how do I generate more money (or save more money) over the same period of time. A report by Eric Felten in the Wall Street Journal (In Praise Of Inefficiency: A Manifesto, February 26, 2010) documents his thoughts and prompted this post. So we automate, we remove the friction and the cost goes down. I think Eric and I are the same page with that: good for automation. Then the darkness creeps in. The industrial age strategic imperative starts going: hey, if we can take money so easily, perhaps we should take more of it.
So Eric documents, in the case of toll rates, that the automation, vs. coins, results in a 20%-40% increase in rates. Couple that with the decrease in costs and that’s a pretty good answer to a Taylor equation. Everybody wins…well…
Well, this is the twenty-first century, and not only do the companies and governments have technology, but so do consumers and employees. This isn’t just a hidden fee that no one will squawk about. If the toll operators can amplify the size of the hand in your pocket, then you can amplify your voice to complain. Which then raises the relationship question. What kind of strategic relationship to organizations want with their customers? If they see them, in light of the industrial age, as inputs, then keep taking the money. If, however, they see them as 21st Century customers, then they might want to tone down the fees, because for every disgruntled relationship comes a link to efficient free alternatives to the toll road, lists of sites to see, and tweets about how refreshing it is to take a slower route and enjoy the character of the local economy. That’s a strategic choice and it is one where technology combined with industrial age thinking may eventually give way.
The consumers too, are making strategic choices in light of available information. Who am I to predict the outcome? That is why I love strategy, because strategic thinking is about moving toward a point-of-view, not just asserting one. This is a good example of variables that organizations and consumers need to discuss so they can decide what the right strategy really should be, for both sides of the equation.