The relationship between control and productivity | Marina Vaz

I confess that I understand the need for companies to have stricter controls over the base of their pyramid. If a person leaves the production line of a product, the capacity of that line decreases, and basically all the spreadsheets of that company rely on that delivery and with little room for maneuver.

Mc Donald’s example: the production line

Fictitious example: Mc Donald’s. If a person who is responsible for assembling the sandwiches leaves for any reason, the speed with which the sandwiches come out slows down. The queues are getting longer. Customers get impatient. If there’s a child in that queue waiting for a McHappy Meal, that father is surely looking up and praying.

At scale, if everyone on the production line decides to stop whenever they want, oh my! The manager freaks out. The cafeteria is emptied. There have been complaints on social media. Complaints go viral. And then, when the media knock on the door of Mc Donald’s PR to get a statement, then, and only then, will the board look. Only when it gets to the board of directors, who have the power of decision to solve the problem, can they solve the problem. Until then, many customers have been lost, many employees have resigned or been fired, much damage has been done to the image of that brand.

And off the production line…

At the same time, if the management takes a few days off to travel with the family, has a long lunch, arrives later, decides to work from home, this has zero impact on the production line. They usually sit on Mount Sinai, far away from the production line, discussing strategy, but I digress (not so much).

To solve this kind of problem, the board’s strategy is to talk to the production line managers: control your teams well, you can no longer take breaks whenever you want, there will be new break rules and penalties for not complying with them. They decide to spend a lot of money on tools so that this control is no longer 100% human and so that the board of directors has a super dashboard tracking all of the corporation’s productivity in real time.

Then the management, now knowing that the whole board is watching his results, is afraid that he won’t be able to deliver what they want because, after all, if productivity drops, someone else will show up. popup in red on the dashboards that are connected 24 hours a day at corporate headquarters and on each director’s cell phone. Now, his role is to keep the staff in line so that it doesn’t get ugly for him. His management then outsources his fear to his team, making everyone afraid of being fired at any moment.

If someone on his team has a fever, he’d rather force them to work than ask HR for help, because that’s a sign of weakness. Scenes like the manager shouting at people, being sarcastic, deifying the people who sacrifice the most at work so that everyone sees them as the example to be followed, are common scenes. It’s fictitious, but not that fictitious.

Team management: how to apply it in your company

Limits exceeded for the sake of productivity

Last year, an employee of a Burger King kioskA call center employee in Brazil peed in her own kiosk: “If I leave, I’ll get a warning, the second time I’ll get suspended, and the third time I’ll get just cause.” An employee at a call center in Spain had a heart attack at her desk and everyone had to continue working next to her because the services provided there were “essential”.

All this has gone viral and ends up on the board’s desk, which has to issue a statement rejecting these behaviors without understanding that they are the source of why they happen. It’s the gas that companies need to invest in technologies that automate 100% of the production line. Not to help the line produce better, to broaden the scope, to improve the quality of the product or service. To get the humans out because it’s one headache after another.

Responsibility can be taught

We, as a society, educate our children to be responsible adults within the law. But we, as a corporate society, don’t educate workers to be responsible within the company. We start from the assumption that they will try to harm the company, so we impose a series of controls, processes and surveillance mechanisms to make them afraid of harming the company.

Civil responsibility is shared, we are all responsible for crossing on the crosswalk. It’s not that there’s no surveillance, there is. It’s not that there are no control mechanisms, there are. But they are scaled according to the level of litigation in society, countries with worse rates of violence have more aggressive police and vice versa, the main difference between these countries: the human development index.

If countries with better education, health and income distribution have less repressive societies, could it be that companies with clearer remuneration policies, concerned about the physical and mental health of their workers, who invest in their development, also have less need for control and surveillance? Yes, they do.

How to control without controlling? | Marina Vaz in Estadão de Minas


Looking again at the Mc Donald’s production line, where the person responsible for assembling the sandwich left and jeopardized the entire production line: if all the people in that environment are responsible for the production line, he can ask someone else to replace him and vice versa.

McDonald’s doesn’t even need to know, it doesn’t even need to have controls, it needs to monitor productivity. If it falls, everyone is responsible. If she goes up, it ‘s to everyone’s credit. There is no need for the “employee of the month”, there is a need to serve customers in the best possible way, distributed among all stages of production. At the same time, everyone needs to be well for this delivery to take place. And that means peeing with peace of mind, helping your friend travel with the family or resting on a weekday because he’s also covering for you when you want to go to the movies.

People have the freedom to act as they need to on an individual level, and the responsibility to deliver on a collective level. I don’t know about you, but for me that beats toilet warnings.

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