Academic journal article Tamara : Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science

The Standardization of Efficiency and Its Implications for Organizations

Academic journal article Tamara : Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science

The Standardization of Efficiency and Its Implications for Organizations

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Time has become increasingly utilized as a tool for organizations to increase productivity and control workers. Since the advent of the mechanical clock in the fourteenth century, time has structured organizational experience. This increased precision has lead to the standardization of efficiency. The struggle for greater efficiency creates an organizational environment where the worker is dissociated and dehumanized-subsumed by the machine. Time and technology work in concert to improve efficiency. In addition to the mechanical clock, computers and the Internet have also contributed to the conquering of time in the organizational sense. It is the instantaneousness of communication that has lead to the initial feeling of time being conquered. Social interaction is one of the fundamental drives of humanity, and this interaction is threatened by the standardization of efficiency. Implications for organizations are discussed, followed by an exemplar involving the changing nature of investing. Finally, ideas for reclaiming the pre-modern conceptualization of organizing are suggested.

THE STANDARDIZATION OF EFFICIENCY AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONAL RELATIONSHIPS

The last three years have seen a proliferation of research investigating the impact of time and time consciousness on organizations. Infrequent inquiries into the relationship between time and organizational experience in the twentieth century have now given way to special journal issues, such as The Academy of Management Review, 26, which focuses exclusively on the conception of time in organizations. That is not to imply that time as an organizational construct was completely ignored, as authors such as Taylor (1911), Mumford (1934, 1970), and Hassard (1990,1996) have written on the subject, but prior to the twenty first century one would be hard pressed to describe scholarly investigation into time and organizations as a burgeoning area of inquiry. However, many other academic disciplines have been both aware and concerned with time and the relationship it has to human experience. Philosophers have been concerned with time consciousness for nearly two millennia (Heath, 1956). In part because of philosophical examinations of time, as well as natural and social scientific investigations into the phenomenon, our conception of time has advanced far beyond the initial, naturally experienced understanding of time. "Time, as a subject of inquiry, is pervasive and generalizable," and "it is a central issue in all disciplines of inquiry" (Goodman, Lawrence, Ancona, & Tushman, 2001, p. 507). Removing the layers of time conceptualizations artificially imposed by humanity, one is left with only three empirically discernable aspects of time-the day, the month, and the year (Barnett, 1998). Every other aspect of time is an artificially imposed construct. Recognition of this brings full circle the relationship between time and organizations. Where nature and the seasons once dictated work behavior, time and its physical manifestation-the clock-now regulate human endeavors.

The central premise of this paper is to explore the relationship between time, specifically instruments of time-keeping, and organizational experience. In doing so, other concepts such as efficiency, narrative, technology, relationships, modernity/postmodernity, and globalization will also be explored. After beginning with a brief discussion of the historical evolution of time, an analysis of the inextricability of time, technology, and efficiency will be discussed. By linking time with efficiency and technology, a situation is created where innovation, creativity, and relationships actually become incongruent with the standardization of efficiency. These incongruencies manifest themselves in increased dissociation. Landes (2000), while acknowledging Mumford's assertion that the clock creates dissociation between time and human experience, notes that the clock dissociates "human events from nature" (p. …

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