Work 4.0 – but medieval in mind?

Before the invention of the steam engine was the age of the craft guilds. There was hardly a company where more than twenty people worked together.

First large companies

The exceptions were the companies that built the imposing cathedral buildings, churches and castles, and of course town halls, large town houses as well as city walls, castles and other fortifications – the so-called “Dombauhütten”. One can assume that every medium and large town had at least one of these, simply because, at the latest since the time of the High Middle Ages – beginning around the middle of the 13th century – much has been built with stone. The process in the pre-industrial companies was strictly regulated according to the hierarchy “master – journeyman – apprentice”. Probably the master shouted into the workshop according to his order and the work plan was ready.

First industrial companies and nobody knows how it works

When the steam engine appeared on the world stage, hundreds of people suddenly had to work together. Actually, nobody knew how to do that. People simply had no experience of how to design something like this. The book “Scientific Management” by Frederick Winslow Taylor provided a first theory about the cooperation of many people. Essential components are the separation of executive and planning work, time studies for process improvement and determination of target times, for the purpose of increasing the productivity of the work.

A question of power – until today

In essence, it was a question of power: who determined how and at what pace the work was done? The hierarchical model of the former cathedral construction companies of those who plan the work and those who carry it out has been retained. Sociologists discuss this idea under the term Taylorism to this day, as well as how its principles are still applied. Even today – in the digital age – managers in modern companies still cavort with the mindset of the medieval cathedral construction companies: Gladly in the management floors! How can it be that – across all innovations and industrial revolutions – no serious and revolutionary changes in thinking took place? Today, many companies want to establish flat hierarchies, but regularly fail because of the striving for power of individuals, who promote each other – and, it seems, in a kind of “pulley” to the top. Once there, they either nip any innovative thoughts of the “journeymen and apprentices” in the bud or sell them as their own. Change begins in the mind and with the behavior of each individual in a community. This is especially true for journeymen and apprentices – they must no longer be afraid to stand up to their masters. As long as this does not happen, we will not arrive at work 4.0, but continue to work with the mindset of a cathedral construction company. Not missing any utopian mail? Sign up for the updates with your e-mail!




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