Follett in 1924: Use Operators’ Knowledge

Mary Parker Follett


Almost 100 years ago, Mary Parker Follett wrote: “And our aim in the […] organization of industry should be […] so to organize the plant that the workmen’s experience can be added to that of the expert; we must see just where their experience will be a plus matter, and we must plan to have the workmen learn more and more of the industry as a whole.” 

Source: Follett, M. P. (2013 reprint). Creative Experience. United States: Martino Fine Books. (p. 20)

Michel Baudin‘s comments: Today, we would say “manufacturing” rather than “industry,” and “operator” rather than “workmen.” This is the earliest text I have seen that recommends engaging shop floor operators in improvement activities and training them to understand the broader picture. 

Taylor wanted to control operators so that they couldn’t collude to curtail output. The Gilbreths wanted to make their work easier. Follett wants to tap into their knowledge and combine it with the experts’ in order to achieve better outcomes. And she also believes in their ability to learn.

In these few words, she showed more respect for the humanity of the operators than I recall seeing from her immediate precursors and contemporaries. 


#maryparkerfollett, #respectforhumanity, #traceyrichardson