On our travels we often support, along-side other commercial suppliers, learning institutions working to educate and train various professions. At one of these sessions before Xmas, a colleague and Visiting Fellow at Cranfield, Glenn Chambers, heard a representative from one commercial firm say: “With our technology, we can track every employees’ whereabouts 24 hours per day – who wouldn’t buy that technology?” I have heard one technology supplier triumphantly claim: “With our smart AI system, we collect data from every conceivable source, and can tell people at the front-line whether to turn left or right when they start work!”. Ever heard claims like this?

There are so many aspects that are flawed in that way of thinking, but the crux is that there are no examples of organisations demonstrating actual sustained and significant improvements by applying this technology – sometimes at very great cost!

We quoted some examples of this flawed thinking in our blog “Guards all along the watchtowers in June last yearhttps://blogs.cranfield.ac.uk/leadership-management/cbp/guards-all-along-the-watchtowers

But let’s pick up on one critical point. We know the western world we work in, whatever our occupation, can be described quite accurately as VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) – the unexpected happens! It is surely an act of hubris to think that we can design a computer system that can tell a front-line employee what to do next in any given situation (Glenn was on a conference call from home with us when he had to interrupt to accept his weekly grocery delivery. It was late. The driver apologised profusely to Glenn saying “I’m sorry, the system gives me a route to follow that I know hits a traffic bottle neck on certain times of the day – but I’m not allowed to vary from that route!”).

We recently reviewed Stephen Bungay’s book “Art of Action: How Leaders Close the Gaps between Plans, Actions and Results” https://blogs.cranfield.ac.uk/leadership-management/cbp/book-review-art-action-leaders-close-gaps-plans-actions-results

In here he explains: ”In the final analysis it is behaviour that counts. If we close the Knowledge and Alignment Gaps in the ways suggested so far we will be able to gain traction, focus effort and deliver a strategy – until something unexpected happens, which sooner or later it will. At that point everything depends on people. Metrics give us information. Interpreting the information can give us understanding. Taking the right action requires wisdom. Only people can have that!”

Or alternatively, please contact Dilbert – he has the robot for you!

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