Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chapter 11 THE NINTH PRINCIPLE: STANDARDIZED CONDITIONS - Harrington Emerson


Chapter XI THE NINTH PRINCIPLE: STANDARDIZED CONDITIONS

"HITCH YOUR WAGON TO A STAR"

THE larva, grub, or worm crawls from the egg and its existence is governed by the accident of its birth site and surroundings. Usually it stays where it was hatched, eats and grows, and it arouses neither
enthusiasm by the interest of its life nor ad- miration for its beauty. It is elementally dull and prosaic, for it has neither standardized it- self to command conditions nor standardized conditions to suit itself. At last, having reached the limit of its growth, it passes into the pupa or chrysalid state of coma, and emerges, physi-
cally, spiritually and mentally a different indi- vidual. Who would recognize in the purple em- peror butterfly the caterpillar of its previous existence? The butterfly is as beautiful as the worm was repulsive, as mobile as the worm was slow, a creature of the sunlight and sky instead of the shadows and of the earth.

The water-beetle is the lord of the elements.
It runs on land with speed, under the water it
is one of the quickest and most graceful of
swimmers, and through the air it is the fastest
of flyers; it seeks its food in the water, it
emerges at dusk, and after dark flies toward
the moon, or to its destruction in some electric
light. More perfectly than any other creature
it has standardized itself to play with and com-
mand all the elements but fire.

The spider, not so standardized to earth,
water, and air, as the water-beetle, has not to
the same degree conquered the elements. The
beetle swims, runs, flies without effort because
its ancestors had aspirations and early achieved
victory. The spider works consciously, much
as men might work. She drops from a height,
not with wings to sustain her, but holding on to
a thread made for the occasion, strong and
elastic. In mid-fall she can stop, the factor of
safety being nothing, yet I have never seen the
silken thread break. She can regain, if she
wishes, her exact starting point, or, reaching
the ground, can cut loose and run. The spider
would disdain as clumsy a suspension bridge,
for she constructs a canopy whose outlying guy
stays have, in proportion to her length, greater
reach than the span of the Brooklyn Bridge,
whose strength in proportion to construction is
greater than that of the best steel wire. The
balloon spider, if at all interested in human
balloons, must despise them! She, on a calm,
sun-lit summer day, will spin out a filament
which, warmed by the sun rises straight into
the air. Whether the spider, like the soaring
birds, first locates an upward air current and
then spins her thread, or starts an upward air
current though the warmed molecules adhering
to the thread I do not know; but in any case
the filament rises, rises, until the spider knows
it will lift her, and then loosening hold, she
soars skyward to be swept by some upper air
drift miles away in a few hours, her relatively
great weight carried upward and sustained by
a thread weighing not the hundredth part of
wha/t she weighs. Standardized conditions there
must be of almost inconceivably delicate adjust-
ment, of sunlight, of calm, of length and make
of thread.

Both soaring birds and balloon spiders and
many floating seeds and spores use directly the
heat of the sun to sustain them. What bird
ever soared at night or upward through a fog?

There are other insects that have solved
deeper mysteries than either the water-beetle
or the spider. Men can run on the earth, not
as well as the beetle ; they can swim, not as well
as the beetle; they can glide through the air,
not as well as the beetle; they can climb down
or up ropes, not as readily as the spider; they
can stretch suspension bridges not comparable
to the canopy of the spider; they can soar in
balloons, not as safely or as conveniently as the
balloon spider — for these are all mechanical
operations. But the firefly produces light by a
chemistry of whose laws and operations we
have no grasp. The firefly has not standardized
itself to the daylight. It wanted light when it
was night, not general, diffused and impersonal
light, so it creates in the velvet darkness the
momentary and intermittent personal flash, for
the moment making itself the centre of the visi-
ble universe. It not only refused to acquiesce
in the standard light of day and darkness of
night, but it remade the conditions of the uni-
verse to suit itself.


This is not all of the marvel. The firefly and
the human both have eyes, and in these eyes
are minute nerves which make us aware of
light and interpret to us the shape and color
and distance of all the outside world.

There are, therefore, two distinct methods
of standardizing conditions — to standardize
ourselves so as to command the unalterable ex-
traneous facts, earth, water, air, gravity, wave
vibrations; to standardize the outside facts so
that our personality becomes the pivot on which
all else turns. With the living example of the
beetle who commands earth, water and air,
with the example of the firefly, which, without
effort makes light where there was none, with
the lesson of our own eyes which have given us
a beginning of command of infinite space and
time, shall we fear to attempt standardizations
of conditions now but dimly conceivable?

The easiest way for any individual to live his
own life in fullest measure is either to stand-
ardize himself to suit the environment or to
standardize the environment to suit himself.
The horse and other animals stay where they
are in winter and grow thick and long fur to
meet the rigors of the climate. The bird of
passage changes itself not at all, but suits the
climate to its taste by picking out the one it
wants and going to it. Either way is an easy
way, but man, the youngest of nature's brood,
has attempted to satisfy great wants without
standardizing either himself or the environ-
ment.

To build the Great Pyramid absorbed the
lives of 100,000 men for 20 years, and it is the
greatest monument of inefficiency the world
bears because condition^ of building were not
standardized; yet the Egyptian builders had
eyes which reached out and recognized,
through billions of miles of empty inter-
vening space, the groupings of the stars.
Without sweat on our brows, nor callos-
ities on our hands, supplementing the same hu-
man eyes with telescope, with spectroscope and
with camera, we tear the distant stars apart,
we dissect them, we drag them into light out of
the depth of darkness, we assist at their birth,
trace their lives and predict their extinction.
Thus, at last has man begun to make himself
infinite and the universe small.

In the building of the pyramids, of the Par-
thenon, and of St. Peters, man followed a law-
less fancy and not an efficiency need, or the
work and time and expense would not have been
so lavish for so small return. Man has, in fact,
until very recently remained in the larval state.
He put on clothes to keep out the bitter cold,
but little further advanced than the Tierra del
Fuegan who shifts a patch of fur between his
naked body and the wind. He huddled over a
fitful fire to banish the cold, and these two fee-
ble steps upward in the adjustment of self and
the conquest of environment were almost all.
At best, until recently he has tried to imitate
the beetle and the spider rather than imitate
the firefly. He invented shoes that he might
travel along the rough trails, he invented skates
that he might glide over the ice, he invented
boats and sails that water and air might carry
him. But at last he has awakened.

Roads were built that a barefooted multitude
might travel in slow comfort. The distance
from Paris to Bordeaux is 323 miles, and this
the fastest walker once covered in 114 hours
and 42 minutes, or at the rate of 2.8 miles an
hour. Even after a standardized path had
been created it took many generations before
a bright mind evolved the idea that a revolving
wheel would be more adapted to the road than
alternating footsteps, so we had the roller, the
cart, the wheelbarrow, and at last the bicycle
was perfected; but even this last step took
three generations. In the bicycle man still used
the alternating swing of the legs, but he pro-
pelled himself nearly seven times as fast, so
that Huret made the 323 miles in 16 hours and
45 minutes, at the rate of 19.8 miles an hour.
But why should a man use his own efforts ? He
cannot trill his legs as he can his fingers, and
even if he could, the leg cannot push much
harder than 200 pounds. He had already used
steam to propel locomotives on their more mi-
nutely standardized road, so he finally attached
an explosive reciprocating engine to his road
vehicle, an engine capable of making 1,200
strokes a minute for each of four, eight, four-
teen, cylinders, as compared to the 140 strokes
of each of two legs ; an engine capable of kick-
ing 100 pounds per square inch for as many
inches as the piston surface has area, as against
the man's total power of push of less than 200
pounds. So that in his cushioned seat, with
mere pressure of hand or foot, Gabriel, in the
race from Paris to Madrid, made Bordeaux in
5 hours 13 minutes, or at the rate of 62.5 miles
an hour. In this race the automobiles were con-
fined to the road, the road was narrow, the peo-
ple many, so a number were killed. Why there-
fore be bound by the limitations of a road?
Captain Bellinger, on an aeroplane, makes the
same trip in 5 hours 21 minutes, actual flying
time, at a speed of 60.35 per hour. Flying speed
will soon be 80 miles an hour and already the
French mathematicians are pointing out that
many of the present difficulties of flight will
vanish at the higher speed.

In the meantime, however, because condi-
tions have been standardized, instead of build-
ing pyramids nearly 500 feet high in 20 years,
our skyscrapers go up 600, 700, 800 feet in 10
months; we tunnel through mountains and,
laughing at wind and wave, we send a floating
palace, larger than St. Peters, through the
ocean from continent to continent at the rate
of nearly 29 miles an hour.

The principles under which the methods and
practices of efficiency are grouped have been
compared to the skeleton framework of a dome.
The ribs of the dome are the principles, but
the first layer can be started with one part of
each rib in place, and with filling of various de-
vices to complete the circle. As layers are added
the ribs rise until they come closer together and
at last coalesce. Some ribs may be carried to
the top, others may stop part way up, their
burden carried by others. In this series of es-
says each of the earlier ribs has been separate-
ly carried to the top, so that now there is less
space for the later principles, much of their
duty having been transferred to the principles
already in place. To maintain reliable, imme-
diate and adequate records we must have stand-
ardized conditions; to put in schedules we
must have standardized conditions; so the
standardizing of conditions should precede
schedules. But unless we have already adopted
ideal schedules, how do we know what condi-
tions, and the extent to which they must be
standardized? Also, unless we have ideals as
to standards, how can we create a high sched-
ule?

It is perhaps because schedules and con-
ditions react so on each other that progress is
so disappointingly slow. We make a mean little
schedule and meanly standardize conditions to
suit. Francis Galton points out that the Basutos
in Africa have the greatest difficulty in finding
oxen fit for the f orespan. The ox who stays in
the centre of the herd is not the one struck
down by the lion ; so through many generations
the independent bulls and cows have been elim-
inated until it requires careful watching to se-
lect, and careful training to develop, a calf ca-
pable of walking ahead and leading the others.

In human affairs, however, when we are on
any schedule there are some who are not afraid
to beat it, although the herd puts up a clamor
that the effort is killing and should be pre-
vented by combination. Perhaps the effort is
temporarily killing; but ultimately some pro-
gressive soul aspires to a yet better schedule,
and instead of foolishly trying to beat the rec-
ord under the old conditions, restandardizes the
conditions and thus makes an advanced sched-
ule easier than the former schedule.

Records are again broken by effort, far less
at its maximum than on the old schedule, but
nevertheless discountenanced by the conserva-
tives, until conditions are again restandardized
and effort is still further diminished. Who has
the harder time, the runner who precedes the
cavalcade of an Oriental magnate, or the engi-
neer of our fastest trains ? Who puts forth the
greater effort, the peon who twelve hours a day
carries load after load of ore in sacks on his
back up a notched pole out of a deep Mexican
mine, or the fireman who for two hours and a
half between New York and Albany, calling it
a day's work, shovels coal for the fastest train ?
In the locomotive runs across Arizona where oil
burners are used, even the fireman's work,
usually so hard, has been converted into watch-
ing the water glass, watching the smoke, and
with his fingers turning on and off water and
oil supply.

The grub acquiesces in the obvious ; and until
the last century, all but very few men acqui-
esced in the obvious. By force of ancestral
habit this acquiescence is still the curse of most
of us. Our ideals, our schedules, have been and
are too low instead of too high. The 18-hour
trains between the two largest American cities
are on the highest regular long-distance sched-
ules thus far attained; but on an open speed-
way not comparable to the steel track in
smoothness, an automobile with its little engine,
and one man guiding, ran faster and longer, so
that in comparison 18 hours seems slow; and,
quite surely somewhere, some time — perhaps in
China or Africa — Brennan's gyroscope car on a
monorail, indifferent to both grades and curves,
shortening distances one-fifth, will do in 8
hours what now takes 18.

In planning for standardized conditions, it is
difficult not to skip the present and plan for the
future; but even in the greatest American
plants, the conditions imposed by an ignorant
and inefficient past are accepted, schedules are
toned down, and painful effort crowds out in-
telligent control. In one large plant where the
heaviest and slowest piece took only 40 days for
completion, the managers acquiesced for many
years in a 9-month schedule, and after much
special work felt pride instead of humiliation
in a 6-month schedule. A 15-day schedule for
general repairs to a locomotive is considered
fast time and the average is more nearly 30,
but if the time for each item is separately en-
tered in a summary, it is hard to discover why
3 days would not be enough.

The battleship "Kansas" of the American
Navy under an eminent efficiency commander
went into dry-dock, water was pumped out of
the dock, hull cleaned, scraped, painted, rudder
post repacked, and the vessel floated again in
less than 24 hours. For a steamer immediate
repairs are otherwise important than for an
isolated locomotive. The railroads, on the other
hand, show marvelous speed, generally of the
main-strength order, in clearing away a wreck
or an earth slide or opening a snow blockade.

If a large publishing house could have freed
itself from its own entangling traditions, it
could have added a million dollars a year to its
net income. The organization was tried out on
some insignificant minor matters; it hesitated
and balked and trembled for six months over
what elsewhere was put into operation in six
days and could go into operation in six hours,
so the larger plans were not even submitted to
it. A great superintendent of another plant had
uncontrollable fear of boats of any kind; an-
other large and successful manufacturer had
fear of the subway in New York and could not
be induced to go below ground. Similar fears
overcome occasionally even the most wideawake
men, and often the main obstacles in the path
of progression are not the real and tangible
difficulties, but the imaginary specters that ter-
rorize and paralyze some part of the soul.

Ideals of standardized conditions are not
Utopian, but are immediately and intensely
practical, but ideals must precede selective ac-
tion. The Greek sculptors in their studies took
a hand from one, a foot from another, the torso
from a third, the face and head from others,
and aggregated them all into an ideal ; but this
ideal existed in the mind or the sculptor could
not have selected.


Who can tell why one hand is beautiful and
another not, why one curve is pleasing and an-
other disturbing? We recognize some forms
of beauty as unerringly and without previous
personal or race experience as we recognize
that one note harmonizes with another.

It is far easier to demonstrate and to prove
experimentally the value of standardized condi-
tions than it is to prove beauty, especially for
the small advances that are immediately possi-
ble, because all these advances are in successful
operation somewhere ; but often it is easier to
break away from all traditions, to put the eye
in the point of the needle, to load the gun from
the breech, to write with both hands, to photo-
graph instead of drawing, to make half-tones
instead of engravings, to pick cotton by a whirl-
ing serrated pencil instead of with fingers, to
turn over 640 acres of land with gang plows
hitched behind mechanical tractors, than it is to
improve on the old way.

The artist must have aesthetic ideals, the mu-
sicians, musical ideals ; but the man who would
bring about standardized conditions, either in
himself or in his surroundings, must have con-
ceptions of time, of effort, of cost; he must in-
stinctively recognize that for each operation
there is one combination of these three that is
best for the ideal result. That ideal result may
be an embroidered scarf which the lady with
unlimited time, simple materials, and graceful,
soothing effort has wrought. The ideal result
may be the destruction of an enemy's battle-
ship, twelve million dollars sunk in five min-
utes, by guns loaded, accurately aimed, and fired
so as to hit, at the rate of two salvos a minute.
Time minimum at whatever cost and effort !

In our individual lives, in our shops, in our
nation, what are we trying to accomplish ? Are
we taking too much time, is it costing too much,
are we squandering our strength? Are we
standardizing conditions so that time will not be
wasted, so that money will not be thrown away,
so that effort will not be in vain?



No comments:

Post a Comment