Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chapter XIII THE ELEVENTH PRINCIPLE: WRITTEN STANDARD-PRACTICE INSTRUCTIONS - Harrington Emerson


Chapter XIII THE ELEVENTH PRINCIPLE: WRITTEN STANDARD-PRACTICE INSTRUCTIONS

THE human race is old and its upward
progress slow; how old, no one knows.
French, Italian, Spanish speech are de-
scended from Latin dialects already differen-
tiated twenty-four hundred years ago, yet the
modern languages are so much alike that the
educated foreigner, having learned to read one,
can forthwith read and understand the other.
Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Irish, German, Russian,
although developed from a common language,
are so very far apart that it may easily have
taken fifty-thousand years for their divergence.
How far back beyond this time were the black,
red, and white races one, how much further
back when homo sapiens branched off? Egypt
is historically the oldest nation, yet the begin-
nings of Egypt were on geologically the most
recent of ground, the river bottom and delta of
the Nile. Two hundred and fifty thousand
years to bring about the difference between
man and an ancestral being probably as intelli-
gent as a chimpanzee ! Counting three genera-
tions to a century, the human race has behind
it 7,500 generations, and astonishingly little
advance per generation to show.

The upward progress of man has been doubly
hindered. Compared to animals, birds and,
above all, insects, his brain cells mature very
slowly. A dog two years old knows far more
than a child of five, and a five-year-old dog
usually has more wisdom than a man of
twenty-five. The silkworm, the spider, the
firefly, the bee, and the ant develop marvelous
skill in a few weeks. The progress of insects
is therefore due partly to the rapid succession
of generations, a cause Darwin pointed out,
and partly to the rapidity of mental processes
in each short life. Man has intelligence, but
it works with distressing slowness, and each
generation has failed to transmit more than a
very small part of the advance to its successor.

Rapid progress can be made in a generation.
The child is born a rank animal, it is a savage
until its fifth year, a barbarian more or less
until maturity, yet ripens and mellows into a
civilized being. When one considers medical
students with their disreputable pranks and
practices, one wonders where the comforting
and respectable family physicians come from!
It actually takes only thirty years to pass from
animalism to semi-divinity, yet the race, after
7,500 times 33 years, is still far below this
standard. Why has progress been so exceed-
ingly slow ? There have been high ideals in the
past ; there have been leaders of great common-
sense, from the seven wise men of Greece to
Franklin; there have been competent counsel-
lors, the sages, seers and prophets, the sibyls
and saints of all ages ; there has been discipline,
even severe, cruel, exterminating; there has
been the fair deal taught by the Buddha and
by the Christ, by the St. Vincent de Pauls, by
the Elizabeth Frys, and by the Florence Night-
ingales; there have been records graven in
stone; there have been plans, schedules and
despatching; conditions and operations here
and there down through the ages have been
standardized — but all this has been spasmodic ;
little, so little has endured! There was no
ratchet, the tide rose and fell, the children
repeated the mistakes of their fathers; those
full of years and wisdom became dust, and took
their knowledge with them. We failed to hold
as a genus or as a race what each individual
had learned. Within the last five-thousand
years there has been progress. The art of
drawing, of carving imperishably, has trans-
mitted a little of what our ancestors achieved
and knew. More often, inspired with vanity,
these great ones commemorated their own mis-
deeds. Knowledge was the carefully guarded
secret of the priestly caste, but in the finally
published sacred books, our own and other
Bibles, we do find moral and practical wisdom
written and transmitted. Printing, less than
five-hundred years old, has been called the art
preservative of all arts. That, of course, de-
pends. Most of our daily papers and most of
our books embody and preserve nothing of per-
manent value ; they are merely an extension of
the babel of Bander log, they are merely
printed simian chatterings, but nevertheless
printing has given us the possibility of creating
an eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britan-
nica.

Pumpelly tells a story of a Japanese student
of metallurgy, who about 1870 possessed an
English work on blast furnaces, an English-
Dutch dictionary, and a Dutch-Japanese dic-
tionary, and with these as guides he construct-
ed and operated a fairly successful blast fur-
nace for smelting iron ore. This shows what
can be done by Standard Permanent Written
Instructions.

We have no accurate description of the
engines of destruction invented by Archi-
medes for the defense of Syracuse against the
Romans. They must have been interesting
since they lifted whole ships and dropped them
endwise into the sea or onto the rocks.

It would seem as if maps and charts would
be an easy task. A stranger on an unknown
coast, in an unknown land, an unknown city,
knows more about it if he has a good chart
or map than the native.

I have insisted that a map of Boston shall
be properly oriented and displayed in our Bos-
ton office, for, excepting professional criminals
who have to be versed in devious paths and
ways, there is probably no modern Boston
native who could readily and accurately lay a
rational course from point to point in that city.
Roaming and navigating savages who really
need maps are very skilful in drawing them.
Sir Edward Parry discovered Hecla Strait
from a map drawn off-hand for him by an
Eskimo woman ; but the higher the civilization
of the map-maker, the more in the past he sub-
stituted imagination and arts for facts. There
are Egyptian maps dating from 1400 B. C, but
in spite of this long history it has been aston-
ishingly difficult to make progress in charts
until very recent times. Errors are perpetu-
ated, truth is forgotten, advance is slow. As
late as 1900, charts of the Alaskan coast issued
by the United States were said to be thirty
miles wrong, and nearly all commercial map
makers still represent mountain chains as cater-
pillars, and the fringe of the shore is adorned
with a blue wavy frill. As for railroad maps,
the less said the better.

The early land-survey maps of our western
plains were concocted in central offices, not on
the ground; therefore on the Colorado and
Nebraska line they do not tie in by four miles
and a half east and west. The Government
paid the full price for accurate surveys, but
with a man in charge of a keg of whiskey gal-
loping ahead on a mule, with several investi-
gating Indians in war paint galloping behind,
burnt matches stuck in the ground did duty
as the required and sworn to charred stakes.
The maps made from the surveys were not
standard permanent instructions of much
value. Modern geodetic and geological-survey
charts, modern coast-survey charts, are ad-
mirable and useful beyond criticism ; but it has
taken a long while to reach this perfection.

On one occasion I was invited to invest in
a gold placer in Wyoming to be washed out by
hydraulicking. The geological-survey contour
chart showed conclusively that it would be im-
possible to secure sufficient water with suffi-
cient head to wash the gravel. What has been
done with the prospect since dredges have been
put into successful operation I do not know.
On another occasion I reported adversely on
an Alaskan ditch proposition. The watershed
tributary to the ditch was easily integrated
from the Government contour chart, the yearly
precipitation was also known. The promoters
claimed 5,000 miner's inches ; I could not figure
more than 500; investors nevertheless went
ahead. The next year they reported that the
season had been one of unusual drought, and
the year after that the company was in the
hands of a receiver.

American law is in most States the out-
growth of English common law, and in our
Spanish and French States, of Roman law.
The common law in England is the outcome of
custom finally passed on by the courts or de-
fined by acts of Parliament. In many of our
State codes we have attempted to reduce the
principles to statutes governing particular
cases. This is often helpful and often not.
Moses laid down principles: Thou shalt not
kill; Honor thy father and thy mother — but
the enforcement became specific. Codes sup-
plemented principles.

"If any man smite his neighbor mortally,
then the elders of his city shall deliver him
into the hand of the avenger of blood that he
may die."

"Thine eye shall not pity, life for life, eye
for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot
for foot."

"If a man have a stubborn and rebellious
son all the men of his city shall stone him with
stones that he die."

It was from snap decisions in specific cases
that the laws of the Medes and Persians grew
up, laws that changed not.

Lord Wolseley credits Napoleon with the
greatest intellect the human race has ever pro-
duced* Bonaparte, First Consul, personally
worked over the wording of the Civil Code, He
wanted its provisions so clear that even the
most ignorant peasant could understand. As
French is an admirably definite and clear lan-
guage, as the French have a passion for logic,
as the greatest legal minds of France aided
and were aided by Bonaparte in evolving this
code, it furnishes an admirable example of
Permanent Written Standard-Practice Instruc-
tions. It was, moreover, only one of seven
great organizing acts which he made into spe-
cific standard-practice instructions, these in-
structions having persisted almost unchanged
to the present time.

The standardizing operations, the ratchet
action, is of very great importance. A python
will swallow a deer, a garter snake will swal-
low a large frog. The snake's teeth are set
slanting backward. One jaw moves forward
over the flesh, takes hold and draws until the
other jaw can slip forward and sink the
curved teeth in. In this way the large body is
drawn into and forced through the small gullet.
The more difficult the operation the less is
there any slip back. It is easier to draw a fish
hook through a wound than out of it. In most
human affairs efficiency is in the end gained by
going forward and through rather than by
struggling forever on the near side.

An American weakness is to be discouraged
by difficulties and to back-water instead of
overcoming troubles and going forward. All
the world knows that compound steam-engines
use less coal and water than simple engines.
The compound principle was successfully ap-
plied in France and Germany to locomotives.
The steam pressures were naturally much
higher. American railroads rushed into com-
pounds with inadequate preparation, knowl-
edge, or designs. Difficulties of all kinds de-
veloped, due partly to the high pressures, partly
to the added dependent and increasingly ineffi-
cient sequences. A case dwells in memory in
which it took 80 hours to renew an interme-
diate packing. Compounds as tried proved ex-
pensive and troublesome both to operate and to
repair. Instead of being perfected as in France
and in Germany, in order to gain the advan-
tages of the principle, they have been aban-
doned by American roads almost without ex-
ception. Temporary expediency governs — not
ideals.

The marvelous results due to standardization
of gunnery practice in the American fleet have
already been referred to. These results were
achieved by the ratchet process, by holding
onto every gain and by never allowing any slip
back, these results being secured by a volumin-
ous book of instructions and suggestions. In
this book best ways as ascertained to date are
specifically prescribed, by written, permanent
standard-practice instructions, but these in-
structions are subject to a bombardment of
suggestions and all these suggestions, however
foolish, are tabulated, printed, and confiden-
tially published.

The grains of wheat are winnowed from the
chaff, common sense finds its own reward in
approval, and the makers of foolish sugges-
tions are ridiculed and shamed by their own
comrades. Those in charge of these instruc-
tions, of the analysis of practice and results,
waste no time in finding out what European
rivals are doing. They know that the way to
discover the North Pole is to go there as fast
as possible, not to waste time and money
watching the preparations of others; they
know that the way to shoot quick and straight
and far in a heavy sea is to attain high speed
and shatter targets at long ranges, rather than
to spy on what the other fellow is about.
The feeling about this naval practice is akin
in spirit to the attitude of an American grain
exporter who showed a Hungarian investigator
our whole elevator and grain shipment installa-
tions, from the wheat fields of Dakota to At-
lantic steamers. He was asked, "Why do you
show foreigners, future competitors and rivals,
our methods ?" "Because they can't understand
half they see, they can't remember half they
understand, and by the time they have copied
all we have, it will be obsolete with us and we
shall be ten years ahead." This applies, how-
ever, equally to our own backwardness com-
pared to foreigners in so many other directions.
The way to forge ahead is to get busy, not to
copy.

It is not only in its charts, in its naval gun-
nery, in its agricultural department, that the
United States Government has established per-
manent written instructions.

The specifications of the purchasing depart-
ment of the navy are at once the most com-
plete, the most modern, and the best I have ever
seen. That the plans were evolved and per-
fected by graduates of Annapolis speaks highly
for the practical value of the general education
there imparted.

There are many hundred different specifica-
tions covering everything that the navy regu-
larly uses; the specifications for eggs covered
several pages; the specifications for potatoes
are as follows:

Potatoes, Irish (East Coast) in sacks or barrels. —
To be selected stock of standard market sorts, sound,
fresh, free from scab and mechanical injuries. One
price only shall be quoted by bidders for both old and
new potatoes^ either of which may be delivered at the
option of the contractor. Potatoes shall measure not
less than 2 inches in smallest diameter.

To be delivered in either sacks or barrels, according
to the ordinary commercial usage of the locality in
which delivery is made. Each barrel or bag to be
marked with the net weight.

Copies of the above specifications can be obtained
upon application to the various Navy pay offices or to
the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts, Navy Depart-
ment, Washington, D. C.

When advances are not only definitely re-
corded but when the best practice is carefully
and systematically reduced to writing, progress
made is held and built upon in an industrial
plant or any other undertaking. Every shop,
every institution, has its great body of common-
law practices that have gradually crept in, com-
mon law variously understood and variously in-
terpreted by those most affected. Often the
traditions of the past are treasured up in the
brain of some old employee, who transmits
them, much as the memories of old bards were
formerly the only available history.

We have known foremen to refuse deliber-
ately to tell a new official how certain work was
done. The defiant stand assumed was that this
was a personal secret. The history of brass
castings is filled with these secrets of composi-
tions. An English tool forger pretended he
could smell good steel and he imposed the same
conviction on his employers. Whenever, in any
plant, Bonaparte's most lasting work is under-
taken — namely, written codification of current
practices — it is astonishing how much is found
that is contradictory, how much is vague and
indefinite, how much is involved and compli-
cated that might be direct and simple, how
much is wholly lacking.

Each one of the ten preceding efficiency prin-
ciples can and should be reduced to written,
permanent standard-practice instructions so
that each may understand the whole and also
his own relation to it. In some plants the only
rules obtainable or visible are certain subsi-
diary conduct rules, offensively expressed and
ending with the threat of discharge.

I remember a wily superintendent who, when
asked by a manager to post some additional
offensive rule, modestly suggested it would
have more force if signed by the manager him-
self. The latter fell into the trap and posted the
rule, which was soon obliterated by abusive and
scurrilous amendments, comments, and epi-
thets. The superintendent himself did not lose
prestige. The ideals of a plan or undertaking
can be expressed in a few words. One of the
mottoes of American naval practice is: "Ef-
ficiency and Economy." This is amplified into
special rules governing all kinds of activities.
I have before me the following :

Navy Department

Washington, April 22nd, 1911.
Attention is invited to General Order No. 86 of August
20, 1909.

G. v. L. Meyer,
Secretary of the Navy.
The effort to save coal shall not be allowed to dimin-
ish the efficiency of the ship or to affect adversely the
health or comfort of the personnel. It is strictly for-
bidden to save coal by curtailing the use of the turrets
or steamers or by unduly reducing light, ventilation,
or the supply of fresh water.

It is to be noticed that the rule is not one of
spur toward higher effort, but to hold back the
over-zealous ; it is not one to stimulate the in-
efficiency of depression, but to restrain the over-
efficiency of joyous exaggeration. It is not a
rule "that enforces a high-speed process in
which none but the strong survive," but it is a
rule protecting the interests of all.

Discipline and the fair deal do not require
voluminous initial instructions, although both
discipline and the fair deal should curtail au-
tomatism.

Standard-Practice Instructions are the per-
manent laws and practices of a plant. What
these laws, practices and customs are should
first be carefully ascertained and be reduced
to writing by a competent and high-class inves-
tigator, and it will be all the better if he has
had legal training. It will take considerable
work to find out what the practices are, as dif-
ferent officials from president down may have
different opinions and theories and also the
practice may vary from month to month. It
is quite usual to find the actual practice quite
different from what the general manager or
president supposes it is. Men do what they can,
not what they have been told. The purpose is
to find out what current practice is, not what it
is supposed to be.

The next step in the work is to harmonize
the discrepancies, to cut out what is useless or
harmful, and to supplement the resultant body
by needed additions.

When this constructive work has been per-
formed there will be a preliminary code. In
actual practice it will be found that it is still
defective, incomplete or contradictory. It is. to
be made workable not by throwing it to the
winds and reverting to the previous state of
semi-anarchy every time a difficulty arrives,
but by carefully considered amendments. The
code being made up of a number of different
statements and enactments can be amended by
sending out notice of withdrawal of any enact-
ment, at the same time issuing the amended
enactment, the substitution being effected as in
the illustration that follows : —

On and after receipt, substitute Rule 5a, dated June
1, 1911, for Rule 5, dated September 28, 1909. Read
carefully the new rule, note the changes made and
send signed receipts to head office.

The maintenance of the code is the duty of
a qualified, interested minor official to whom all
suggestions should be referred. The code itself
is not his creation but the outgrowth of the
plant's operating needs. The code goes out over
the signed signature of the highest available
official. There may be supplementary signa-
tures of the department officials. For example,
rules for the installation and maintenance of
belting should be drawn up by the official in
charge of maintenance, should be collated and
put in standard form by the codifier, should be
promulgated over the signatures of the super-
intendent, of department head, even of belt
foreman as well as of general manager or presi-
dent. The belt foreman's business, if he does
not like the rules, is not to sign them until he
has fought the matter out, but it is not his busi-
ness to disregard them. The natural inclination
is to prefer individual anarchy, but anarchy
never leads anywhere.

In time quite a body of standard-practice in-
structions will grow up, most of them suggested
and evolved by the employees. Records will re-
quire many pages of specific instructions, if the
records are to be reliable, immediate and ade-
quate. Standardized conditions also ultimately
require a large volume, but the largest volume
of all is the book covering standardized opera-
tions. It is pathetically and ignorantly sup-
posed that standard instructions destroy a
man's initiative and make of him an automaton.
Compared to the drop of the sparrow through
the air, or the scamper of the squirrel down a
tree, a staircase does indeed limit the initiative
of a man going from the roof to the ground.
He who prefers it may let himself down from
the window by a rope. I prefer the limitation,
common-sense, safety and ease of the staircase.
A ferryboat limits the initiative of a commuter
entering the city and a tunnel even more limits
this initiative. Those who prefer it are wel-
come to the right to swim the Hudson or to use
a small skiff of their own. The flanges of the
locomotive and car wheels confine the train to
the steel rails, and this is a great curtailment
of initiative compared to the free path of the
buffalo or of the bull-whacker across the plains.

The fact is that the limitation of initiative
professedly so dreaded is wholly imaginary. To
follow the better and easier way is to lessen
effort for the same result, to leave more oppor-
tunity for higher initiative to invent or evolve
still better ways.

The aviator flying 72 miles an hour is the
greatest initiator in the world to-day, yet to a
degree never before experienced he is limited
by his engine, and nothing would be so welcome
as standard-practice instructions that would
help keep his engine going, as automatic stabil-
ity for his plane, gladly relinquishing his own
initiative in favor of tested standard practice
in both these respects.

Any undertaking run without written standard-practice instructions is incapable of progressive advance, but by means of written instructions advances far more rapid than those attained by insects and birds are possible. Wireless telegraphy is but suggested, experi- ments described, and inside of ten years our
coast is fringed with the masts of rival systems and messages are transmitted across the ocean !
The first flights of aeroplanes were but eight  years ago, and to-day they are carrying twelve
passengers or flying 72 miles an hour. Five years of planned, attained, and recorded prog- ress will accomplish more than twenty years of rule of thumb tucked away under the hats of shifting employees.


Commentary by KVSSNRao


Any undertaking run without written standard-practice instructions is incapable of progressive advance, but by means of written instructions advances far more rapid than those attained by insects and birds are possible.

With the above statement, Emerson brings into picture knowledge management, a popular theme today.

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