Do the organisations disguise with Taylorism yet ? We need more Pixar-ism…

“to measure what you can, evaluate what you measure, and appreciate that you cannot measure the vast majority of what you do. At least every now and then, make time to take a step back and think about what you are doing.” Ed Catmull, Pixar Animations Studios


According to Lewis et al. (2011), Taylor’s impact on how to manage organisation’s life is assumed to be only historic interest. Frederick Taylor is considered as the architect of the concept of the organisation as a machine. His blueprint for on the efficient organisation seems to be still breathing as an unspoken and widely established axiom. Organisations currently deal with the desire to produce behaviour change without leading to an emotional reaction. This setback lies in relying on the emotional impact to perform motivation for change, in the same time to guarantee that no emotional impact happens. Change is perceived as a halt to the normal functioning of the organisation, because of its disruptive trait. Therefore if a problem arises the change is acknowledged as a ‘fixer‘. As a result, when innovation comes in, the organisations have to initially create an awareness of a problem. (Lewis et al., 2011)

Taylor’s legacy is still evident today looking at how efficiency is considered as an unquestioned organisational virtue. It downsizes other virtues, such as effectiveness. All the managerial practices such as job measurement, job evaluation and job equivalence are embodied in today’s organisations. Similarly, the emphasis on one best way of organising and on productivity is comprised in Management as control. Our understanding of organisations in change complies to see the leaders as the head and the organisation as the body. Again it flows from Taylor’s legacy that entails a variety of assumptions. Ultimately the assertions of a predictable and controllable change are still considered valid.

Considering the plethora of definitions, it is arguable whether culture can actually be managed and then changed. Scholars debate that culture lies at the core of organisational creativity and innovation. (Tushman and O’Reilly, 2002)

At Pixar Animation Studios one of the driving forces to strive for a creative culture has been a vital step called ‘postmortem‘. In the making of a movie the process’ phases, such as conception, protection, development planning and production, evolve over several years. After every movie has been released, before to move on, a ‘postmortem’ meeting was scheduled to explore what did and did not work. This aims to nurture and to share the lessons learned.

Companies as well as individuals do not seek for excellence by believing they are excellent, yet by understanding the ways in which they are not excellent. Since 1998 ‘postmortem’ has been used widely given the success of Pixar’s ‘A Bug‘s Life‘ movie. Even though the use of ‘postmortem’ has not been stable over time, there are good reasons to consider this tool to nurture the level of employee engagement.

If the process is flawed most likely you do not have the time to grasp it during the actual schedule. Thereafter sharing thoughts about it calmly consolidate the lesson learned. The ‘postmortem’ is a healthy way of passing on the message of positive or negative lessons to other peers who were not involved in the project. Therefore it is a forum to absorb or challenge the rationale beyond specific decisions. Quite often misunderstanding twists actions that become resentments, and if left overlooked it can negatively grow for years. The forum is a chance to address frustrations in a proactive manner, so then it empowers the employees to move on.

The time needed to arrange a ‘postmortem’ meeting is as valuable as the meeting itself. The approach to set up the meeting retains the value for a transparent discussion. Ultimately, during a ‘postmortem’, a questions session can be really helpful for the next project. No right answers are expected, but if other people can frame the right questions, then the horizon for a successful strategy might look positive.

Ed Catmull (2013) champions the idea that improving the ‘postmortem’ format could help the leaders:

change the format in order to avoid repeating the same lessons learned and soften the process asking everyone to make two lists: the top five things that they would do again and the top five things that they would not do again.

This balance will facilitate people to be candid. Creating and using data lowers the emotional involvement in discussing facts.

Considering the limits of data, a potential approach suggested by Ed Catmull is

“to measure what you can, evaluate what you measure, and appreciate that you cannot measure the vast majority of what you do. At least every now and then, make time to take a step back and think about what you are doing.”


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