Information Flow and Mass Production
The relationship between information flow and mass production is complicated.
The visibility of information available to all involved in mass production is quite limited. Few people, if any, know all the information that flows through the entire process.
Designing work in this way is clever in several ways. It opens the labor pool. More people meet the qualifications so it is easier to find staff for the jobs. It reduces the amount of task switching for individuals involved and it speeds up the overall flow of the work.
Mass production has downsides too. It requires upfront capital (both money and knowledge ) to setup and it reduces flexibility in the process. It is a hierarchical structure
Information funnels downstream on a need to know basis. Similarly, information flows upstream in a different funnel. Inevitably, information clogs up somewhere in the middle.
This pattern holds in both manual and digital information systems. The difference is that more data is stored and retrievable in the digital system.
The big idea is to make work simple by limiting information and the corollary to that view is to make work empowering with open information. Both mindsets make sense in certain contexts, but finding that line is difficult.
Organizations use “roles” and “groups” to segment the visibility to information. Departmental hierarchy determines who gets access to what. Issues such as trust and expertise play a big role in determining access rights.
This mindset traces its roots to the specialized and segmented workforce of the traditional mass production organization. This mindset is increasingly outdated as new modes of work and information flow evolve.
Photo by Ray in Manila