Jay Cross
Jay Cross

New blog
Links & more

Subscribe with Bloglines
Enter your email address to subscribe to Internet Time Blog.

Duck Tape Day
Sunday, September 04, 2005
Tomorrow is Labor Day in the United States and Canada. Established 120 years ago, until recently the holiday featured parades down Main Street to celebrate the strength and esprit de corps of labor unions. At the first Labor Day parade in New York City, workers marched up Broadway, carrying banners that read "LABOR CREATES ALL WEALTH," and "EIGHT HOURS FOR WORK, EIGHT HOURS FOR REST, EIGHT HOURS FOR RECREATION!"

The Department of Labor explains:
The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.
Some say President Grover Cleveland proclaimed Labor Day an official holiday to deflect attention from his ordering Federal troops to break up a dispute by the American Railway Workers Union and the Pullman Company that ended with 34 workers dead.

The labor of Labor Day was manual work. (The word labor is derived from 13th century Old French for exertion of the body, and earlier, from Latin for toil, pain, exertion, fatigue, work.)

Knowledge work and service work have largely supplanted manual labor. The union of the AFL and CIO may soon end in divorce.
As a result, parades will be rare tomorrow. Labor Day is more important as the last day of summer than in its original context.

Maybe it’s time to replace Labor Day with something more in keeping with the current era. Collaboration Day? Workplace Harmony Day? In Berkeley, we no longer observe Columbus Day. In its place, we celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. (Jokesters call it Indigent Peoples’ Day, a time to celebrate those who always seem to be asking for spare change.) Hmmm. Should we rename the first Monday in September Change Day?

The diagrams that I and others are accustomed to drawing, the ones that show the learner in the center, surrounded by learning resources, are only a slot view of the learner’s ecosystem.

Why isn't the company that is paying this worker part of the picture? In a learning ecosystem, traditional training literally misses the forest for the trees.

My family has lived in southern Arkansas since before the Civil War. When I was a boy, I remember visiting our crazy-quilt of small cotton farms tended by sharecroppers. Growing cotton on small plots was dying out, because it had become more productive to grow cotton on big, flat, easily accessible farms than on tiny, family-sized plots. My wise uncle uprooted the cotton and planted pine trees.

Trees are trees, right? You plant the saplings and watch them grow. Well, no. Scott, our forester watches over our trees – and the trees of hundreds of other timber owners. He flies over our property once a month. He’ll spot an infestation of southern pine beetles before it spreads. He makes inspections on the ground and suggests when we need to clear undergrowth and when a stand of timber is ready to be marked for selective cutting. Deciding when to cut also depends upon the prices paper mills are paying for timber at auction. We get wrapped up in a system that includes paper mills and the demand for newsprint.

The ecosystem, the community, and the local populace all need attention, for all they are tightly interlinked. You can’t have one without the other. Trying to control just the individual organisms (i.e. trees or workers) does not address issues that only appear at the level of the ecosystem (i.e. tracts of pine trees or organizations).

Perhaps we should use Change Day as the occasion to balance how we look at things.

Gloria Gery came up with the concept of electronic performance support when asked to train workers on a poorly-designed mainframe application. The app had been built by slapping one patch on top of another until finally the UI was near-impossible for anyone to understand. Sounds like a training problem. Train the workers how to live with it.

Workers are flexible; mainframes are not. Once again, we ask workers to stretch.

The worker is the duct tape of the business world.

Maybe Labor Day should morph into
Duct-tape Day.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:16 AM  
Blogger jay said...

Die, spammers, die.

4:04 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

About Us | Contact Us | Home |

Powered by Blogger

Copyright 2005, Internet Time Group, Berkeley, California