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When you talk business, starting with Peter Drucker is always a smart move. In Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, Drucker defined the work of business leaders by its three principal tasks: to deliver financial results, to make work and workers productive, and to manage a company’s social impacts and responsibilities. That’s all, and of course, that’s a lot.
There’s been a lot of change since Druckers’s magnum opus was published in 1974. Technological advances, especially digitization, have transformed — and continue to transform — the world in myriad ways large and small. But new technology hasn’t fundamentally changed Drucker’s tasks. Instead, it is giving rise to new and better ways and means of executing and achieving them. This new MIT SMR column aims to help you identify big ideas and new tactics at the intersection of technology and management.
The mobile method to uncovering abuse in the supply chain: The good news about global supply chains is that they offer competitive and cost advantages that were unthinkable when Ford built the first moving assembly line in 1913. The bad news is that the financial and reputational risks associated with such supply chains have increased exponentially. Ignorance is a flimsy defense when a garment factory collapse in Bangladesh kills and injures thousands of people or it is revealed that slave-workers are harvesting seafood in Thailand.
How can a company gain an unvarnished view of what’s happening in far-flung supply chains? One way is to connect with everyone working in the supply chain by tapping into the extraordinarily high penetration of mobile phones globally. That’s what a nonprofit named Good World Solutions is doing with a program that it calls Labor Link, reports associate editor Bouree Lam in The Atlantic. Labor Link allows companies to conduct surveys over the mobile phones of employees in their own and suppliers’ facilities. They can question employees about their workplaces and working conditions directly, and employees can respond without fear of reprisals.
Reengineering reprised with machines: If you’ve been around for a while, you probably remember reengineering and its catch phrase “Don’t automate, obliterate” with mixed emotions.