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If your business in factory or future mentality?




Mike Jones Better Happy Founder

Enabling organisations and employees to achieve optimal engagement levels so they can make the world a better place

Were we to magically zoom back in time 50-100 years and stick our heads into any variety of businesses by and large we would find lots of people completing repetitive tasks.


The variety of products that were produced was in comparison to today's extremely low. A company's ability to maintain and increase profits was by and large dictated by how much product it could shift out of the doors.

A manager's job was to ensure that maximum output was achieved by the shift they were responsible for. Undoubtedly there were a variety of management styles adopted to achieve this but ultimately the manager was measured on their ability to ensure people completed repetitive tasks to a high standard with maximum output.

As the tasks were repetitive and the goal was maximum output, a manager would be likely to ensure this by providing employees with clear guidance on how to complete their repetitive tasks as efficiently as possible. They would assign KPIs to create accountability for output. When all was smooth the manager could relax. When targets were increased or KPIs were not being met, the manager would quickly intervene by reminding the employees of those numbers.


As long as the manager provided clear instruction and kept their employees aware of the targets to be achieved, they would have done their job well.


I call this factory mentality.


Did it matter how they treated their employees? Did it matter if their employees enjoyed the work they did? Did it matter if the employees felt valued and appreciated? Did it matter with employees were healthy?

Ethically yes.


Practically, not really.


We might read this previous paragraph and argue internally "Of course it mattered, people work better when they feel valued", and "People work better and take less time off sick when they are healthy".

Logical thoughts to have, but inaccurate for the time.

The truth of the matter is, that there were substantially more people than jobs. When simply having the opportunity to work is a privilege a company can treat its employees however it chooses without suffering any retention issues. When the choice is between working in terrible conditions to feed yourself and your family or being unemployed and living in extreme poverty, regardless of how people are treated businesses have impressive employee retention levels.

When I served in the army the regiment that I represented had the lowest retention levels of any. To those of us in the lower ranks, it became obvious that senior leadership had instructed management to address this issue. How was it obvious? They fell back to what they knew worked in the past, factory mentality. It became a regular occurrence that we were informed there were no jobs available outside of the military, that people were struggling on the outside and that we would be insane to consider leaving the security the military offered us.


But people work better when they are treated well you might say. Once more, the truth of the matter is, people can do repetitive tasks to a relatively high standard regardless of if they are happy and healthy or not. This is true even of tasks that are high in complexity. When the task is repetitive, health and happiness are not important. If you are sceptical about this notion ask yourself this, how many times in your life have you stopped yourself from driving your car because you were not in a good mood or not feeling at your best? Aside from extreme circumstances, I expect the answer to be very few times or never. Driving a car is a highly complex skill. So complex in fact that we have to pass two theoretical and one practical test. We commit countless hours to getting ourselves good enough just to meet the basic standard. But the fact remains that driving is by and large a repetitive task and therefore does not require good levels of health or happiness to be achieved.


This is why for many of the businesses of the past (and many today in less wealthy countries than ours) how employees were treated was not overly important.


Regardless of how they were treated, regardless of how valued they felt, the repetitive tasks were always carried out with a high level of output and there was always a large queue of people waiting for a vacancy.

For those of us fortunate enough to be born into a developed and wealthy society such as the UK, this picture is changing rapidly, for businesses to be leaders they are moving away from factory mentality and towards future mentality.

Future mentality thrives in a completely different playing field to factory mentality.


The playing field for future mentality has some important differing factors, which are:

  • There are more jobs than unemployed people

  • There is a wide variety of jobs

  • Business profits are dictated by creativity and innovation

  • Businesses have to create great customer experiences

There are other factors but these are some of the newest and most important.

In future-focussed businesses a manager's job is no longer to purely drive output, therefore a manager's job is measured against a wider measure of KPIs. In a factory mindset company, the manager is widely responsible for one measure - output. In a future company, a manager is responsible for a much wider range of measures:

  • Retention

  • Engagement

  • Innovation

  • Collaboration

In a factory mindset company engagement, innovation and collaboration don't matter. In a future mindset company, they are vital. A company cannot be agile and provide an excellent service with disengaged employees. A manager in a future mindset company is committed to developing employees to be their best so that they:

1) Can perform at their best and provide maximum value

2) Feel valued and want to stick around

Another factor that effective managers in future mindset companies address is health. They are not responsible for the health of their employees, but they recognise that good health is required for their people to function at the levels required in a future mindset company. They also recognise that committed workers tend to neglect their health in pursuit of family and business responsibilities. As this poor health eventually leads to dropped performance, increased sickness and the loss of the employee, they address it proactively by creating a health focussed culture.

Future focussed businesses are by nature, ever-changing. They embrace the change, they accept that they do not know everything but work cooperatively with their people to approach challenges as a positive.

Factory focussed businesses dislike change. They try to do things the old fashioned way, they don't work collaboratively with their people and as a result experience low levels of engagement and retention.

What astounds me is how many businesses and teams are still operating in the factory mindset...

So ask yourself, are you running your team, your department and your business in future or factory mindset?


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