The rule of science and not the rule of thumb in Organizational Behaviour Management:
Saving canaries in the coal mine
and getting out of the dark chaos
In today’s news, (1) CBC headlines that, “Canada is on a 'rapid growth trajectory,' 2,000 more people could die from COVID-19 in the next 10 days: PHAC”, (2) CTVNews says, “New COVID-19 modelling shows pandemic resurgence in Canada rapidly worsening”, (3) National Post’s cover story is on “Pfizer delaying vaccine deliveries to Canada due to production issues”, (4) BBC reports, “Coronavirus: EU anger over reduced Pfizer vaccine deliveries”, (5) CNN’s top political news, “US says Capitol rioters intended to 'capture and assassinate' elected officials”, and (6) Channel News Asia’s top story: “'We have to find all 62 people', says rescue commander involved in Sriwijaya Air recovery mission”. The stories and lived experiences are about behaviours as dynamic by-products, an interaction of human beings, actors and interlocutors, with the environment and a dyadic exchange, to come up with solutions, answers or get results to address the current problems, that states and nations, societies and the world are facing, as organizations.
The first two news stories about the worsening situation in Canada regarding the spread of COVID-19, and how the pandemic drains the system and resources are, to a large extent, effects of how Canadians “behave” in relation to the circumstances. On a systems perspective, would it make a difference if people emit behaviours based on contingency and rule governance, i.e., follow stay at home orders, maintain social distancing, among others, because these will help in lessening the intensity of the spread of the virus? Would it make a big difference in terms of behaviour change if the government officials and organizations are clear and consistent on behaviour-based safety rules, and are robust in implementing these rules?
News three and four, mentioned above, about the production challenges that cause the delay in the delivery of vaccines, which angers EU governments, perhaps like other countries in the world. This situation, to a large extent, is an issue of behaviour-based safety (social distancing in effect affects the production, i.e., lesser people work in the production line, with more hours for shifts for production blocks), performance management in relation to efficiency and productivity + reinforcement, and behavioural systems analysis and monitoring employee performance that are impacted or altered by the pandemic. On a systems perspective, despite limitations brought by the pandemic which variables can be controlled to create efficient production processes and delivery of vaccines? Would it make a difference, if governments and organizations are also maintaining effective behavioural systems in the roll-out of vaccines? Would anger, and the resulting actions of anger, over things one cannot fully control, help in this situation?
Echoing my last question above, in relation to the riots and protests in the United States, would anger, powerful emotions and the resulting actions from such, over things one cannot fully control, help in addressing issues in electoral protests? In a system view, what should we do to resolve the situation that will result to socially significant behaviours and behaviour change?
How would the rescue team in the Sriwijaya Air recovery mission be able to find all 62 people onboard the plane in the shortest possible amount of time and with safer procedures? What are tasks at hand, and what variables they must control to decrease latency, inter-response time, and duration of the task/s, so that the recovery mission will be successful, to attain the results intended? And when the results are reached, will there be a systems analysis and behaviour-based safety analysis on the use of Boeing 737?
In answering all the questions above, the assessment and analysis of behaviours as dynamic by-products of dyadic exchange are significant to produce the intended results. Although there are a variety of issues in the different news stories mentioned above, one thing is certain: there are challenges in solving these problems because of the rule of thumb.
Taylor’s (1911) principles of Scientific Management posit that the rule of science as an evidence-based practice should supersede the rule of thumb. The rule of thumb is about arbitrary decision making, often with a lack of principle, lack of respect for the rule of law, no order and lack of objectivity. The intensive spread of COVID-19 because people do not follow rules and act based on discretion, the lack of efficient roll-out of vaccination, the use of actions caused by anger and emotions to address a situation, and perhaps, the misuse of scientific tools and devices, apart from a lack of access to these in many impoverished areas in the world, are examples of using the rule of thumb. The use of rule of thumb, or an iron rule, no matter how it appears to be invincible, cannot explain how the world is changed, and changed for the better.
As a young child, I was taught about the scientific method: ask about a phenomenon, present the hypothesis, test the hypothesis through experimentation, gather data in the experimentation phase, analyze results and come up with a conclusion. This very method of science allowed me to embrace philosophy, as the queen of sciences, and to think about what I am thinking about science and its utility. Science ignites the inquiring nature of humans to address something challenging and make the situation better, celebrates the thinking nature of humans to predict based on the principle of causation, puts into praxis man’s inclination to apply theory and take it to action through performing experiments, finds the truth ‘as not pick and choose’ but through a gathering of facts and data as evidence, analyzing data and only come up with evidence-based conclusions. Bureaucracy, the misuse of power, corruption, complicity, co-option, hegemony in institutions in favour of the dominant group or majority, power over power in politicking to race for space and get disgraced, will not solve the world’s problems. In fact, the rule of thumb only adds to the distraction against total positive human engagement, that dyadic process to support any behaviour change, and affect the world or environment to protect the welfare of the members of the society. The rule of science and the use of the principles of science, can describe, predict, repeat experiments or “situations” that are socially significant, control variables into the evolution of what is suitable until there is self-correction, again, by the principle of science itself.
Assuming that all units of the society are organizations, I argue that only through the use of science, that we address problems, and perhaps, put into extinction the rule of thumb, or the iron rule. Although the discourse about Organizational Behaviour Management is centred on leadership and how to improve employee performance, I like to broaden the horizon by using a system view and pursue the importance of the dyadic exchange. For after all, there would be no leaders if there are no followers. The rule of thumb in leadership has oligarchic tendencies—people-focused hierarchies that pose barriers, gate-keepers to real, socially significant behaviors and behaviour change, those which will benefit the system. The evolutionary (in the sense of self-correcting) epistemology (know-how or how-to), and the technology that science provides does not consider an actor or interlocutor in isolation, but a part of system. Using science in management has a great deal of allowing development and resolution using evidence-based practice. The rule of science considers the variables in the environment (what is/are around), the principle that is the concept system or rule governance that support the contingencies (what is beneath), and the self-correcting enterprise of science allows for change and growth (what is beyond). Thus, in all the world problem solving, which all life is, the rule of science is a conditio sine qua non (necessary condition).
Organizational Behaviour Management involves a lot of problem solving that should embrace the analytical process of science in order to de-centralize the focus from the rule of thumb, which proves to be disadvantageous for it results to the waste of human effort, blundering, ill-directed or inefficient [acts] (Taylor, 1911, p. 1). Like canaries in the coal mine, we wake up one day to have been caged by the rule of thumb that has been so entrenched. But what is around, what is beneath, and what is beyond that is science, its rule and principles, will always provide a warning and allow for canaries to exit that dark chaos in the coalmine, and change things for the better.
BBC (15 January 2021). “Coronavirus: EU anger over reduced Pfizer vaccine deliveries. News: Coronavirus Pandemic”. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-55666399. Retrieved on 15 January 2021.
CBC (15 January 2021). “2,000 more Canadians could die from COVID-19 in the next 10 days: PHAC”. News: Politics.Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/phac-modelling-covid19-1.5874530. Retrieved on 15 January 2021.
Channel News Asia (15 January 2021) “'We have to find all 62 people', says rescue commander involved in Sriwijaya Air recovery mission”. Retrieved from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/sriwijaya-air-crash-sj182-rescuer-find-all-62-people-basarnas-13965020.Retrieved on 15 January 2021.
CNN (15 January 2021). “US says Capitol rioters intended to 'capture and assassinate' elected officials”. News: Politics.Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/15/politics/capitol-capture-assassinate-elected-officials/index.html. Retrieved on 15 January 2021.
CTV News (15 January 2021). “New COVID-19 modelling shows pandemic resurgence in Canada rapidly worsening”. News: Coronavirus.Retrieved from https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/new-covid-19-modelling-s hows-pandemic-resurgence-in-canada-rapidly-worsening-1.5268145.Retrieved on 15 January 2021.
National Post (15 January 2021). “Pfizer delaying vaccine deliveries to Canada due to production issues”. News: Canada. Retrieved from https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/newsalert-pfizer-cutting-back-vaccine-deliveries-to-canada-due-to-production-issues. Retrieved on 15 January 2021.
Taylor, FW. (1911). The Principles of Scientific Management. Overland, KS: Digireads.