Chapter 15
The technological revolution of digital and robotics

In chapter 6, we saw that the two most specific elements of our time are on one side the Earth suddenly becoming the limiting factor of our development, causing the ecological crisis to emerge, and on the other the second industrial revolution, that of digital and robotics. The challenge for our generation is therefore naturally to adapt our social organization to this new environment.
We have just seen in the previous chapter, that ecological transition supposes leaving the logic of growth. We will now show that the digital revolution means rethinking digital tools and training, to make them really available to the operational organization of work.

Emergence of a new oppression tool

Marx noted that when the machines arrive in the workshops, instead of being liberating for the workers as one might have expected, it resulted in greater stress at work. The exact same thing happened with IT. Why ? Because the massive investments, therefore the center of all capitalist attention, go to the machine which aims to replace the muscle at the time of Marx, to the computer system which aims to replace the brain at ours time. People are seen in both eras as simple adjustment variables while waiting for future automation. History repeats itself on this level.
However, if the capitalists have apprehended the technological revolution of the moment in the same way in the two epochs, the result has not been the same. In 1987, Robert Solow was surprised that the massive arrival of IT in businesses in the early 80s was not found in the productivity gain statistics, which has later been called the Solow paradox. The explanation that seems most credible to us is that while finding a good organization around mechanical machines has proven to be reasonably simple, it is not the same around computer systems. Indeed, with mechanics, or paper bureaucracy, the simple visual observation of the flow of goods or paper forms allows to get a good idea of ​​the current level of organization, and to imagine improvements to streamline production. With IT, it is much more abstract because we do not see the progress of the files directly. You have to build a mental image from simple indicators. In addition, when developing an improvement to streamline or simplify production, it is extremely difficult to anticipate the level of difficulty associated with the implementation of each option.

In fact, for the moment, IT has been an accelerator of the problems described in chapters 2 and 3, namely the establishment of a formal organization disconnected from reality, as described in the article by Meyer and Rowan, and the inflation of unproductive prestige staff, as described in Parkinson's law.
Indeed, in practice, computer science has introduced a third organizational system, in the form of the activity modeled generically in computer software, which comes on top of the formal system described by Meyer and Rowan, side by the informal organization that ensures actual production. However, the emergence of this third system causes operational staff to lose their autonomy, because they become incapable of coordinating naturally and flexibly as they did before, simply because the necessary IT changes do not follow or are simply not possible. This induces a proliferation of donors of good advice of all kinds, that is to say ultimately the acceleration of Parkinson's law.
This phenomenon is further amplified by recent technological developments, namely the development of instant communication means such as email and then the mobile phone with its mini messages and other collaborative tools, which make people reachable everywhere and at any time. Indeed, the fact that information circulates faster has favored the establishment of increasingly long chains, and has therefore constituted another powerful factor favoring the aggravation of what Parkinson describes, namely inflation of positions that are not really productive, where we just dispatch real work.

Then, in terms of organization, IT has been an accelerator of the division of the company into silos, because each new software creates a new silo, which contains only part of the information necessary for the functioning of the organization, and keep it more or less jealously, which any problems log reveals very quickly.
Again, web technology, with the emergence of multiple online services, has made the situation worse. Indeed, companies, confronted with the drift of their organization linked to an inadequate IT, conclude massively, following analyzes which do not take into account the sociological dimension, that it is their internal IT that they do not know to manage well, or that it is too expensive. They then seek to outsource it to the cloud. The effect is a greater fragmentation of the data, therefore a worsening of the problems of inconsistency as the number of services used increases, with the final consequence of a further acceleration of Parkinson's law, that is to say the proliferation of tasks without direct link to the raison d'être of the organization. Computer software, cloud or not, is a bit like drugs: too many drugs end up poisoning the patient because of poorly controlled drug interactions.

Finally, at the inter-company level, each company or administration seeks to set up a website on which it encourages or requires its customers, suppliers, citizens, to enter or come to seek information (1). The local effect, for the company or administration, is to transfer the administrative cost to the outside, without transferring the corresponding remuneration, so it is extremely motivating. However, at the community level, the net effect is a considerable loss of productivity. On the one hand, each company, instead of having to manage a uniform administrative flow corresponding to its activity, finds itself having to manage multiple administrative micro-flows corresponding to each of its customers and suppliers, with the unability to optimize anything due to heterogeneity. On the other hand, as soon as the company or administration has outsourced - distributed to its customers and suppliers - the administrative cost, this having become painless for it, nothing more limits its propensity to always ask for more information, to supply its own multiple stages outside production, which can proliferate all the more easily.

Let us recall at this stage that poorly mastered Parkinson's law translates in practice with a plethoric framework which intensely practices generalized nepotism, and pressured operational staff, therefore a high level of stress everywhere, that is to say the progress which ends up generating oppression.

The choice of the computer system

We saw in Chapter 4 that the strategic choices concerning the computer system are among the most flagrant examples of weak or inept reasoning. We discussed the massive use of social support, to which is added the cognitive bias of overconfidence seen in Chapter 3, as well as that of asymmetry of risk taking before and after the initial choice.
However, the consequences of these choices are both very significant due not only to the initial investment linked to the development or acquisition and implementation of an integrated management software for example, but also and above all to the effect on the general organization, and therefore ultimately on the social climate. Very concretely, if too many problems lead to a need to adapt the computer system, then the adaptations are not made, and the constructive exchanges also stop in favor of a simple power relationship, it is to say, generalized nepotism.
Paradoxically, unionism has not taken the measure of this issue. There is no quality requirement vis-à-vis management in the decision-making process, and simply confrontation once the problems are there ... and it is too late.

This means that IT strategic choices must be more than any other subject to a rigorous methodological evaluation, as proposed in the second part of this book, simply because their consequences are heavy and currently not seriously anticipated.

An under control IT

Let's go to the solution now. The preceding chapters have shown how to reunite the formal organization with the practical organization by adopting a structure which ensures that the effective organization remains connected to the raison d'être, and optimized according to the practical problems encountered. However, the search for the causes of the acceleration of Parkinson's law under the effect of the arrival of information technology has just shown us that the source was always the loss by operational staff of their ability to flexibly and continuously modify their organization. . Let's see how this very concretely impacts the functioning of the new organizations that we presented in the second part of this book.
In the problems log (chapter 9), at the level of the "Solution" box, what is important is that the heaviness of the modifications to be made in the computer system, and the difficulty in accessing additional information which one would have needed to prevent the problem from recurring, do not make the obvious solution to adapt the computer system is, in practice, almost never applicable.
In the same way, in the strategic thinkin log (chapter 10), a major stake is that the constraint of computer systems which one cannot in practice adapt to the need does not become what leads the strategic studies to become simple search for tips without long-term sustainability.
In other words, the danger is that IT produces the same effects as a fussy administration. Hence the importance of the paragraph "Restoring room for maneuver" in this same chapter 10.

So let's now study what currently stands in the way of operational staff keeping control of their IT tool.
First of all, on a technical level, the IT tools diverged, either downwards or upwards, making them in any case unsuitable for direct and effective use by operational staff. Downwards first, we saw a kind of gold rush for consumer tools, be it web services, messaging and other social tools, which have become intuitive and largely mastered, but are not production tools. Upwards ten, the development tools have become considerably more complex, making them unusable by non-specialists. Finally, in the middle, business software has the same limits of lack of adaptability as mainstream software, without provinding the associated intuitiveness. The reason for this is that decision-making buyers still believe that the quality of a software is linked to the number of functionalities, instead of understanding that true quality lies in the possibility of adapting it simply when the problems log reports inadequacies with real activity.
In terms of training then, we simply abandoned the objective of training an honest digital man in favor of an objective of employability. In fact, the training followed the divergence of the tools down and up. Towards the bottom, we are massively training in tools such as word processing and spreadsheets, which do not allow for effective organization. Upwards, we continue to initiate programming in classical languages, which will not provide effective autonomy to non-specialists.

The solution is therefore the adoption of a medium technology, which allows automation, while remaining controllable by properly trained operational staff. This supposes to tend towards a homogeneous computer system instead of seeking to interconnect multiple specialized software, so that the automatic gathering of all the information necessary for each activity remains easy. In other words, good IT is nothing more than IT that does not stand in the way of the proper functioning of organizations, and in particular of the problems log and strategic thinking lig, and this simply involves selecting technologies adapted to this mean, instead of selecting technologies adapted to IT development isolated from production.

At the inter-company level now, it is necessary to define a single standard for the exchange of digital documents (2), which can be grasped by the honest digital man, so that a digital flow is strictly equivalent to a paper flow.
In addition, it should be imposed that any operation possible via access to the website of the company, administration or organization, is also possible automatically by sending or downloading a few clearly accessible digital forms.
The point here is that the boundaries between organizations do not become the areas where work foreign with the organisation raison d'être proliferates, because unnecessary complexity and heterogeneity would prevent operational staff from operating effectively the principle of continuous improvement that we presented in the second part of this book.

Ultimately, what we learn from the Solow paradox is that in the case of digital, what is humanly desirable in terms of organization, because favoring the autonomy and responsibility of employees, is also desirable from the point of view of pure operational performance, because it is one of the conditions of an effective problems log.

Digital policy

America, being the leader in consumer IT services, logically experienced this gold rush by looking more at commercial profits than the limits in terms of missed productivity gains in other sectors. On the other side of the see, Europe has remained insignificant on the digital level simply because it has failed to promote products adapted to honest operational men. On the one hand, It was content to try to copy the model of Silicon valley startups thus forgetting that copying with less means is rarely a winning strategy, and on the other hand, it was content to intend to regulate by legal means, that is to say to return to the method suggested by Marx in The Capital.
Cognitive dissonance did the rest by spreading the idea that communicating more and faster can dispense with thinking about the organization, with ultimately an insignificant policy from the point of view of regulating the pressure on operational staff, and therefore a return to social confrontation.

The key to the digital challenge is therefore a resolute training policy to get out of digital illiteracy, and this supposes to select technologies and protocols adapted to the honest digital man, instead of continuing to adopt the technologies already selected by the market. i.e. targeting either the digital consumer downwards or the digital specialist upwards, with in both cases the final effect of worsening Parkinson's law and the resulting stress level .


Many companies are stopping with digital sending documents, for example invoices. Instead, they send an email like "We inform you that we have made this or that document available in your personal space. Translated into plain language, it just means "Come and get it."
The fact that the legislator does not call to order organizations which, when going digital, cease to ensure their obligation to send an invoice, is representative of the effects of digital illiteracy: since lawyers do not master digital, they subinvest it, and it tends to become an area where force rules.

All forms must be available in readable form, for example a PDF file. It is exclusively made up of elementary fields, and arrays. Each elementary field has a name. Each table has a name. Each column of each table has a name. All these names are unique and must appear in very small right next to the boxes considered.
The exact JSON coding of the document is established canonically from the names appearing on the readable version. The details of specifying this canonical JSON format are beyond the scope of this book. Here, only the principle of such a format interests us. In addition, for clarity, a sample file must be made available in addition to the readable version.
Regarding transmission, in an ideal world, the readable form would indicate the address of the mailbox or file it in digital form. However, due to technical limitations, we prefer to indicate a URL (a web address), and the document will be deposited by means of an HTTPs request of POST type, with basic authentication of user and password type, and return of 'a document acknowledgment of receipt. If rejected, the HTTPs error message must indicate the name of one of the problematic fields, or, if it is an array field. the triplet table name, row code, column name.
For access to information, it's almost the same: we send a form specifying the desired information, and we receive in return not an acknowledgment of receipt but a response form in JSON form.
Finally, it is up to the community to standardize a certain number of these forms, that is to say precisely define the fields and their names, to further facilitate exchanges.