All of my working life has somehow been dedicated to the making of widgets. Widgets are the portion of the economy that cannot be fudged or reduced to theory, because widgets are tangible and measurable. Widget-making is a welcome relief from that other portion of the economy which is entirely theoretical and populated by eager business types full of hubris and a text-book knowledge of how the world should work.
Sadly, the making of widgets has long been displaced by the obsession with managing widget-makers. They are not the same thing. Over-management of widget-makers, actually interferes in the making of widgets. No widget-maker ever asked to be managed. Those who would manage widgets are convinced that widgets are mere business units, to be made plentiful and uniform, with a fixation on price and speed to market. They want only to extract profits from widget-making like a surgeon letting blood.
This has resulted in a somewhat new global phenomenon, the supply chain. The idea of supply chain, is that if your local widget builders are particularly uncooperative, you can source widget builders elsewhere, and beat them down on their price in a never ending spiral of cheaper and faster. Supply chain is a race to the bottom based on manipulation of circumstances. Those who contribute nothing forcibly seize the benefit that should naturally accrue those who do something.
When real work goes unrewarded, the result is widgets which are cheap, fast and careless. They bring to life Benjamin Franklin’s saying, that “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
The world of business presses on in the blind belief that they will ultimately get by duress, widgets that are good, fast, AND cheap. In the real world, you can only ever get two out of three. If you want good and fast, your widget won’t be cheap. If you want good but cheap, your widget won’t be fast. In the end, a cheap and fast widget will not be of good quality.
The insistence on cheap widgets is very expensive in process. Good widgets take time, experience and the eye of a craftsman. Managing on the other hand, wastes time - mainly in meetings to discuss what widget makers are doing. Talking about making widgets, and making widgets are not the same thing. If all the talkers were hit by a bus tomorrow, the economy might actually thrive. That whole expensive layer which talks about widgets will no longer weigh down the process.
Respect the widget, I say. More than that, respect the widget maker. Beauty and utility meet, in the best of widgets worldwide. Even Saint Francis of Assisi weighted in on the world of widgets. He saw the making of widgets as something which would not only enrich the world, but would ennoble the craftsman. He sees something beautiful and worthwhile in a man thus engaged.
“He who works with his hands is a labourer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”
I guess he knew a good widget when he saw one. Widgets are close to the heart of God, who is also primarily a Maker. Loving widgets and those who make them is a positively religious sentiment, one that could right the way the world operates, and could qualify as an epiphany to the world of business, that joyless layer of the economy which produces little, but underestimates the role of the Maker nonetheless.