The Electronic Sweatshop by Barbara Garson
Garson chronicles the expansion of statistical process control to non-factory work and its impact on the workforce. She interviews workers at: a fast-food place, an airline reservation call center, social workers, securities brokers, mid-level management, and the military. Even though Garson feels automation destroys humans, she attempts to portray both sides of the issue.
We have a computer in Oak Brook that is designed to make real estate surveys. But those printouts are of no use to me. After we find a promising location, I drive around it in a car, go into the corner saloon and the neighborhood supermarket. I mingle with the people and observe their comings and goings. That tells me what I need to know about how a McDonald's store would do there.
Systems design failed Kroc because either it failed to capture enough relevant data as to make it unreliable, or Kroc failed by not admitting that statistical control achieved what he could not. Essentially, Kroc uses his executive privilege to escape a system where:
... there is no such thing as a McDonald's manager. The computer manages the store.
Written in 1988, the familiarity of the problems means that the problem remains uncracked and most likely continue to plague workers for years to come. As part of my exposure to the US Army War College, I was familiar with C4 (Command, Control, Communications, and Computers), but was not aware of how C5 came into play. In Grenada, our military communications systems failed, forcing in field soldiers to coordinate using payphones; hence C5 (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Confusion). One doesn't have to look far into our past to find major examples of these problems.
People working with computers should definitely give this book a chance. It'll warp your mind, and they you'll have to unwarp it yourself.
"But the fundamental point is that the only thing in the world getting cheaper and faster is computers. People aren't getting cheaper and faster. So if I have to bet on anything, I'll bet on computers."