Frederick W. Taylor wrote in The Principles of Scientific Management (1911) how waste in activity was a greater problem than material waste. He wrote about planning, organizing, training, management and measurement, as ways to address the problem. Today, we require a new form of Taylorism—one that addresses efficiency in content publishing.

In the introduction to his book, Taylor quoted US President Theodore Roosevelt: “The conservation of our national resources is only preliminary to the larger question of national efficiency.”

We have made progress since 1911 in many areas. Except content.

Content should be the channel through which knowledge is formalized and communicated. Increasingly, content is becoming the problem.

Frederick Taylor lived in a society where scarcity was a key issue. Our society must deal with glut. Our society is becoming physically and intellectually overweight. We are eating too much and writing too much.

What to do? Let's take our heads out of the sand, for starters.

Managers have got to start seriously managing content. Begin by measuring. How much content—pages, emails, PowerPoints, reports, etc.—is your organization publishing every year? How much does it cost?

Some managers will say they can't do this. That it's impossible.

Yes, it's difficult, but not impossible. The creation of content is eating up more and more time. We cannot simply accept that all this time is going down an immeasurable black hole.

Look around you. Wouldn't it be great if you could see all that content whizzing across your network? It might give you a shock.

See Tom over there. Every time he wants to go on a business trip, it takes him an average of 14 emails and 3 calls to confirm his flight and hotel. Tom is forever changing his mind. Tom isn't organized. Mary, on the other hand, takes an average of three emails to book a flight and hotel.

Liam and Liz respond by email to support queries. You notice that customers tend to get their answers in an average of two emails from Liam, whereas with Liz it's an average of five.

Nobody can understand John's PowerPoint presentations. They've got lots of lovely graphics, but people give them an average of 3 out of 10 on a comprehension score.

You know that because you've not merely started measuring the cost of content, you've also started measuring its value. On the intranet, you strongly encourage people to rate every piece of content they read. Some complain that this wastes time.

You point out that it saves far more time in the long run. Now that the content people write is being carefully measured, they work harder on it. There's less waffle and more meat. Less length and more meaning.

Management is about taking control of the process. Because of the Web and email, there is a huge content publishing process occurring within your organization today. If it's left unmanaged, it will become a major productivity drain.

The next wave of Taylorism involves scientifically managing content. Can you rise to the challenge?

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image of Gerry McGovern
Gerry McGovern ( is a content management consultant and author. His latest book is The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online, which teaches unique techniques for identifying and measuring the performance of customers' top tasks.