Pin Factory

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Adam Smiths Pin Factory

A sequence of processes that assemble a result where the output of each step is the input of the next. Originally used as an illustration by Adam Smith in his book "The Wealth of Nations" (1776) it explained how organising the creation of pins into a sequence of specialised jobs has a dramatic impact on the total output that a group of people can produce. The same technique has been exploited by many subsequent industrialists such as Henry Ford.

Unfortunately this metaphor is widely over used, especially when considering the processes that take place when handling information in a modern business. In most situations processes have a more complex structure, with many interactions between stages and going back to rework earlier steps when subsequent processes reveal unexpected situations. However those that want to over simplify these realities draw these complex situations as a set of chevrons, as shown above. This leads to an underestimate of the complexity and an undervaluing of the difficulties associated. If you are paying someone to sort out the situation this is, of course, exactly what you want. If however you are the one implementing then this overly simple picture will make it more difficult to justify the full costs.

For many situations the Blackboard is a better metaphor.

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