Quality workmanship - an often forgotten part of the future of work

'Work' is a vastly different concept to 'workmanship' - which as the name suggests, is work that only a human can perform.

NOT MUCH JOY IN THAT” - Edward Deming

While paging through the latest issue of Monocle magazine - I came across the story of a Hungarian fashion brand that is determined to produce luxury apparel for less than £500 (which in South African terms is an enormous amount of money).

I'm not too sure why I was so surprised considering also that I was recently looking at possibly buying a Canada Goose jacket (which I will be needing for an Artic Circle excursion at the end of the year). That was until I found out that Canada Goose jackets cost over R12k for the one that I wanted.

The Canada Goose jacket that I won't be buying 

But in South Africa - the idea of quality workmanship is largely foreign to us. I'm going to go out on a limp here, but I suspect that the vast majority of people working standard 9-5 jobs in our banks, supermarkets, restaurants, factories etc. are there to get a pay cheque at the end of the month - not to practice and improve the quality of their craft and on-the-job workmanship.

In most cases - performance appraisals in South African companies measure whether or not somebody has conformed to the basic standard outlined in the job spec. The aim then is to simply offer a work quality that ensures that you don't get fired - rather than embracing the opportunity to become a skilled master at a craft over time.

It's no wonder then that South African companies are struggling to build world-class brands that can compete with the best of the best internationally.

There are countless institutions and research think tanks that are pondering and contemplating what the future of work looks like. But 'work' is a vastly different concept to 'workmanship' - which as the name suggests, is work that only a human can perform.

Workmanship is about personal pride, about a journey of improvement, constant learning and practice; and ultimately is a purposeful-endeavour which can never be replicated by a machine, because it is work infused with passion and creativity.  

Quality workmanship carries a price premium and is the kernel of great brands that are sustainable and resilient.

The future of work discussion cannot just be a debate about output and productivity, work is a deeply personal and self-satisfying activity...and perhaps the increase in the quality of workmanship is theme that is missing from our minds.