Saturday, February 25, 2006

Managing by Objective

I don't think I've ever reposted a post from another blog in its entirety before, but I read the following on and I was still thinking about it 24 hours later.

I found this interesting because I agree with his perspective, and try to manage employees in the way he suggests. But at the same time, it's a philosophy I find hard to implement in my own work - I find too often that my instinct is to work harder, and to feel behind unless I am working constantly. Something I'm trying to work on...

The Eighty Hour Myth

Let's get serious. Nobody works eighty hours a week. Not eighty real, productive hours. Look closely at workaholics (and I've been one, and worked with ones), and a lot of the time is spent idling, re-charging, cycling, switching gears, etc. In the old days this was water-cooler talk. In Silicon Valley, it's gaming, email, IM, lunches, and idle meetings. Let's drop the farce, ok? Even when you had to work eighty hours, you didn't, really. In economic terms, there is lower diminishing marginal productivity beyond some point. This point hits differently for different problems (some, like software engineering, require a lot of startup time to load a complex problem into your working memory).

In fact, your best work was probably done in tremendous, focused bursts, surrounded by long periods of dullness and inactivity. So, let's try to figure out how to maximize the probability and productivity of such a burst, rather than try and force it to be predictable and prolonged.

First, measure outputs, not inputs, in yourself and your organization. Otherwise, you will be fooled by the modern knowledge worker, who is highly adapted to spend time at the office and manage upwards.

Second, measure productivity over a longer time-scale, say weeks and months rather than days. Some of the most creative and product"


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