Many organizations, mine included, are wrestling with a sudden, fuel cost induced, drive toward alternative work schedules. The "4/10" seems to be the the most popular, where employees come to work four days instead of five but work longer in order to still create a 40 hour workweek. Those of us in the manufacturing world have experienced a wide variety of work schedules tailored to supposedly keeping machines and production running as smoothly as possible. This isn’t the place to go into all the potential issues with such a focus on machines instead of real metrics, but you might want to check out the Lean Accounting Summit to learn more. I’ve personally worked 5/40, 9/80, 4/10, 4-3-3-4, and even a rotating 6/7.
But why the focus on hours? Who cares? Shouldn’t the focus be on creating value, not how many hours were spent tending a machine or sitting behind a desk? A focus on hours is a management cop-out. It’s easy. The employee can clock in and clock out or the supervisor can keep one eye on the employee and the other on the clock. We then delude ourselves into thinking that somehow correlates with output, and perhaps even valuable output.
We know better. We all have those phenomenal associates that create more value in ten minutes than the rest of the team does all week. We also have, hopefully just for a little while longer, those employees that we wish would stay home sick.
I could make a similar argument with employers that are resistant toward flextime and remote work, but you get the picture. Business Week just had a brief article along the same lines, titled Count Results, Not Hours.
Both decisions were born of a false set of assumptions that can be expressed in the formula: Time + Physical Presence = Results.
In an industrial economy, this formula made perfect sense. In an
information economy, it crumbles. Most of us can communicate anything
at any time from anywhere. Work has stopped being a place you go and
started to become something you do. Work is happening at all hours,
across all borders and time zones. The only question anyone really
wants an answer to is: "Did you get it done?"
How do you manage that, especially in a customer-centric organization (aren’t we all?)?
What does good customer service look like? Putting the focus on results
and taking the focus off of time leads to innovative problem solving.
Talk about outcomes instead of schedules. If you offer a compressed
workweek, don’t require your employees to ask your permission for what
day they choose not to work. It may sound chaotic, but if you’re
focused on results instead of time, then people will figure out a way
to make it work. It’s also crucial to embrace your employees’ different
work styles. Judging people on how they use their time is
counterproductive. Instead treat people like grown-ups who know what’s
best for themselves and for business. Stop assuming that if someone’s
body is in the building, you are getting something out of their mind.
As a business leader, would you rather have someone do rock-star work
in less time or mediocre work in more?
Bingo. Work is changing, and leadership must change. We must focus on value
creation instead of time. This requires a focus on clear quantifiable
goals, ongoing communication vertically and horizontally, and
accountability to value output. Not time. It’s hard, but we aren’t
paid to sit on our butts keeping our eyes on the clock. We’re paid to
lead and create value.