The main reason why people can’t get work done at work are managers and meetings. That’s Jason Fried’s take on things as he exposes it in his latest TEDx Talk. He lays out the main problems to getting work done and presents three suggestions to making work work.
No Talk Thursdays: He actually suggests a compromise of one Thursday afternoon a month where no one disturbs anyone so that all can focus on getting things done.
I am fortunate that though I work in an office, it is a small office and I can often get quite a few hours of uninterrupted work time. I can actually sometimes get 3 to 4 hours without being disturbed, usually about once a week. This uninterrupted time is necessary for me when I need to analyse complex problems or systems, or work on a larger, more complex project.
Passive Models of Communication: Instead of interrupting people to have a face-to-face discussion about something, send an email or an IM. This reduces the instances of interrupting reflections, thoughts, a creative moment. The passive model allows for people to respond when they are ready to switch gears and respond to you.
This is my preferred mode of communication when dealing with dispatching tasks or requesting information. I had received a comment earlier this year that it could be perceived as impersonnal, which is a valid remark. I therefore took the time to approach the individuals that I exchange with to explain to them why I preferred communicating the bulk of work related information by email. They agreed and even told me that they appreciated the lack of interruption, especially the administrative staff who work in the open spaces and are constantly interrupted.
Cancel the Next Meeting: He doesn’t suggest postponing it. He suggests cancelling it all together. According to Fried, managers call too many meetings which are a waste of employee’s productive time. He relates that what managers talk about at meetings is usually not as important to company productivity than the managers think it is.
On this one, I only meet Fried halfway. If we are going to move to a mode of passive communication and no-talk periods to let people focus on their work, there needs to be a moment where we all get together and communicate face-to-face. That said, I think that the face-to-face time needs to be used wisely to do the things that are less well done in writing.
“Is she out of her mind?”, you ask yourself. Nope! And neither is Stephen Shapiro who wrote a great bit on How To Motivate Innovators.
Stop recognizing people for doing their job. When you hire someone to work for you, it should be expected that they are competent. When you recognize people for doing what they are hired to do, it reinforces a “culture” where the status quo is good enough.
Instead, recognize (and reward) people for going beyond their job; for doing things that are unexpected.
If you wish to develop a culture of innovation within your organization, you are going to have to reward what I call productive disruption. Productive disruption, in my mind, is an attempt at doing things differently while taking into account risks and with the mindset of wanting to improve upon something. It isn’t always successful, but it always generates discourse and reflection.
If you want to encourage open innovation or cross-business unit collaboration, then recognize people for that. If you want employees to take risks, make a big deal out of individuals who do that. If you want to let people know that failure is ok – when done the right way – then promote situations where something didn’t work as planned yet powerful lessons were learned and risk was mitigated risk.
Define what your organization values and then reward on that.
Couldn’t agree more. The idea that errors aren’t punished but rather become case studies is refreshing. I have been fortunate to work in such environments where I can learn from my errors and in looking for solutions to overcome them, learn and innovate.
According to Ron Ashkenas, most managers actually like meetings, and he enumerates the reasons in a recent blog post entitled Why We Secretly Love Meetings.
His key arguments are that:
They encourage social interaction
They keep everyone in the loop
They often represent status
He also remarks that though we all know the rules of conducting a good meeting such as being upfront and clear about objectives, making sure the right people are attending, having an agenda in advance and so on, we often fail at respecting these rules.
Their statistics indicate that employees are doing more job training off-the-job and off-hours resulting in higher current productivity numbers. Supervisors in particular, are gaining job skills for both today and tomorrow before or after work, at home and on weekends.
Since the research shows that productivity increases when managers take training on their own time, the most successful managers will have to sacrifice more of their personal time to enhance their knowledge and skills. This of course is going to affect the work-life balance, which might potentially come back and have long term negative effects on productivity.
Reni Gorman points out that the use of microblogging in education is a recent area of interest compared to the uses of microblogging as a communication channel for news or marketing.
In a literature review on microblogging, learning and performance in the workplace, she explains that the research around microblogging tools like Twitter is directed towards using such tools as fostering informal learning and staying in touch with a support group to foster lifelong learning. She states however that research that examines the potential of microblogs with regard to learning and performance in the workplace is currently lacking and proposes a table of contents for a study.
Boston College Associate Professor of Education Laura O’Dwyer reported that:
“The studies also show that teacher participation in online professional development can translate into improvements in targeted student outcomes.”
In addition, study Director Lynch School Associate Professor Michael Russell stated that:
“Given the positive effects found across these studies, it is reasonable to expect that on-line professional development is an effective strategy for supporting teaching in difficult-to-staff content areas, like mathematics and science.”
One could easily transpose these findings to the workplace training world and make a case for the importance of professional development of training professionals. The more we know, the more we can help.