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They Work Long Hours, But What About Results? 285

Posted by timothy
from the management-types-prefer-inaccurate-precision dept.
theodp writes "HBS lecturer Robert C. Pozen says it's high time for management to stop emphasizing hours over results. By viewing those employees who come in over the weekend or stay late in the evening as more 'committed' and 'dedicated' to their work, as a UC Davis study showed, managers create a perverse incentive to not be efficient and get work done during normal business hours. 'It's an unfortunate reality that efficiency often goes unrewarded in the workplace,' writes Pozen. 'Focusing on results rather than hours will help you accomplish more at work and leave more time for the rest of your life.'"
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They Work Long Hours, But What About Results?

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  • Double edge-sword (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 07, 2012 @01:32PM (#41577365)

    While the author of the article seems to lean into this approach with the target of maybe working less hours, a results-based way of working can also have disadvantages: working more hours than the stipulated (to try to achieve visible results, or just better-looking results), burnout because of the latter, etc.

    Coding is just what it is: knowledge discoverability. Sometimes you discover it very quickly, sometimes you don't find it. The only good management technique I know is: hire the best people, and then trust them. Don't measure neither hours nor results.

  • by TheLink (130905) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @01:35PM (#41577381) Journal
    I know someone who some years ago started work in a Scandinavian company. He then started staying back late (everyone else left mostly on time).

    After a few days the boss came to him and asked him:
    1) Is there a problem with the project? Are there enough people and resources allocated for it?
    2) Does he need extra training to do his job?
    3) Is the job a good fit for him?

    So he stopped staying late just for the sake of staying late ;).
  • by cptdondo (59460) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @01:46PM (#41577457) Journal

    I worked for a company that based your annual bonus on the amount of overtime you put in. Not productive, mind you, just hours. At the end of the year, they would tally up the hours you worked, and those with the most hours at their desk got the biggest bonuses.

    Being new to this, I asked my boss: "If I do everything right, and my project never needs rework, and my clients are happy, and all my projects are profitable, and I go home on time every day, will I get a bonus?" "No."

    "If I screw up, my projects are late and over budget, and I'm working a lot of hours because my clients are pissed at the low quality of work I do, and my projects constantly lose money because I'm an idiot, will I get a bonus?" "Yes."

    True to form, my bonus for the year was $50, in spite of being one of the most profitable employees in the organization. I left shortly thereafter.

  • by Kagato (116051) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @02:12PM (#41577645)

    In Japan white collar workers are expected to stay late, even if they are out of work and are just looking busy. It's the total opposite of the Japanese blue collar factory worker experience. A lot of folks think the faux productivity has kept them from getting out of their financial woes. The article focuses on hourly billable jobs like lawyers but a lot of it apply to poor eastern management styles. In particular the focus on reading and writing memo and BS paperwork. There's a lot of rote BS work that goes on.

    On the hand I quite enjoy working as an hourly computer consultant. I think my focus is results and I think things like iterative design really shift the focus from hours to what you got done. That brings a lot of value to the client in the end. But there are a lot of consulting companies out there where the focus is utilization and bill (mostly seen in creative services such as Marketing IT or off-shore consulting).

  • by Nonesuch (90847) <nonesuch@msCOLAg.net minus caffeine> on Sunday October 07, 2012 @02:42PM (#41577855) Homepage Journal
    I'm subcontracting for a major consulting firm, on-site at their biggest client. The consulting firm wants to look good for their client, insists on having warm bodies in the seats at the client site during the client's business hours (8-5), even though the nature of my tasks and of client's business means I can't actually implement anything during business hours.

    So I sit in a chair in front of a laptop for 8 hours writing "documentation" and dealing with change manglement processes, then another 1-3 hours actually getting real work done after the close of business. It'd be cheaper for them to hire a wannabe actor to sit in my seat from 9-5, and then just pay me for my 3 hours a day of actual productivity.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 07, 2012 @02:44PM (#41577877)

    I had the exact discussion with my boss the other day. She was inquiring on how to motivate me to work harder -- meaning, she has seen that when I am focused, I can get loads of non-stop quality work done quicker than anyone else in our team, however there are days when I accomplish little in terms of new functionality etc. This is the flow that we all know, you either can get there or not, it does not always come on whim.

    Anyhow, I replied that I am a simple being and I can be motivated easily -- if I coded harder, and more quickly, would there be a monetary bonus if the project was finished early? No. If I coded harder, and more quickly, would it be possible to use less than the allocated hours per week sitting in the office? No. Well, how do you expect to motivate people to code quick and hard on constant basis? Uhh.. *insert generic company talk here*.

    Anyhow -- if there are no incentives to work hard, why should I drain myself more? I do not get paid more, there are no bonuses for meeting the deadline, there is no extra time to spend for my own activities if I finish the job quicker. Why should I strain myself more than I have to, when the no-sweat approach brings me far above average in productivity?

    If anyone can help me here, I would be keen to know the solution. And so would my boss.

  • "Fred Flintstones" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Frightened_Turtle (592418) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @03:01PM (#41578013)

    One VP for whom I used to work referred to employees that left right at closing time as "Fred Flintstones." He made sure his derisive attitude towards these employees was well displayed in front of the CEO of the company at the end of the day as the line of cars left the parking lot. Most of the employees who stayed after the 5PM quitting time were there because they started their shifts later than the other employees.

    This VP's attitude blinded him to the fact that those be labeled "Fred Flintstones" were on the job first thing in the morning, well before he arrived to sit in his office for the day doing nothing engaged with production of product in the company. Never mind that these very employees were the engineers that developed and made the technology of the company's primary product. Ironically, the one engineer he praised for staying late each day was staying late for a very special reason: it was the only time he could switch out the sabotaged firmware he created into shipping machines and put non-sabotaged firmware into machines that were being returned for "repairs". He was sabotaging the firmware in order to ensure that his job of hunting down bugs in the programming would be too important to get laid off.

    This sabotage was discovered when the engineer was out of vacation and forgot to remove his secret code from his computer. The senior engineer on the project needed to double check the programming, logged into the saboteur's computer and discovered the two sets of code. Sadly, it was long too late for the many employees that had to be laid off because the company was struggling due to the problems the device was having. Most of the employees let go were the ones the VP had labeled Fred Flintstones. With the truly productive employees gone, it was pretty much game over for the company. They were able to float a little longer, but the lack of improvement and productivity stopped any possibility of growth in the company. When the sabotage was discovered, the laid off employees were no longer available. Eventually, the company pretty much closed their doors, being bought out by a competitor.

    The attitude that the people who left at the end of the day and didn't put in extra hours were substandard employees was dead wrong. They were the people who made things happen in the company. Once let go, no longer were there any doers in the company and everything ground to a halt

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 07, 2012 @04:20PM (#41578477)

    Because, as a manager, I have banned pointless meetings and phone calls for the majority of my team. My job, as a manager, is to handle that portion of the job and disseminate the information to my staff. This gives them the time to do what they are good at (development and QA) and not waste time doing what they are not necessarily as good at (dealing with customers, answering asinine questions repeatedly for the benefit of those who can't understand tech, and doing things other than development).

    Yes, this requires me to know the work they do and, gasp, do it myself. It also requires me to possibly put in some extra time so they don't have to.

    I learned a long time ago to do things exactly the opposite of my bosses of the past and it seems to be going well, at least for the teams I manage.

  • by D4C5CE (578304) on Sunday October 07, 2012 @05:00PM (#41578721)

    95 percent of my assets drive out the front gate every evening. It's my job to bring them back.

    Jim Goodnight, SAS Institute CEO, in: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-550102.html [cbsnews.com]

    One hundred fifty years of research proves that shorter work hours actually raise productivity and profits - and overtime destroys them.
    So why do we still do this?

    Sara Robinson, http://www.alternet.org/visions/154518/why_we_have_to_go_back_to_a_40-hour_work_week_to_keep_our_sanity/?page=entire [alternet.org]

    "Management Summary": It's not Karl Marx ;-) who figured it out, but Henry Ford.

  • by greg_barton (5551) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {notrab_gerg}> on Sunday October 07, 2012 @08:20PM (#41580153) Homepage Journal

    This is the kind of management style that results when there isn't constant pressure to keep headcount low to avoid paying for health benefits. Nice,ya?

"Irrationality is the square root of all evil" -- Douglas Hofstadter

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