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People's Time, Organization's Money
Which is of higher value?
Quote of the Moment
We really need to start treating people’s time as being more valuable than the organisation’s money.
| Mark McArthur-Christie
I have long parroted a core idea from Chris Argyris: at work, we are involved in two loops: the first is delivering value, either as a service or a product, while the second loop is learning, so that we improve. Arguably, the second loop is more important than the first.
I love the premise of How Well-Designed Work Makes Us Smarter by Sharon Parker and Gwenith Fisher, which is that worker learning can be increased by designing work intentionally.
Work design is about the nature of people’s work — for example, which tasks workers do and how many tasks they have — as well as how the work is organized, such as whether people work on a team or independently. In this article, we’ll describe five aspects of work design that we identified as shaping worker cognition, and ways to maximize them to boost learning.
My paraphrasing of their five aspects of work design:
Job autonomy — The power to make or influence decisions, and to choose when and how to perform work.
Feedback — Information fed back to a worker about their work behaviors’ effectiveness, from peers, supervisors, and performance appraisal tools.
Job complexity — ‘The extent to which a job puts mental demands on a worker that require aptitude, skill, training, thought, creativity, and independent judgment’.
Relational work — The interactions that form a social context for a worker, including strength of social ties and degree of interdependence with others, such as formally-defined teams and customer interactions, and less formal social contact.
Psychosocial work demands — Workload and emotional demands, leading in the negative case to anxiety, stress, and burnout.
And this is the real takeaway [emphasis mine]:
The way that work is designed does more than shape whether people have the opportunity to use their cognition: Work design can also accelerate learning. Especially important is having complex and challenging tasks, job autonomy, and feedback. Complex, challenging tasks stimulate the need for employees to explore effective work strategies to achieve their goals. Job autonomy then allows people the chance to explore and experiment with different strategies. And finally, feedback provides information regarding which strategies are effective. Together, these aspects of work design speed up workers’ learning.
Some of the best research supporting the idea of accelerated learning comes from the University of Sheffield. In a series of studies in manufacturing, the researchers showed that machine operators learned to anticipate and then prevent faults when they were given greater job autonomy. Using a novel methodology in which they analyzed the pattern of machine breakdowns before and after the intervention, the researchers showed an initial decrease in machine downtime of 20%, followed by a larger decrease in downtime of 70% in the long run. The initial decrease in machine downtime was due to the fact that when operators were given the autonomy to solve problems themselves, they could respond more quickly than when they had to call on specialists like engineers. But the lagged and larger decrease in machine faults occurred because over time, operators’ greater autonomy meant they were able to learn how to prevent faults from occurring in the first place.
There’s more, so spend a credit at MITSloan Management Review to read the whole thing.
Social Now is a conference with a very unique format that delivers actual learning, many actionable tips for organizations to implement, and long-lasting memories.
The topic for this edition is Enabling engaged, high-performing teams because organizations need to sustain engagement and create the right environment for teams to achieve their highest potential, no matter where they work.
A Great Resignation antidote that costs nothing | Brian Elliott and Debbie Lovich write about visibility and transparency in a way guaranteed to cause what it is supposed to help:
Two-thirds of companies are not engaging employees in planning around the future of work.
And how to position a give-and-take between managers and managees? Not like this:
All well and good, executives may say, but how do you keep things from going off the rails? This shouldn’t be an unstructured and unrestrained free for all. For two-way communication to work, there must be well-paved lanes going in both directions—with guardrails, shoulders, speed limits, and seatbelts. Try out these rules of the road: Set the tone from the top, and clearly communicate expectations around mutually respectful behavior; establish and publicly share your process for triaging challenging conversations; acknowledge open questions and, if you can, commit to a time frame to respond; and default to accountability, so anonymity is the exception rather than the rule.
Yes, by all means, lockdown any dissent, or challenging conversations. In an organization with an approach like this, the managees are talking to each other and not to management.
In Can Workers Climb the Career Ladder Working Remotely?, Corinne Purtill uncovered the workwashing about 'water cooler' conversations, and found support for the common worry about gaining proximity to senior executives. In a study by Prithwirag Choudhury:
In one study, Mr. Choudhury and his colleagues randomly assigned some interns at a global bank to take part in one-on-one video meetings with senior executives. Others met virtually with fellow interns, and some were assigned no extra meetings at all. Those assigned to meet with the senior employees had better performance reviews at the end of the summer and were more likely to receive job offers.
Typical proximity bias. But one other story shows how bad it can get:
When the Society for Human Resource Management surveyed managers about remote work last year, 42 percent reported that they often overlooked remote workers when handing out assignments — not for punitive or intentional reasons, Mr. Taylor said, but because they simply forgot about them.
They simply forgot about them. Talk about bad bosses.
I enjoyed hearing about Labryinthe, a co-working space based on all-mobile check-in/check-out. But the quote from Matt Gallagher is the reason I am posting this excerpt from Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner:
Plenty of New Yorkers would rather not be bothered with workplace culture at all. “There’s no better gift than being left alone,” said Matt Gallagher, a writer. Labyrinthe, in Williamsburg, has people like Mr. Gallagher in mind. The founder, Lyon Aung, and his partners, all recent college graduates with start-up aspirations, found that trying to work together in cafes was not sustainable. They also “didn’t vibe well,” Mr. Aung said, with more commercial co-working spaces like WeWork. The trio came up with the idea of individual pods, unlocked and rentable by the hour through users’ smartphones.
Feeling Ambivalent About Your Boss Hurts Your Performance Even More Than Disliking Them | Allan Lee, Geoff Thomas, Robin Martin, and Yves Guillaume (2018)
Research shows that when people have a good relationship with their leaders, they’re more motivated, they perform better, and they’re more likely to go the extra mile to support their team. […] Conversely, we know that when people don’t get along with their leaders, they tend to retaliate against them and the organization.
Why do ambivalent leader-follower relationships have such powerful negative effects on job performance? We argue it is because of a well-known social psychological process called “cognitive consistency,” which says that we tend to seek consistency in our thoughts and feelings and avoid inconsistency.
Enough About Climate Change. Air Pollution Is Killing Us Now. | Binyamin Appelbaum notes that a side effect of the pandemic and people WFH was a decline in heart attacks. The lower level of pollution because of the drop in commuting was responsible. So, commuting is a public health crisis, and business leaders should cease their efforts to get people back in the office. Full stop.