What is your weekend guilty pleasure? Mine is reading the papers on Sunday morning. In my line of work, you need to enjoy reading. I have online newsfeeds, Twitter searches, Google alerts and several dozen other sources of news I read on a daily basis. But on Sunday, I read the paper; the actual newsprint and ink version. Some things are interesting, some sad, some funny and some just make you think.
On a recent Sunday, as I was flipping through the New York Times business pages, one article in particular caught my eye.
The article, titled "They Work Long Hours, but What About Results?" was an interesting piece by Robert Pozen. His thesis, of this article and his recent book, is that time on task is not a good predictor of results. Pozen, a lecturer at the Harvard Business School and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, goes on to provide some practical advice for improving results in the workplace. I was nodding my head in agreement when I read, "But a measurement system based on hours makes no sense for knowledge workers. Their contribution should be measured by the value they create through applying their ideas and skills."
The notion is that results and accomplishments are what drive an organization's success, not logged hours -- so how do we enforce management and office practices that encourage better results?
Prioritization, good communication between you and your boss, agreed upon metrics and restricting meetings to short durations and ensuring that everyone is prepared are some of Pozen's key concepts. He briefly talks about working from home as a potential benefit of this approach but also understands that not all work happens between 9 and 5.
Pozen talks about the need to be in the same room as your colleagues for brainstorming and other activities that benefit from physical interaction. However, he notes that these should not take up much of your time. Most meetings are a waste of time because they are unfocussed and most attendees are ill prepared. He also advises that you need to be selective in what you read, how you process information and how much time you spend trying to make things perfect.
From my perspective, his best piece of advice is that communication with your boss on expectations and definitions of success is as much your responsibility as it is your boss'. This is a key concept when you work in the office every day. But when you are not there, it's even more important to ensure that you both understand what is expected, how you will be measured, and what you have accomplished. This is good advice and important to consider as we explore the bounds of the new American work structure.