The biggest task is to sift through what’s urgent to find what’s important.
Jason starts up his presentation identifying three different areas related to work, which I thought were rather interesting: Room (where does work happen for you? At the office, at home, travelling, at a customer’s, at the airport, you name it); Object (basically, what we produce) and, finally, Time (When does work happen? Early in the morning, throughout the day or in the evening, on the weekends, etc. depending on how productive we may feel at those times). With that intro he moves on to claim that at the traditional office, the physical space, we no longer get to do work, but, instead, we have work moments.
We seemed to have moved into work in chunks, being constantly exposed to interruptions that could come from various different places. Now, this is something that I could certainly relate to. Back when I used to work from a physical location it used to take about 5 hours to commute to work (Back and forth), so typically I would have to get up really early in the morning to arrive at around 9:30am at the office, and as soon as I would get in I would be getting exposed to those work moments. My boss would come in, asked me to go with him for a coffee (to catch up or just chit chat at the coffee corner, or water cooler, whatever term you would want to use…), spend a few minutes talking to him, then I would go to my desk and right as I am sitting down to start my work, colleagues would come around to talk, once again, or go for another coffee. You know, the usual stuff you do with work colleagues when you first see them at the office in the morning…
From there onwards one thing leads to the other and before you realise, it’s lunch time. My lunch time. So by the time I could go and sit down at my desk to start doing my work it would be after 1pm in the afternoon; then meetings and conference calls would kick in and before you knew it off it goes your entire work day dedicated to stuff you probably could have done without just that day. But then you go on and keep working, before you go back home, because there are a number of tasks that need to be finished and you know you can’t leave them behind, just like that. So you end up doing a whole bunch of extra hours, just because of those interruptions giving you back only a few work moments. Does that situation ring a bell? I bet it does, specially, if you are one of those knowledge workers who still gets to go the traditional office. So here is a question for you… when does work happen for you in that scenario?
So why do we keep insisting then on commuting to the office, when we all know that we are not the most productive during that time, specially with those interruptions kicking in time and time again? Why do we keep insisting on measuring knowledge workers’ performance by their sheer physical presence, as opposed to the results delivered on tasks accomplished? Why do we keep on distrusting our knowledge workforce to do their job properly, when we know that in the first place we have hired professionals who know they need to be just that: professional? When are we going to start trusting them to be more responsible for what they do on a day to day basis? Isn’t it about time we shift gears, change our corporate chips and inspire an open, collaborative work environment where knowledge workers take more control, AND responsibility, for what they do … and let them do their thing?
What’s interesting though from his presentation is to watch him talk about what he feels are the real problems; what Jason calls M&Ms (No, nothing to do with chocolate! hehe); what he refers to as “Managers and Meetings“. Apparently, manager’s job is that one of interrupting people at the wrong time; also perhaps calling up meetings when they shouldn’t. All of these are toxic, terrible, poisonous events managers do, because hardly any knowledge worker would eventually do that. According to him, and it is not the first time I have seen / read about it, meetings are very expensive to the business provoking those very same interruptions!
This is when it gets really fascinating in the presentation itself, because he comes up forward proposing some solutions as to how we could help our businesses reduce a large chunk of those meetings, and interruptions, happening while at work so that we can continue having a go at it and do what we need to do: work. He comes to propose that instead of scheduling a meeting people could start making heavier use of both traditional and emerging collaborative, knowledge sharing and social software tools to get the job done. Now this is something that some folks may consider silly, yet, in my own experience, it’s tremendously powerful and relatively easy to achieve.
That’s exactly what Jason suggested in this TED Talk as well, when talking about what can managers do to help prevent this ever increasing lack of productivity and frustration altogether from their employees. He proposes three different solutions to start tackling a new way of getting work done:
- Ever heard of Casual Fridays? … Well, how about No Talk Thursdays? (Or whatever other day of the week)
- Cancel the next meeting! (Yes, that one! The next one you are about to start up! There is a great chance that things will continue to roll on without it, so why have it in the first place?!)
- Embrace passive methods of collaboration (Moving away from active collaboration)
So how about you? Can you, too, live in a world without meetings? At least, can you see yourself reducing the ridiculously high number of meetings we all seem to keep attending time and time again and instead start relying more and more on other passive methods of collaboration, longer periods of hard thinking and perhaps a stronger sense of being more effective and, why not, efficient altogether? At the end of the day, I guess it’s all about working smarter, not necessarily harder, and somehow I sense that social software tools will be helping us out achieve a whole lot more, with a whole lot less … effort! And that can only be a good thing, don’t you think? Specially, if it allows you to cancel your next meeting!