Screw long hours — management needs to optimize resources

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jan 14

In tough economic times, we’re told by pundits that it is important for us to work longer hours. As if working longer hours will protect our jobs or help our employer achieve objectives.


Management’s responsibility is to delegate work and assign the tasks so that objectives can be met. Yet, the the reality of management practice today is that resources, time and effort are wasted. If we effectively utilized the resources we already have, we’d get an unsurprising (to me) increase in productivity.

Here is where management fails:

  • Provide 40-hours of work for each employee. I’m reluctant to focus on the time issue alone here, but management hasn’t figured this out, much less results only management. The reality, with vacations and some other utilization issues, is probably not exactly 40-hours, but studies have shown only four hours a day in some instances.
  • Never hold up the work flow. How many times have you been told that the task you are given is urgent — and then were put off meeting with your manager for needed help? Day after day after day after day. Sure, it was urgent. And now employees sit on their hands because their need for information isn’t met.
  • Reinventing the wheel after each reorganization. The amount of time and effort that goes into relentless reorganizations kill effectiveness in getting work done. A reorganization was done last week in a department of a company I’m familiar with and after the first meeting, nothing could be decided until higher levels of management made decisions. Sit on hands and wait.
  • Not setting baseline infrastructure. This is somewhat technology oriented, but how many projects are held up because the way data is defined in databases is different across the organization? For example, a report cannot be generated between two different databases because the naming conventions for the states here in the United States are not the same across the databases. Virginia? Commonwealth of Virginia? DC? District of Columbia? So we sit on our hands while the implications of naming conventions are researched forever. We can’t define the name of states the same way? Are you kidding? Nope.
  • I want the information reported out in this format. But not really. PowerPoint? Ah, no, now I want it in a Word document. Too complex? No, too simple; build in more reports. If knowledge work requires defining — and it does — management does a poor job defining the output to employees. So we do rework. And rework some more. The day before everything is due — resulting in long hours.

Management practices do more to hurt productivity than any long hours can make up. As Cubicle Warriors, we have to work around these poor management practices by asking questions, doing early follow-up of our work to catch poor definition work so as to avoid rework, and being persistent in meeting with the right people even though they put us off.

But the deal is this: management is responsible to effectively utilize resources to get work done. Employees shouldn’t have to go on a quest and a mission to get what needs to be done from management.

What other management practices have wasted your time?

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