We all want to do work that matters. So what is the literal opposite of work that matters? Well, work that doesn’t matter. Work that is literally a waste of time, has no point to it, or is done twice. And the truth is that it isn’t employees that typically cause this violation of meaning; it’s their managers.
No one sets out to create rework and waste, and yet it happens.
Unclear or imprecise direction given up front is a culprit. As is a failure to get one’s chain of command aligned to something that will trigger substantive work.
Lack of respect for people’s time causes us to be late or engage in behaviors that effectively waste time. Lack of choice and a desire to exhaustively cover every angle leads to work that ultimately is done without a useful purpose. Indecision and insecurity play their part as well as does overreaction to new developments.
Creating rework and waste for others kills the sense of completion that human beings are deeply drawn to. It causes the deepest level of frustration because an employee can end up feeling like what they’ve been spending their time on is literally meaningless.
And I’m not referring to work that was ultimately discarded, but served as a valuable learning experience and stepping stone along the way. I’m talking about lazy behavior causing unnecessary rework and waste. Few things are more frustrating.
You can become an absolute champion to your employees (and I’m only slightly exaggerating) by no longer contributing to the creation of rework and waste. Do so by asking yourself these three “power questions”:
1. Do I have a clear brief for the work?
Businesses all the way from advertising agencies to military organizations require a clear brief for the “mission” before they get started.
What is the objective of the work you’re requesting? What are the expectations? Who is doing what? Are all the stakeholders of the work’s outcome aligned with the work to be done?
An undisciplined approach to the assignment of work will lead to great inefficiency and wasted effort and energy. I was a client of advertising agencies for many years and the most wasted, off-the-mark, frustrating creative work I reviewed could always be traced back to a lack of clarity in the creative brief. In such cases, it was unclear what we were really looking for and trying to accomplish with the new work in the first place.
2. Is the juice worth the squeeze?
Asking for work to “cover every angle” is not exhaustive thinking, it’s exhaustively lazy thinking. And it smacks of insecurity.
Each new piece of work requested should be carefully viewed through the filter of whether or not it’s truly worth doing–whether or not the juice is worth the squeeze.
And work that is meant to “cover bases” or weave a security blanket for an insecure manager is not worth doing. The bottom line here is that the work requestor has to realize they could be asking someone to do something that is literally meaningless.
Of course, you have to consider new information along the way that could trigger new or different work. However, this is about choosing not to do the easy thing by doing everything, but instead being disciplined to choose only the worthy things to work on. Such a mindset helps ensure no effort is wasted.
3. Am I acting with both a scarcity and abundance mentality?
People have limited time, resources, and energy. Respect for those scarcities should be abundant. Wasteful behavior causes missed opportunity for a sense of completion to be realized elsewhere.
It has been my experience that most workplaces suffer from a crisis-level lack of respect for resources (whether it’s time, physical/financial resources, or a person’s energy). Role-model respect for all three and expect that others do the same.
If you want to up your awesomeness-factor, it just takes a bit of work–to not create pointless work or waste others’ time.
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