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They Work Long Hours, But What About Results?

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the management-types-prefer-inaccurate-precision dept.

Businesses 285

theodp writes "HBS lecturer Robert C. Pozen says it's high time for management to stop emphasizing hours over results. By viewing those employees who come in over the weekend or stay late in the evening as more 'committed' and 'dedicated' to their work, as a UC Davis study showed, managers create a perverse incentive to not be efficient and get work done during normal business hours. 'It's an unfortunate reality that efficiency often goes unrewarded in the workplace,' writes Pozen. 'Focusing on results rather than hours will help you accomplish more at work and leave more time for the rest of your life.'"

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If I don't have a list of jobs to do, (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577351)

I just go home for the day.
If I do have stuff to do, I'll work until night time if I'm feeling good about it.

Re:If I don't have a list of jobs to do, (3, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 2 years ago | (#41577481)

I just go home for the day.

You are lazy! If you were a committed employee, you'd stay and read Slashdot instead! :-)

Re:If I don't have a list of jobs to do, (0)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#41578163)

I just stay at home and read Slashdot.

I'm better than both of you!

Re:If I don't have a list of jobs to do, (5, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | about 2 years ago | (#41577533)

Well, if you worked for me and you left an hour or two early from time to time I'd have no problem with that. But in general I expect people who work for me to spend down time "sharpening their saw" by doing research and experimentation. So if you routinely had nothing to do for several hours a day, I'd expect you to find something to do that'll make you awesome on the next big project. If you didn't find something like that, I would. In that kind of work environment a few hours of "mental health leave" couple of weeks is no big deal, as long as you're doing a good job and getting better at it.

When I managed a development team I recognized that the occasional all-nighter or weekend session was necessary,but I had a policy that my guys had to take comp time *right away*, within a day or two. That wasn't popular; they liked the idea of comp time, but they'd have preferred to bank it. But the point wasn't to compensate them for their extra effort -- they were salaried employees -- it was to make sure when they were at work their minds were sharp.

I believe an engineering team needs three things: skill, energy and focus. "Dedication" is neither here nor there as far as I'm concerned, at least if by that you mean some kind of sentimental attachment to the organization. If you have the big three, you'll get whatever else you need. Too many managers don't manage, they work out a personal psychodrama in which there are good employees and bad employees. To me that's baloney, unless an employee is "good" if and only if he contributes to productivity and "bad" if and only if he does not. An employee who suffers unproductively for the company is neurotic, no matter what else you choose to call him, and shouldn't be encouraged to do that.

Re:If I don't have a list of jobs to do, (5, Insightful)

hazah (807503) | about 2 years ago | (#41578165)

As one on the recieving end of such treatment, all I can say is thank you for seeing the light. As I'm constantly able to use my "free" time to do research on random subjects, more often than I tend to read about different aspects of what I'm tasked on. Each day brings new insight as a result. This allows me to constantly be a number of steps ahead on my approach on each new project. It is a balancing act, and you have to be careful not to over do it, but having the freedom to make such decisions had been invaluable to me as a tool of self improvement. I would even say it had worked for me to do this whenever a mental break was required. A 5 minute read on an equally important though currently unrelated topic is enough time to step away from a problem to refresh yourself and see it in a slightly new way. Our greatest mistake is to treat human beings as machines and expect them to thrive.

Measuring results (5, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 2 years ago | (#41577353)

Judging employees by results is great, if you have a good way to measure results.

This is notoriously difficult in creative, team efforts such a software development.

Re:Measuring results (5, Insightful)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 years ago | (#41577395)

Its not really. Specifications -> result. That does depend on having a manager sufficiently on the ball to have constant contact with sales and marketing though, and able to tell them that scope creep will cost more and slow things down.

Really I'm amazed that results based metrics aren't standard everywhere, I've worked with companies where management doesn't care when people show up as long as they meet their milestones. A company that puts "time at your desk" before "results" will be eaten by one that has the two in the correct order.

Re:Measuring results (4, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#41577459)

This is notoriously difficult in creative, team efforts such a software development.

Its not really. Specifications -> result. That does depend on having a manager sufficiently on the ball

In other words, yes it is.

Or do you work at that place with nowhere to park your car, because it has a unicorn paddock in front?

Re:Measuring results (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577693)

This is notoriously difficult in creative, team efforts such a software development.

Its not really. Specifications -> result. That does depend on having a manager sufficiently on the ball

In other words, yes it is.

Or do you work at that place with nowhere to park your car, because it has a unicorn paddock in front?

Our car park looks like a scene from The Walking Dead.

Re:Measuring results (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 years ago | (#41578157)

That doesn't even make any sense. I mean, none. Unless you mean the manager isn't part of the team, in which case I'm not surprised you're throwing darts at a calendar for delivery estimates.

Re:Measuring results (4, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 2 years ago | (#41577543)

Its not really. Specifications -> result. That does depend on having a manager sufficiently on the ball to have constant contact with sales and marketing though, and able to tell them that scope creep will cost more and slow things down.

Really I'm amazed that results based metrics aren't standard everywhere, I've worked with companies where management doesn't care when people show up as long as they meet their milestones. A company that puts "time at your desk" before "results" will be eaten by one that has the two in the correct order.

A number of real-world issues can and do stymie your proposal:

  • Specs change mid-project.
  • Developers are often given fewer resources than they say is necessary for a job.
  • Sometimes original project plans fail to anticipate technical problems that will be discovered as the software is being designed and/or validated.

In my experience, the best "metric" is having a seasoned software development managers, who's well versed in the details of the project and knows the software developers, to rate each programmer relative to the expectations of that programmer's position.

Re:Measuring results (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577779)

It is for those reasons that I, as a manager, hire as many blacks as possible. When you have a lot of blacks on your team, you can intimidate other departments into doing your work for you. You don't even have to ask the other departments explicitly, you just have all of the blacks on your team look really squinty and mean, and at least one of your blacks should menacingly tap his ashy palm with a length of pipe or perhaps a baseball bat. The software industry is dominated by docile, effeminate white men who will dare not cause a stir.

That's why I hire only the biggest, blackest, meanest, most tatted-up thugs on this side of the train tracks. As President Franklin Roosevelt said, "Speak softly but carry a big pipe."

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:Measuring results (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41578003)

Sometimes original project plans fail to anticipate technical problems that will be discovered as the software is being designed and/or validated.

And that is exactly the reason you hire experienced developers. It's one of my standard selling points when trying to land a new contract....basically, yes you can hire some hot-shot script-kiddie fresh out of school at half my price, but they won't be able to anticipate design issues, integration issues, roll-out issues, training concerns, etc.

Re:Measuring results (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 years ago | (#41578141)

"and able to tell them that scope creep will cost more and slow things down"

Too few resources and unanticipated setbacks should have been padded out beforehand to be honest. As someone once said, if I had six hours to cut down a tree, I'd spend four hours sharpening the axe. If that doesn't happen, its a management failure.

Re:Measuring results (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577687)

what are these "specifications" you speak of..?

Seriously. In order to measure performance the way you suggest, you have to have specs to start with. They have to be complete . And they can't change at the drop of a hat . I've been writing software for nearly 20 years and this has never been the case anywhere I've worked.

Re:Measuring results (2)

houghi (78078) | about 2 years ago | (#41577841)

A company that puts "time at your desk" before "results" will be eaten by one that has the two in the correct order.

One also does not exclude the other. If you put results before time at your desk, that will end in people working double shifts for the same pay.
Now this might be great for the company and the shareholders, but not for the people working there. Some will move away to companies that have a better work/home balance and others will burn out and become less productive.

The other way obviously is also not an option, as then people would be doing nothing while at the office.

So instead of picking one, pick both of them and see that they are equal. When I look at the evaluation forms we have, I see several KPIs. Time at your desk and results are both on it, as well as others.

Re:Measuring results (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 2 years ago | (#41577425)

if you have a good way to measure results

True statement. On the other hand, judging results by now many hours were worked is easy but notoriously inaccurate.

Re:Measuring results (5, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#41577681)

On the other hand, judging results by now many hours were worked is easy

Actually that's quite hard.

Measuring how many hours they were present, that's easy.

Re:Measuring results (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577499)

So what you're saying is that management has a real job to do, and that the managers need to have an actual clue about what they're doing?

Yeah, I can see how this doesn't work out very well in most companies.

Teams and goals (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#41577545)

Why not just judge the team itself then, and let the immediate manager for that team decide who is valuable? A team will have goals that fit somewhere into the broader organizational goals; individuals on the team can advance those goals in different ways.

Let's say, as an example, that you have two programmers on a team, Alice and Bob. Alice writes large amounts of code, which has few bugs and which works consistently, and she is an expert in the languages and libraries that are used by the team. Bob is not great at writing code and does not have the language expertise that Alice has, but he is great at solving problems and figuring out what code needs to be written. If Bob is not around, Alice produces less because she is not as good at problem solving; if Alice is not around, Bob tries to write the code and does a terrible job. Can you really say that one of these employees is "better" or "more valuable" than the other? What about Catherine, the person who is a mediocre coder and a mediocre problem solver, but who is great at keeping the team's morale up and who can help motivate people to meet deadlines (but who is not officially in a management position, and who maybe lacks the qualifications when it comes to organizing budgets or making tough hiring or firing decisions)?

Re:Teams and goals (2)

chthon (580889) | about 2 years ago | (#41577595)

+1 Insightful

+a story everyone should read [leanessays.com] !

Re:Teams and goals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577659)

Not sure I'd call it insightful. This is the situation with every team; different people always have different strengths and weaknesses. It's also one reason Agile rarely works the way the "experts" say it should (everyone is supposed to know all about the project and can pick up any task - just doesn't happen in real life).

Re:Measuring results (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577903)

It's just too haaard! Why can't I just judge on appearances and superficialities. It's soooo much easier. I didn't. Evoke a manager to do hard work!

Re:Measuring results (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about 2 years ago | (#41577911)

That may be the case but that doesn't mean we should just stick with a flawed method of judging people based on hours put in just because it can be hard to judge people based on results.

Re:Measuring results (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 2 years ago | (#41577961)

That may be the case but that doesn't mean we should just stick with a flawed method of judging people based on hours put in just because it can be hard to judge people based on results.

Agreed. I think the best measure we've found is to have a manager who both is a seasoned software developer and is well-versed in the project on which the staff are working.

Re:Measuring results (1)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#41578041)

Sure it is. That is supposedly why managers get the big bux. If they want to just phone it in by using metrics like staying late or lines of code, they should take a pay cut and surrender their MBA.

News at 11: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577357)

You mean if you set clear goals and not force people to sit at their desks and pretend to work they'll be more productive? Tell me more. And tell my boss.

Re:News at 11: (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577835)

FILM at 11. It's Film at 11. We've just had the news. Watch the Kentucky Fried Movie ffs.

Double edge-sword (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577365)

While the author of the article seems to lean into this approach with the target of maybe working less hours, a results-based way of working can also have disadvantages: working more hours than the stipulated (to try to achieve visible results, or just better-looking results), burnout because of the latter, etc.

Coding is just what it is: knowledge discoverability. Sometimes you discover it very quickly, sometimes you don't find it. The only good management technique I know is: hire the best people, and then trust them. Don't measure neither hours nor results.

Re:Double edge-sword (2)

tooyoung (853621) | about 2 years ago | (#41577643)

You're certainly right, but managers still form a perception based on how much they see people working. Case in point - I tend to work a 8-5. Many of my coworkers used to work 9-6. No problem with that at all, except my manager fell into the 9-6 camp. From his point of view, I was the guy who always left first. I don't think it ever occurred to him that I was always at work an hour before everyone else, including him. I remember at one point him making a comment like "yeah, you do get more done than everyone else, but imagine if you put in the time that they did."

Re:Double edge-sword (1)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | about 2 years ago | (#41577757)

Yes at the Dilbert school of management they teach that there are no diminishing returns to hours, and that all employees arrive at most :30 before the manager.

One way to do this... (4, Funny)

edibobb (113989) | about 2 years ago | (#41577375)

Measure performance based on lines of code put online. That should help efficiency.

Re:One way to do this... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577403)

I've found that sometimes the best coders are actually the ones that remove more lines of code, not add.

Re:One way to do this... (4, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 2 years ago | (#41577491)

Great. Measure productivity by least lines of code written. ;-)

Re:One way to do this... (4, Funny)

IceNinjaNine (2026774) | about 2 years ago | (#41577711)

Great. Measure productivity by least lines of code written. ;-)

I'm picturing this confluence of side effects, obfuscated C, and monkey patching ending in some sort of miniature black hole that envelopes the Earth.

Suck that, strangelets! ;)

Re:One way to do this... (1)

Mystra_x64 (1108487) | about 2 years ago | (#41578045)

Do you really want more one-liners? :}

Re:One way to do this... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577439)

Please don't say stupid things like this, good commits often have negative net lines of code per commit.

Re:One way to do this... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577441)

Mod parent up as funny, its obviously sarcasm. Anybody in the software development side for any length of time knows that sloc is complete bullshit.

Re:One way to do this... (1)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#41577469)

So you prefer to have CGI apps written in assembly language?

Re:One way to do this... (3, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#41577705)

It's more readable than perl and less bug prone than PHP.

Re:One way to do this... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577729)

Why use assembly? You would do even better with Java.

Re:One way to do this... (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | about 2 years ago | (#41577853)

Measure performance based on lines of code put online. That should help efficiency.

But I code in Perl you insensitive clod!

Re:One way to do this... (5, Funny)

DarthBart (640519) | about 2 years ago | (#41577929)

Nobody "codes" in Perl. Perl programs are written by eating a bag of alphabet pasta and then chasing it with ipecac.

Not all companies are the same (5, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | about 2 years ago | (#41577381)

I know someone who some years ago started work in a Scandinavian company. He then started staying back late (everyone else left mostly on time).

After a few days the boss came to him and asked him:
1) Is there a problem with the project? Are there enough people and resources allocated for it?
2) Does he need extra training to do his job?
3) Is the job a good fit for him?

So he stopped staying late just for the sake of staying late ;).

Re:Not all companies are the same (2, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 2 years ago | (#41577565)

Dear sir,

If this company is till in business, please let us know its name, and whether or not they're hiring.

Sincerely,
98% of the programmers on the planet.

Re:Not all companies are the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577629)

Dear nosy boss,

Butt-off.
If I want to procrastinate all day long, then finish my work at 3am - let me.
I do my best when the muses descend, not when the clocks ring.

Respectfully,
98% of creative thinkers on the planet (yes, including the 20% programmers who are also creative thinkers).

Re:Not all companies are the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577861)

Dear procrastinator, do it at home. Watching porn at work is a company liability

Re:Not all companies are the same (5, Informative)

houghi (78078) | about 2 years ago | (#41577775)

This is basically every company I worked for in Europe. If you do 2-5 hours of overtime a week it will be much. That is 30 minutes to 1 hour per day.

Where I work now, when I do one hour overtime, my manager comes to me and asks when I want to take that hour back and go home early or come in late.

If there are 2 people working 60 hours a week, it could also be 3 people working 40 and most likely more efficient as they won't be burned out.

Now you could say that if I would work 60 hours instead of 40, I could earn 50% more. (Not true, but let us assume that) I still would not be willing to do that, because I work to live. I do not live to work. This is also understood by all the bosses I have had and they do the same.

Yes, most of the companies made money and some lost money, just like any other business in the world.

Re:Not all companies are the same (2)

oji-sama (1151023) | about 2 years ago | (#41578081)

A close friend was on a few working trips to the U.S. He described the way of working inefficient and hazardous to health. During one such trip they were literally prevented from leaving in reasonable hours, which reduced their efficiency after the first day. He got lucky and had a meeting elsewhere on fourth day and managed (with the permission from his boss abroad) to just rest during the evening. The next day he managed to solve several of their problems, but the local boss was still furious when he heard that he had been resting.

Re:Not all companies are the same (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577805)

Actually, I would say that this sounds like most Scandinavian companies. I live in Finland, and you're not expected to put in more than your 7-8h per day. Mandatory time tracking systems will not allow you to put in more hours than you're getting paid for, and if you do, you have to keep that time off work. The company can even be fined if you work too much overtime, so it is in the company's interest to make sure you don't work too much.

Whenever we get new foreign people here, they think they can impress with working long hours. But they learn quickly. And working weekends, that's a completely unknown concept. For example, if you work on a Sunday, the company have to pay you up to 400% of your normal salary. I can count on one hand then number of times I've been called in for emergency work during weekends during the past 10 years. I'm a senior developer for a quite critical system.

So, welcome! We have a quite advanced technology sector and practically everyone speaks fluent English here.

I've heard about it too (2)

satuon (1822492) | about 2 years ago | (#41577393)

A colleague of mine used to work for a company where he would be criticized for not staying late with the others when deadlines were looming, even though he had already finished his part long before.

How do you get work done during business hours? (2)

rrohbeck (944847) | about 2 years ago | (#41577415)

With the constant meetings, phone calls and emails, how do you ever get some serious code written?
Many of our group work either very early or very late, and often a bit on the weekend.

Re:How do you get work done during business hours? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41578047)

If you don't have time during your work day to do...you know...work, then that's a failure of management. Why are you donating time to the company just because the management they hire is an utter failure? People like you are the reason these worthless management people continue to hold their jobs in the first place, and it leads to some really warped and twisted expectations of what is to be expected of you and your peers.

As one of your peers, I'm telling you to knock it off.

here in america (4, Insightful)

nimbius (983462) | about 2 years ago | (#41577421)

I measure "the rest of my life" in special "vacation time" hours tracked in a database to which i havent any access. I withdraw "vacation hours" to enjoy my life, and in turn the company I work for doesnt fire me for "the rest of my life" on their time.
these hours, due to the nature of my salaried employment, are however competely subjectively interpreted and at any time i can be called to work during them. The hours outside of $start_time and $end_time for my job are also rather nonexistent. In the literal words of my boss, "we can call you anytime we want." So the problem with "work smarter not longer" is the fact that it is entirely antithetical to the structural composition of "salaried employment."

Re:here in america (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41578083)

You're either selling your time or you're selling results. Either way your boss' contention that they can call you whenever they want is bullshit unless they do it with cash in their hands and the willingness to accept "no" as an answer.

Jesus...why are programmer-type people such fucking pussies? It makes it damned hard for us non-pussies to stomach this industry for very long.

Re:here in america (3, Informative)

Kjella (173770) | about 2 years ago | (#41578093)

We have salaried employment here in Norway too for leading and particularly independent positions, you just wouldn't qualify for one.

If they're either a) counting hours or b) tie you to a partially or wholly fixed work schedule or c) expect you to be on call when they want you to work, you're disqualified. Of course they can expect you to show up for meetings or such, but if you're explicitly or implicitly tied to office hours the employer can find themselves at the wrong end of a lawsuit for back pay. In the same vein if you can only work at the office you're disqualified, if they don't acknowledge work in places they don't control you're not independent. Third and probably the biggest is that you choose your work, if you're assigned specific work instead of areas of responsibility you're not independent either.

In the US, I have the impression that making you a salaried employee is almost unconditionally an advantage for the employers, a lot less employee rights and practically no extra restrictions. In Norway, it's a lot more that you can't both have your cake and eat it too. If you want to make your employees independent, you lose a lot of the control that employers normally like to have. Thus it becomes much more of a balancing act, is this really the kind of employee you'd trust to just do good work on their own? If so here's your paycheck, you're not getting overtime or domestic travel costs and you're off the corporate leash but we'll of course be following up on the results you deliver.

Them Harvard guys (3, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#41577437)

Them Harvard guys don't miss a thing, do they?

But if you're a lawyer... (5, Insightful)

randalotto (1206870) | about 2 years ago | (#41577455)

The incentives are even worse if you're a lawyer. Inefficiency not only makes you look better for working long hours, but it objectively is better from the perspective of your employer. The more hours you work, the more you can charge the client. You solved a problem in 10 minutes because you're smart, know how to research and/or have worked on something like this before? Well shit... we were hoping it'd take 10 hours of research at $400/hour. The billable hour is terrible.

Re:But if you're a lawyer... (2)

SuurMyy (1003853) | about 2 years ago | (#41577639)

Why not just go home or take care of your own business after solving the client's issue in 10 minutes? Don't take the billable hour too seriously.

Re:But if you're a lawyer... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577987)

>Don't take the billable hour too seriously.

Spoken like someone who, if working in a law firm, would never stand a chance of making partner, hence the real $$$. And, yes, most lawyers are in it for the $$$.

Re:But if you're a lawyer... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577999)

You've obviously never billed for your time. Your options are a) bill more than the time you spent, up to the "standard" or b) do more work to make up for the lost time. Many, many law firms and the like judge you solely based on your billing. Hell, a lot of them do the same thing to paralegals, who by definition do both billable and non-billable tasks. Have to do a non-billable task? Oh well, better make up for it by finishing billable tasks faster and billing for the "standard" amount.

It's sickening.

Re:But if you're a lawyer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577823)

or if you are a consultant. I tend to get work done faster than what the person who wrote the scope thought it should take.

Now, my bonus is on how profitable I am over my internal cost to the company. That is directly tied to billable hours and we only bill for hours worked. So in fact I am actually penalized for being good and working smarter.

Trying to get them to move to a partial fixed bid structure, where I would realize all of the scoped hours for a project even if I only work half of them.

Re:But if you're a lawyer... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577843)

Its just as bad as an hourly IT consultant. Fixed an MBR virus in 10 minutes because you know how to use offline removal tools? Shucks, the new guy billed 5 hours for that-- cant you do better like he does?

Re:But if you're a lawyer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577847)

They need a minimum fee for each case. Even with someone doing the job within 10 minutes will still earn the company 6 hours. Now you might be wondering that's loss of 4 hours worth of billable hours but that same guy will doing solving more cases before the day is over. Which will make the firm more money than usual run of the mill "milkmen". I'm in a entirely different field but it can't be that different how things work. Sometimes my boss does chide about not milking the contract a bit more but I know how much the firm makes from my time so they can't complain.

Re:But if you're a lawyer... (1)

lazarith (2649605) | about 2 years ago | (#41577879)

The incentives are exactly the same for software developers in my experience. The company can bill the client for number of hours worked, or at the very least can use this "metric" as a price haggling point.

Re:But if you're a lawyer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577895)

Most of the billable hours are for researching the background, old court cases etc. and are done by others in the law firm that are not affected by the lawyer's efficiency.

Lawyers also take a cut on a win in court should there be any money involved. One could conceivable make up for billable hours by that easily. There is also the reputation of # of case won which can increase the per hour fees.

Unless the "efficiency" is how good the lawyer convince the would be client to give up and settle or not go to court...

One mark of a bad company... (5, Interesting)

cptdondo (59460) | about 2 years ago | (#41577457)

I worked for a company that based your annual bonus on the amount of overtime you put in. Not productive, mind you, just hours. At the end of the year, they would tally up the hours you worked, and those with the most hours at their desk got the biggest bonuses.

Being new to this, I asked my boss: "If I do everything right, and my project never needs rework, and my clients are happy, and all my projects are profitable, and I go home on time every day, will I get a bonus?" "No."

"If I screw up, my projects are late and over budget, and I'm working a lot of hours because my clients are pissed at the low quality of work I do, and my projects constantly lose money because I'm an idiot, will I get a bonus?" "Yes."

True to form, my bonus for the year was $50, in spite of being one of the most profitable employees in the organization. I left shortly thereafter.

Re:One mark of a bad company... (2)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 2 years ago | (#41577589)

Bummer that you had to stay there long-enough to get that check.

Re:One mark of a bad company... (5, Funny)

cptdondo (59460) | about 2 years ago | (#41577825)

It was actually pretty funny. Our team had cultivated our clients and we were quite profitable. We got bought by this other company with the bonus plan. Pretty much all of us quit within a year.

At bonus time, one of our more outspoken engineers opened his bonus envelope, marched into the manager's office, slapped it on his desk, and yelled: "What am I supposed to do with this? Take my wife to McDonalds?" I hadn't laughed that hard since.

Re:One mark of a bad company... (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 2 years ago | (#41577881)

Ah, the joys of working for f'ed up companies. Good times, good times...

Ya far too many of those (2)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 2 years ago | (#41578155)

I have a friend who doesn't work for a company that does bonuses like that, but still is a "moar hours = moar better" kind of place. My friend is a nice guy but... not as competent as one might hope. Back when we both worked at the same place another co-worker described him as someone who "Broke down big rocks in to little rocks and then glued the rocks back together." Basically he has a lot of enthusiasm, but ends up spending a lot of time fixing problems he created by not having a good understanding what he was doing and being careful.

Well he keeps trying to convince me to come work for his new company. He is so happy because he makes a lot more money. They also think he's one of their best employees. That right there tells me all I need to know, and that I'd hate it. He's the kind of guy who will work 10-12 hour days 6-7 days a week. However much of that time is spent fixing problems he created. He replaces finesse with brute force. He does get things done, but no faster than someone "works smarter" to steal a management cliche and often slower.

The reason they think he's great is because he's always at work. He's a "hard worker". They value face time, not results. That is all kinds of not my place. I want a place, and work at a place, that is happy if you can solve a problem quickly and efficiently.

Stupidity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577473)

As usual...this says more about the stupidity of management than anything else. I still wait for the day when western society give up the idea of having todays system of "managers" that don't know shit about what's happening around them. It's an ancient philosophy about how to run business...and it's plain stupid.

Working Smarter is rewarded (1)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | about 2 years ago | (#41577479)

by being told to work harder as well.

well... (1)

buddyglass (925859) | about 2 years ago | (#41577497)

The set of employees that has come in to work extra hours is almost surely more "willing to work extra hours when necessary" than the set of employees who have never worked extra hours (including, potentially, because they've never needed to.) On the other hand, the "extra hours" probably also contains a higher percentage of "people who can't budget their time well enough to finish things within the time planned." As a manager I'd certainly count overall productivity as one of my main concerns, but I might value an employee with lower "average" productivity but who is better able to accommodate spikes than the employee whose average productivity is higher but who is unwilling to make any personal sacrifice during extenuating circumstances. And that seems perfectly reasonable.

So true (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577509)

Where I work it is enough to keep saying you are so incredibly busy :). No counting needed, they dont even keep track :).

Part of an age-old problem (1)

GerryGilmore (663905) | about 2 years ago | (#41577519)

That is, most managers will focus on the metrics that are easy to measure (like hours worked, say) as opposed to the metrics that matter (quality, supportability, etc.)

Re:Part of an age-old problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577581)

Yes but knowing what counts is what makes you a millionaire,

similar issue. Open Plan (1)

gigne (990887) | about 2 years ago | (#41577601)

I work in an open plan office. While this allows me to see what is happening, and make sure my employees are happy and productive, it means I get no peace.

I have recently started to time the intervals between me actually getting any work done. Last Tuesday I went for 12 minutes without someone coming and asking something.

While I don't mind answering and helping people, it means I get none of my actual own work done. Sometimes I just need an hour to get x done without interruption. Often times this leads to me taking work home with me.

I might make a rule that if I have a traffic cone on my head, you can't disturb me.

Re:similar issue. Open Plan (2)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about 2 years ago | (#41577689)

Thought here: if you have that much of a problem with an open-plan office, do you really think your employees are any more satisfied with it than you are? I'm fairly sure they're having the same problem you have, with the same consequences for their work.

Re:similar issue. Open Plan (1)

gigne (990887) | about 2 years ago | (#41577733)

Absolutely. Don't get me wrong, though; I do like open plan for the most part. I just don't like how convenient it makes everyone.
It would be nice if we had a walled off quiet zone where you could go and sit to get actual work done. I'm sure there are better alternatives.

Re:similar issue. Open Plan (2)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about 2 years ago | (#41577755)

I've always though the opposite: it'd be nice if the default were individual offices where people could concentrate on the work at hand without disruption, with open shared workspaces available when needed. Especially with things like webcams for occasions when you need face-to-face with someone and don't need to leave the office.

Re:similar issue. Open Plan (2)

mhotchin (791085) | about 2 years ago | (#41578051)

Don't we call those areas 'offices'?

Re:similar issue. Open Plan (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 2 years ago | (#41577791)

So get rid of the open office plan ... now you have to answer 150 emails everyday instead of working.

I am in favor of the open office plan because I see more employees wasting time emailing than working. Grow a pair and put a DND sign taped to the top of your monitor.

Re:similar issue. Open Plan (1)

gigne (990887) | about 2 years ago | (#41577829)

You make a good point. At least I can ignore emails until I am ready...
I will grow a pair and get a sign I guess ;)

This assumes we should care (4, Insightful)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 2 years ago | (#41577617)

about the long or even short term well being of workers. If you subscribe to this line of thought you're looking at workers as an asset. That plays well with workers that want to believe they're irreplaceable. Fact is, there's so many people in the Global Economy that you can easily find a worker that can do those kind of hours productively. Sure, he/she burns out. But again, Global Economy. Supply and Demand. There's a huge over supply of workers in a Global Economy, and always will be. And you don't have to train. Desperate workers will train on their own time and their own dime. A lot (most) will be crushed but the debt and stress. But as an employer in a modern, high productivity workplace the 10% that survive are more than enough.

I guess my point is, don't count on your boss caring about your productivity dropping as your hours increase. If you trip and fall there's 100 guys waiting to overtake you in the race to the bottom that is supply side economics...

Japan's lost decade is a good example (3, Interesting)

Kagato (116051) | about 2 years ago | (#41577645)

In Japan white collar workers are expected to stay late, even if they are out of work and are just looking busy. It's the total opposite of the Japanese blue collar factory worker experience. A lot of folks think the faux productivity has kept them from getting out of their financial woes. The article focuses on hourly billable jobs like lawyers but a lot of it apply to poor eastern management styles. In particular the focus on reading and writing memo and BS paperwork. There's a lot of rote BS work that goes on.

On the hand I quite enjoy working as an hourly computer consultant. I think my focus is results and I think things like iterative design really shift the focus from hours to what you got done. That brings a lot of value to the client in the end. But there are a lot of consulting companies out there where the focus is utilization and bill (mostly seen in creative services such as Marketing IT or off-shore consulting).

Re:Japan's lost decade is a good example (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41578049)

In Japan white collar workers are expected to stay late, even if they are out of work and are just looking busy. It's the total opposite of the Japanese blue collar factory worker experience. A lot of folks think the faux productivity has kept them from getting out of their financial woes. The article focuses on hourly billable jobs like lawyers but a lot of it apply to poor eastern management styles. In particular the focus on reading and writing memo and BS paperwork. There's a lot of rote BS work that goes on.

On the hand I quite enjoy working as an hourly computer consultant. I think my focus is results and I think things like iterative design really shift the focus from hours to what you got done. That brings a lot of value to the client in the end. But there are a lot of consulting companies out there where the focus is utilization and bill (mostly seen in creative services such as Marketing IT or off-shore consulting).

one data point does not of speak for the whole country, but I did software development for a year at a Japanese company, and they hardly worked overtime due to the fact that they didn't have a lot of orders for their factory robots during the time I was there. They in fact were told to go home since there was nothing to do.

That's a bit a problem (2)

angryfirelord (1082111) | about 2 years ago | (#41577669)

Because that would require management to do their job instead of trying to justify their 6-figure salaries. Personally, I'd say the reason why labor is exploited for overtime is because of the exempt salary [flsa.com] provision in the law. Remove the exempt portion of it so all employees are covered by the overtime rules and such. That way, if managers think you need to be there beyond 8 hours, they'll pay you for it. Right now, if management tells me that I need to "work until the job is done", they are free to do so without providing anything extra for it.

Re:That's a bit a problem (0)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 2 years ago | (#41577811)

The corporations write the laws. Not us. Google and Apple made sure that was in there so we have to deal with our masters.

The managers know this they have a heart. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577739)

Without me letting them have the hours most of my employees would not be able to survive and I would not have a good employee.
When big jobs come in I can count on them to get it done some weekend pay be damned If I could double their pay and let them stay home more I would but me and you know that is not going to happen.
Sssh dont tell no one.

Nuclear power and long work hours (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577741)

That's why I got canned. I didn't work weekends unless it was mandatory. Why should I expect to spend about 60-75% of my weekends per year working overtime because my boss refuses to hire enough employees so he'll look good at "cost cutting"? That number is accurate for 2 years that I measured it.

But what did my counterpart do? He sat and watched Youtube videos for about 2-3 hours every day, and even more time on weekends. Who cared if you produced output or not if you're working overtime? That's the only metric *shiver* a "leading provider of nuclear power in the US" uses. He got caught once, so he bought earbuds so he could make sure nobody else heard the videos playing over his speakers. Don't get me wrong, they totally make up a system to benchmark you against your peers. But if schedule starts falling behind they won't look at the output numbers. They go straight to the overtime charts to see who has and who hasn't worked them. If you haven't, YOU are clearly the reason they're behind. They never consider the boss to be to blame because he would know better. Next time you get evaluated, guess what they remember most? That YOU held up a project and your potential pay raise and bonus go down the drain.

He screwed up ALOT of things too. Some of them impacted safety. Guess who had to fix them? Not him. And guess who had to spend stupendous amounts of time fixing his mistakes. Not him.

There's a reason why I don't live near that companies power plants anymore.

What's even more interesting is that I've always been a proponent of nuclear power. But I'm really questioning whether companies can be trusted enough to safely operate a nuclear plant. Would YOU trust a company like Microsoft or Apple to properly maintain and operate a nuclear reactor?

Norway leads the way. (1)

MindPrison (864299) | about 2 years ago | (#41577813)

In Norway, work hours are 34 hours a week. And yet Norway have some of the highest salaries in the world, some of the least unemployment and they are amongst the happiest people in the world as well.

Why? I'm pretty sure that is because they do reward efficiency rather than how many hours you put in.
In Sweden it's the other way around, here they work 40-45 hours a week, and people sometimes feel miserable over the long working hours.

Of course, this is a problem that relates to the country you live in. Take a poor garbage man in a 3rd world country, he earns perhaps 4 dollars each day and his working hours are from 6 in the morning to 1 in the night, compared to him - we live a life of luxury. What makes us miserable though, is that we KNOW that life COULD be better, and we tend to envy those more fortunate than ourselves.

I'm a very efficient graphics artist, but that doesn't get me more pay, my boss only knows me for this speed, and if I slowed down I'd save on my already worn wrists, but he'd only focus on that then, I'd be out of the job - even if the other graphics artists are much slower.

I've had many jobs, in various countries, but it's always the same everywhere I go, my bosses has always looked into how many hours of work I put in, rather than the amount of work I actually get done.

It's like management like to focus on this as a sort of a "loyalty" test. They often work over hours themselves, especially owners of small businesses tend to work 80 hour weeks, and frown upon the worker that doesn't put in the extra hours, by giving you small hints like, - oh...going home so soon? Done already? Looking at you in a displeased disapproving way.

Many of them also discipline you by ignoring your comments and suggestions if you put less hours in, and appraise your every move if you do put overtime in without charging for it. And if you question that, then you'll get surprised looks of "oh, are you trying to think".... of course, you can't see their thoughts, because they're so focused on their beliefs and goals, that anything else is foreign to them. Deny deny deny!

Work to much results in not much getting done. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577815)

As a member of the military, we do heavily take our cues from the Boss (Commander or Chief) When they go home everyone else feels safe enough to head home.

I learned a long time ago that was a pretty stupid thing to do. I've had a lot of bosses that hated their home life or didn't feel like driving accross town during rush hour, or were just burning time to make some regular events so they would stay late for no work related reason.

I get dirty looks when I head out the door on time or early to go to the gym, like I'm skating. The reality is my bosses know I'm a go to guy when things are screwed up, that I've been known to work 16-24 hour straight when they really go south, that I'll come in for however long it takes on the weekends, and can be packed and out the door to Krap-ic-stan on deployment without much fuss...if there is an actual reason to do.

Otherwise I head on home when it's time, take my vacation time without guilt, and ignore the drones' in the office snide comments, who make their own lives missereable while blaming it on work.

Looking good for the client (4, Interesting)

Nonesuch (90847) | about 2 years ago | (#41577855)

I'm subcontracting for a major consulting firm, on-site at their biggest client. The consulting firm wants to look good for their client, insists on having warm bodies in the seats at the client site during the client's business hours (8-5), even though the nature of my tasks and of client's business means I can't actually implement anything during business hours.

So I sit in a chair in front of a laptop for 8 hours writing "documentation" and dealing with change manglement processes, then another 1-3 hours actually getting real work done after the close of business. It'd be cheaper for them to hire a wannabe actor to sit in my seat from 9-5, and then just pay me for my 3 hours a day of actual productivity.

I had this discussion with my Boss (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41577877)

I had the exact discussion with my boss the other day. She was inquiring on how to motivate me to work harder -- meaning, she has seen that when I am focused, I can get loads of non-stop quality work done quicker than anyone else in our team, however there are days when I accomplish little in terms of new functionality etc. This is the flow that we all know, you either can get there or not, it does not always come on whim.

Anyhow, I replied that I am a simple being and I can be motivated easily -- if I coded harder, and more quickly, would there be a monetary bonus if the project was finished early? No. If I coded harder, and more quickly, would it be possible to use less than the allocated hours per week sitting in the office? No. Well, how do you expect to motivate people to code quick and hard on constant basis? Uhh.. *insert generic company talk here*.

Anyhow -- if there are no incentives to work hard, why should I drain myself more? I do not get paid more, there are no bonuses for meeting the deadline, there is no extra time to spend for my own activities if I finish the job quicker. Why should I strain myself more than I have to, when the no-sweat approach brings me far above average in productivity?

If anyone can help me here, I would be keen to know the solution. And so would my boss.

Hypocrites (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 2 years ago | (#41577893)

These are probably the same managers who say you are a cost center and provide no value and are all gung hu on metrics. Shouldn't they provide a value and metrics? You know .... do your job and manage them so they do not have to stay late?

Every good manager I had noticed when I am late and got concerned. The thinking is if I am working late I am in trouble and there is a problem I am not telling him or her.

The manager needs to set metrics to make sure people meet them. If they meet them then do not care. However if Sally is behind the same metrics but talks an hour on hte phone with her boyfriend and browses the internet a lot and stays late frequently, then the manager needs to address it. Meet the results and you could blow him in the office for all I care. However, if you can't get your work done I do not care about your hours. Out you go! It also means making sure your employees are not doing dumb shit like chatting about what they are going to do 3 hours a day to other managers or working on silly todo lists. That is your job as the manager to talk to them and take the hits and punches.

Basically you can't be a respectable manager and put metrics on your staff if you are not willing to do it to yourself and make sure things are delivered.

No, they can't let that happen (1)

istartedi (132515) | about 2 years ago | (#41577899)

If employees had more free time, they might think.

"Fred Flintstones" (5, Interesting)

Frightened_Turtle (592418) | about 2 years ago | (#41578013)

One VP for whom I used to work referred to employees that left right at closing time as "Fred Flintstones." He made sure his derisive attitude towards these employees was well displayed in front of the CEO of the company at the end of the day as the line of cars left the parking lot. Most of the employees who stayed after the 5PM quitting time were there because they started their shifts later than the other employees.

This VP's attitude blinded him to the fact that those be labeled "Fred Flintstones" were on the job first thing in the morning, well before he arrived to sit in his office for the day doing nothing engaged with production of product in the company. Never mind that these very employees were the engineers that developed and made the technology of the company's primary product. Ironically, the one engineer he praised for staying late each day was staying late for a very special reason: it was the only time he could switch out the sabotaged firmware he created into shipping machines and put non-sabotaged firmware into machines that were being returned for "repairs". He was sabotaging the firmware in order to ensure that his job of hunting down bugs in the programming would be too important to get laid off.

This sabotage was discovered when the engineer was out of vacation and forgot to remove his secret code from his computer. The senior engineer on the project needed to double check the programming, logged into the saboteur's computer and discovered the two sets of code. Sadly, it was long too late for the many employees that had to be laid off because the company was struggling due to the problems the device was having. Most of the employees let go were the ones the VP had labeled Fred Flintstones. With the truly productive employees gone, it was pretty much game over for the company. They were able to float a little longer, but the lack of improvement and productivity stopped any possibility of growth in the company. When the sabotage was discovered, the laid off employees were no longer available. Eventually, the company pretty much closed their doors, being bought out by a competitor.

The attitude that the people who left at the end of the day and didn't put in extra hours were substandard employees was dead wrong. They were the people who made things happen in the company. Once let go, no longer were there any doers in the company and everything ground to a halt

Only inefficient when"managers" are around. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41578107)

That's why I often go I to work when they're not around to fuck everything up. Luckily, "managers" don't put in a lot of hours, and they work even less, so it's not too bad.

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