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Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Jay Deragon has written a post, Social Shifts In Thinking, about how the American economy has fundamentally changed, and not for the first time! It’s a short post, well worth a read. His last sentence is You can’t see the solutions unless you change how to think about solutions.

The same day I was treated to Michael SacasasTechnology in America, where he explains why Americans choose Technology over Science and always have.

Their posts made me decide to write my post about work - What it is and how it should be done.

I see a lot of people faking their work. Jack lent me his book, DisneyWar, As I was pounding down the home stretch, I was asking myself how much more “notwork” could I bear to read? Posturing, wounding, accusing, guessing, and riotously screwing up. Sound familiar? DisneyWar isn’t a unique story.

Looking at all these new jobs, what is work? Especially if you believe, as Jay and I do, that we are in a different world, there is a lot of strange out there. I need the familiar to navigate the strange.

I’ve been a carpenter, plumber, welder, writer, photographer, programmer, foreman, contractor, musician, equipment operator, and project manager, and there are some common practices that simplify all kinds of work while magnifying value.

The List – whether it’s a set list, a project plan, a daily 3x5 card, or a pilot’s takeoff preparation, effective workers keep The List. I’ve see that new workers who don’t start with a daily list usually run out of tasks around 10:30 in the morning. Very few do any work after that.

One other use of The List is to keep track of daily progress to estimate future jobs. I was told, “Don’t take out your mistakes when you do the next job. You’ll make new ones.”

There’s Work and there’s Talking About Work. A certain amount of palaver can be useful to make sure we know what we are doing, but the talking is usually not the doing.

There is some new thinking that doers need blocks of time to get into a zone of accomplishment, and breaking them out for one hour meetings with watchers is strictly for the convenience of the watchers. In 1983, Blue Thunder introduced the concept of JAFO.

Layout—First we’re gonna do this and then we’re gonna do that. A key skill of a lead on any project is to have the right order of production. Either you do or you don’t. No amount of threat and spin makes up for bad layout. If someone gets blamed, the layout was bad.

Best Practices – The best line I ever heard about best practices was, “Either a best practice is blatantly obvious or it’s not a best practice.” Unfortunately the guy that said it doesn’t want his boss to know he said it. Once you find the best way to do something, publicize it so everyone does it the best way until you can discover something better. Replacing a best practice is a cause for celebration.

Mechanic is a fairly common term for someone who knows their work. Mechanic was first defined to me for plumbers, and at various times I’ve earned the right to be told what makes a truck driver, a carpenter, a welder, an estimator, a programmer and a proposal writer a mechanic. It is an honor to be inducted into the mysteries, and they all used the word mechanic.
As the work we do and the way we think about what we do changes, how the best do the work may continue to be the same. That’s what to look for to determine the competent.

Your thoughts?

1 comment:

Unknown said...


If folks don't know what they are expected to do - they make it up.

With all the changes in organization staffing, the elimination of middle management and many supervisors, employees aren't fully trained, mentored, or briefed on what they are expected to do. Given a position description with lists of competencies and vague tasks as a guide, they are left to their imaginations about what to do.

An individual in a Federal agency declared his role was to clear the air of all commercial and pleasure aircraft within a 30-minute period. Why? Because he was involved in the 911 response. Is this really the reason for coming to work each day?

The leadership of an organization sets the mission and goals, shares the vision and results expected; the management and workers figure out how. If either the 'what' or the 'how' is faulty, dated, or murky, the results suffer (or are nonexistent).