Seth Godin asks some pretty compelling questions about what happens if you want to measure productivity instead of just hours worked, and how much that could change your entire workforce:
“Is it okay with you, the boss, if one of your workers dramatically increases productivity through some outsourcing or tech shortcuts on their own nickel and then goes home at 2 pm every day?
Is it okay if you have another worker who works until midnight every night but doesn’t get nearly as much done?
What about a team of five deciding to skip most of their meetings, coordinate through a shared doc and put the time they save into going for a walk or thinking about the next breakthrough?
If it’s truly about what we produce, how many people on the team are aware of how much they produce? What would happen if they were?”
These aren’t easy questions, and they shouldn’t be. Selling hours makes less and less sense in the knowledge industries, because as knowledge workers we should be continually finding more ways to be efficient. We’ve already seen how much productivity has shot up without much of a corresponding pay increase, and we can tie that directly to the idea that we are still measuring hours, and rewarding hours, instead of output of work. But, are we comfortable measuring output of work, and dealing with the fact that some people will just find ways to get things done, and then want to stop working, as opposed to the people who will spend hours and hours getting that same work done?
In the legal industry, what would that even look like, when we bill clients with hours instead of output? It would be a very different industry, one that not enough people are ready for. So we just continue on, rewarding inefficiencies. How long can that go on?
And, what would it look like if everyone in the firm knew how much work they did compared to everyone else? What does it look like when I know, for example, that I get more work done in less time than the folks on my team who get celebrated for working so hard and so many hours? It looks like a massive cultural shift across an entire industry, one that is probably a long time coming.