Archive for April, 2011

Work, Outcomes, and Filling the Void

We all, or at least most of us spend time working. We work in different settings, performing a variety of tasks. Tasks that have different time frames for completion. Inevitably some of the allotted work time is used for non-outcome related tasks, such as helping a colleague, clearing a paper jam in the printer, discussing the previous nights American Idol episode or ballgame. Conversely, we may also use our work to time to finish a program assessment report, contacting a potential customer or client, or working toward the completion of some other task that leads to outcome or accomplishes a goal.

At risk of oversimplifying, work can be divided into two categories. The first category is work that contributes to outcomes or goal accomplishments. The second category is work that does not contribute to outcomes or goal accomplishment. The second type of work has many aliases such as “busywork,” “time wasters,” “bureaucracy,” and so on. How our the two types of work distinguished? Goals.

All organizations have goals whether implicit or explicitly stated. All organizations strive to achieve goals, be it to end homelessness in a city or to capture a certain percentage of the market share. Regardless of the goal, the participants (workers, volunteers, etc) work toward these goals. Their workday includes outcome and non-outcome based work.

For organizations to achieve their goal of ending homelessness or capturing market share, I argue that there should be more outcome based work than non-outcome based work being performed. Outcome based work is premised on setting expectations and designing clear goals.

The time we spend at work is limited. Two types of work are performed. Work that contributes to organizational goals and outcomes and work that does not. In the absence of clear goals and set-expectations, non-outcome work will fill the void. Clear goals and expectations are important for filling the void and accomplishing organizational goals.






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