– As opposed to what we produce.

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I’m seeing a strange perspective emerging in business as it applies to productivity. Instead of considering the amount of output produced, people now seem only concerned with the amount of time served at work. I see this in I.T. organizations where programmers have said to me, “Wow, I spent twelve hours at work today.” I heard this same exact expression from a guy who was laying sod on my lawn. I answered them both the same way, “That’s nice, but what did you produce in that time?” Interestingly, they both were at a loss for words and vague in terms of what they produced. It appeared to me, they thought they were being productive simply by the number of hours attending work.

I contend it is not the hours in the day that is important, but rather what we produce. In a way, counting hours reminds me of how the military viewed performance during the Viet Nam War, whereby they counted bodies as opposed to geography won. Let us also not forget, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is measured by output, not hours worked.

Years ago in business, employees were taught to do what was necessary to get a job done. If it meant working evenings and weekends, so be it, and you didn’t complain as you knew the importance of the assignment and genuinely liked your work. Even if you didn’t, you possessed personal pride to see the job through to completion. Today though, there is more emphasis on personal time and vacations, so employees have become mindful of how much time they serve and how much they can relax, hence the emphasis on time.

When it comes to the nature of time, we have long promoted the concept of “Effectiveness Rate,” (ER) in Project Management. Unlike “Man Hours” which falsely assumes a person is 100% productive, ER considers time in terms of the amount spent on “Direct” assignments versus “Indirect” interferences. “Direct” means real work, it is what you were hired to do. “Indirect” represents those interruptions keeping us from doing our “Direct” assignments, such as breaks, bathroom visits, meetings, telephone calls, casual reading, social media, etc. The ratio between Directs and Indirects is what we refer to as “Effectiveness Rate.”

In the average office setting, the ER is typically 70%, e.g., in an eight hour business day, 5.6 hours are used for direct work, and 2.4 hours for indirect activities. Studies have shown construction workers are typically 25%. The point is, nobody can be 100% effective, there will be interferences which is a much more realistic perspective of time. Further, employees will have different rates based on their capabilities and experience. Also, please understand ER is NOT a measure of performance; it is simply an analysis of the use of time by workers. Just because one employee has a higher ER as opposed to another, simply means the person has fewer interferences. Whereas “Direct” time is the responsibility for the individual to manage, “Indirect” time is the responsibility for the manager to manage. If a manager observes an employee is experiencing too many interferences, he/she may take measures to minimize them.

To illustrate how ER is used in scheduling, let’s assume we have a person who has made an estimate of 100 “direct” hours (who also averages a 70% effectiveness rate), and there are eight (8) available hours in the business day. Under this scenario, 100 Direct Hours divided by .70 (ER) equals 142.85 elapsed hours. In turn, the 142.85 would be divided by 8 (available hours per day) to equal 17.85 elapsed days. The “man hour” approach mentioned earlier does not take the environmental influences into consideration and assumes an effectiveness rate of 100%. Under this approach, the sample schedule would be completed in 12.5 business day. In other words, ER is a more realistic and reliable approach for producing schedules.

So, going back to the programmers and sod layer mentioned in the beginning, when they claimed, “Wow, I spent twelve hours at work today.” I should have asked what their Effectiveness Rate was. I suspect 10%.

For more information on Effectiveness Rate, click HERE.

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – Also do not forget my new books, “How to Run a Nonprofit” and “Tim’s Senior Moments”, both available in Printed and eBook form. Great holiday gifts!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

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