Sunday, March 3, 2013

Hard Work, Smart Work, Inspired Work - Part I

One will find hard work and smart work very prevalent in most organizations. There will be cases indeed where smart work will replace hard work, thus bringing in productivity, efficiency and all the gains of not doing unnecessary and non-value add tasks.

Hard work does not distinguish the value of the work. It is mostly concerned with the volume of work. If something needs doing, it will be done by sheer brute force, if need be. Manual labour, data entry, accounting and audit related record keeping are instances where hard work thrives and is rewarded. Hard work recognizes heroics of individual persistence. You will find energetic hard workers jump in to help their over-whelmed colleagues regardless of their role. Motivation for hard workers can be external or internal. Carrot and stick routines of motivation work best when one intends to extract hard work. Qualities that are appreciated in hard workers are punctuality, reliability, stamina for slogging into late hours. Vision or direction is usually left to managers and supervisors while work is left to workers. This leads to a thriving command and control structure. Edison's quote - "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration" is often the guiding mantra for hard workers. Edison indeed practiced what he preached, working more than 20 hours a day on his inventions, his 1093 patents a testimony to his efforts.

There is a different school of thought on the other hand that tends to side with Oscar Wilde who said "Hard work is the refuge of people who have nothing to do". It is a well established fact that work expands to fill the time available. Time can also be replaced with resources including finances available as can be seen from the spend of many governments who are able to boost economic activity by pumping quantum heaps of monetary instruments into the system.

Smart work starts with prioritizing and time management. Important tasks are actively sought while trying to minimize urgent tasks. Smart work seeks out inefficient processes and continuously tweaks them to weed out non-value add steps. Automation is often the simplest of strategies for doing work smartly, but it doesn't stop at that. There is a recognition that all automation is not smart and even automated processes can stimulate hard work syndrome. Creativity and flexibility are the hall marks of smart work. Motivation for smart work comes from the feeling of satisfaction in making something better than it was. Smart work aligns itself to the organization's goals. People in this category are eager to learn, asking questions and challenging the status quo. Organizations where smart work thrives generally have flat hierarchies and open cultures which encourage not just following the process but questioning the process as well. Risk taking is generally higher and it is considered ok to fail sometimes in the quest for smarter solutions. Work life balance is also an important consideration and the goal is to ensure getting more benefits out of less efforts. Thus instead of a hard working 16 hours, a smart output of 8 hours is considered to have generated higher value for the organization.

... To be concluded in Part II (Inspired Work)

No comments:

Post a Comment