Monday, July 02, 2012

Productivity is Like Porn


"I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that."

- Justice Potter Stewart, Jacobellis v. Ohio 1964
Picture from the Library of Congress
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My organization is moving towards having more telecommuters as part of its work force.
Real estate in DC is expensive.  So is real estate in the suburbs.
The organization is trying to get non-student-facing staffers off the real estate.

The move from face-to-face cube dwellers to telecommuting home dwellers brings up a number of cultural and management issues.

One of the biggies is "How do we measure employee productivity?"

For whatever reason, that question doesn't seem like such a big deal when you can "see" them.
Are they sitting at their desk?   
Do they "look busy"? (Hooray Internet for a new tool in the "look busy" toolkit).
Do they act "busy"?

Since they can't see the employees when telecommuting - the managers now need to figure out what "productivity" means.  Easy when you are building widgets.  Harder when you are dealing with knowledge workers.

During one meeting - a staffer (not me this time) asked the Mucky Muck what they intend to measure when measuring productivity.  We essentially got a version of "I know it when I see it."

That's a little tricky to measure.

Gil Gordon wrote an interesting white paper on measuring productivity.
http://www.gilgordon.com/downloads/productivity.txt

I liked the following breakdown (which he defines as "effectiveness" vs. Productivity):

- Quantity (how much gets done)
- Quality (how well it gets done)
- Timeliness (when it gets done)
- Multiple priorities (how many things can be done at once)

Fundamentally, they need to decide is what a "productive" person looks like.

Once they figure that out - they can then decide how to measure it and where to pull the data from.

I think that might make everyone just a bit more comfortable with the coming culture shift.


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