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Business Culture in the UK - Ed's journal
Business Culture in the UK
It makes me wonder sometimes, if 'business culture' in this country is just completely messed up.

I mean, I see many places, where 'face time' is what's important. The hours you're in the office, and LOOK like you're grinding hard are valued far more than the productivity.

I see so many people 'wasting' time, filling in spreadsheets, and merging data from one spreadsheet, to another, to another.

And updating them, and ... essentially reproducing the 'paper office' in electronic form.

I can't help but wonder if this is endemic. If we are, in fact, shooting ourselves in the face, by actively not making it worth 'working hard' by punishing those that do, by giving them more work - I mean, if they're not busy, they can take on more, right?

If I write a shellscript to do a proportion of my job, as ... well more or less happened recently, this was discarded as showing off, and otherwise 'being out of line' for not accepting the tools provided. But I guarantee if I had started automating my whole job, tben I would suffer in comparison to the guy at the end of the desk, filling in row after row on his spreadsheet.

We live in an IT age. Computers are great - they move data around, they manipulate things, they do all manner of mindless, repetitive thing. Why then, do we get people to step the computers through, one thing at a time, and essentially entirely discard this extremely powerful tool?

It's quite simple. We have places where people don't care, because they know full well that the person 'measuring' what they do, has no clue how to measure their performance, except by
'seeing if they're in work and typing'.

Worse still, if said person actually tries to be efficient about it, and ... automates it, then goes off to chill out whilst it does ... whatver... well, that's clearly SLACKING isn't it?
Worse, it's making the rest of the department LOOK BAD.

We need to remodel our business culture. EVERY employer, and place of work out there, should positively reward people based upon getting stuff done. It should be _worth it_ for me to write a script, to do my job.

It should be worth it, for me to make infomation dissemination easier, faster and more efficient - to make computers do the mindless moron jobs, and leave the people to do the stuff that computers can't do AMAZINGLY WELL.

But it's not. If I clear my workload, then I guarantee you, that doesn't mean 'oh good, I'll go home early then'.

So it pays me to slack off, in a vaguely constructive looking fashion. It pays me to be frantically typing in notepad, regardless of whether I'm setting up a change request, or writing my novel on company time.

But we're just still caught in this rut, of pay = hours. And hours = pay.
16 comments or Leave a comment
(Deleted comment)
mcnazgul From: mcnazgul Date: February 5th, 2008 08:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
That is why they're managers IMNSHO.

If they don't know what their team is up to at given points in the day, then they aren't doing their job. Note that this is actually trusting your staff to come up with solutions rather than slavishly checking on their team 24/7. Rule 7 violations still need to be taught the error of their ways by doing something mind-bogglingly tedious (documentation or asset checking are my favourite methods of work punishments).

As for managers who are fixated on metric performance I've found that sending back a polite note asking whether closing 20 new user requests is of equal value to restoring a service for 5 users with a key monthly business target attached to it.

Both may take a day. One manager has one view, another has another. Let them fight it out. Usually some kind of rationale is trotted out but that's why we have difference of opinion.
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(Deleted comment)
mcnazgul From: mcnazgul Date: February 5th, 2008 10:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've always subscribed to the view that if I do a job then I do it in the way that I'd like it done to me. Yes it does make me a rarity. :)

I can be too nice and have been taken advantage of before but such things are a learning curve; being reasonable is perhaps one of the best and hardest lessons you can learn.

I agree there are a lot of managers who have their eyes on other things. There does seem to be a slavish devotion to getting boxes ticked instead of getting the jobs done. And it's not unusual for them to get the spatter effect that you've mentioned.
From: feanelwa Date: February 6th, 2008 11:12 am (UTC) (Link)
If we just sack all the bad managers things will be much better. They can go and pick fruit or clean beaches instead.
mcnazgul From: mcnazgul Date: February 5th, 2008 09:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I feel your pain. My recent job involves importing web metrics from HTML to PDF to Excel and back again then notifying managers of how much time their ppl are spending web-wise as well as making sure our network is not as broken as it performs.

I managed to automate this so it can be done in about 20% of the original time. My reward? Being collared for other work while my colleague lets deadlines whoosh past his head that would have got me pilloried when I was in his role.

Of course, our problem should now be to hack the working parameters so we can input the information into the 'system du jour' using that shellscript and then sit back and get more novel time.

Challenge accepted? :)

From: shortcipher Date: February 5th, 2008 10:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hear hear. FWIW, not all employers are like that, and from my small, highly unscientific sample, the ones that aren't are more successful. Why, one might well ask, isn't evolution sorting this mess out for us? :-/
mrph From: mrph Date: February 6th, 2008 12:08 am (UTC) (Link)

I mean, we aren't like that - or at least bits of the CorporateMonolith try very hard (and sometimes quite effectively) to discourage this behaviour - and we pay sobrique's lot to do stuff for us...
sobrique From: sobrique Date: February 6th, 2008 12:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah, but then you get the emergent relationship, that whilst contractual obligations and service levels are specified, both sides 'effectiveness' is directly related to how much they screw the other.

But at the same time keeping with the real of 'reasonable doubt' within the terms of the business relationship.

Oh yes, there's _requirements_ but usually these _requirements_ are negotiated by two people with only a passing clue what the hell is realistic.

And of course, reporting on whether these requirements are met or not, isn't always done by the person most able to fulfill it in ... shall we say, and unbiased fashion.

Not that I'd say this is happening in _this_ situation, you understand, because clearly, my employer can be trusted in all things, but it remains that case that one _could_ apply that sort of logic to the outsourcer relationship.

Not so much a friendly relationship, as a bullying and bullshitting contest, where the underpinning contract servers only as a battlefield.
necessitysslave From: necessitysslave Date: February 6th, 2008 12:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I work in an outsourced environment where I am almost totally sure that I am the only person (as one of the outsourced reporting teams) that report on our own performance.

We have two sets of reports *our own company eyes only reports* and *virgin media viewable reports*. It should be pointed out that we are actually very honest about both having two sets of reports and that the data in the reports the client see's is as acurate as we can make it.
However there is nothing that is making us be honest except for our own integrity and the fact that we are tied in a love hate relationship with the client. (if the client goes under we loose our jobs, if the client is doing very well we actually get paid less???)

In my department there is a very large degree of trust. Officially I'm paid for 37.5 hours work a week. But in actuallity my boss doesn't care too much how long I am in work for as long as I get my work done. I actually get paid bonus's based on the new methods/procedures/scripts etc that I create during any given quarter.

She did however begin to get a bit nervous when (due to automated processes tying up my computer) was getting through about 150-200 pages of novels a day. When she asked me if there was anything I could do while it was going on I answered that until I had either a second computer (which would only fix some problems) or had a sql server to work with then I was stuck while MS access dealt with far more data than it is designed for.

These days this is not so much of an issue as I have a SQL server!

The amusing thing is that although our department is more work focused than time focused we provide reporting for exactly the oposite. What I report on is call centre workers who are specifically paid to be a bum on a seat and a voice on a phone for specific periods of time. We do however give them about 20% extra to there wage if they can perform very well and do more work than you would normally expect from call centre agents.

So not all places have the problems mentioned (we have completely different ones....) But here it tends to be who you present the idea to. I can present a timesaving idea to my boss and she will love it (but she's rare) or I can present my "headcount saving idea" to the manager of the department and he'll love it.
mavnn From: mavnn Date: February 6th, 2008 09:45 am (UTC) (Link)
To add a point of sunshine: I automated a large part of my current departments work because it was just too boring to actually sit and do. In return they've a) given me much more interesting work to do and b) encouraged me to put together a business case to create a much better paid job and then apply for it. Oh, and c) they gave me a large crystal teether with some strange text on it.

Of course, the vagaries of budgets mean that the new job might not happen, but at least they're trying!

Having said that, my entire department was created for no other reason than to measure stats for reporting meaningless targets, which makes it somewhat ironic that we ended up with the sensible management - at least we've diversified a bit now we've got the spare time.
From: feanelwa Date: February 6th, 2008 11:13 am (UTC) (Link)
I think this is because everybody's aim in work is not to do a good job and make people happy anymore, it's to screw everybody they encounter out of as much money and energy as possible. This is also true of shops, plumbers and local councils.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 6th, 2008 06:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

Business culture

Work smarter not harder!!
There are so many new IT tools to help todays young people to lead very different lives in 2020.
But the one skill set most valued by employers is the ability to solve problems and think solutions!
Is it time to change direction, change job and use those talents Ed?
sobrique From: sobrique Date: February 6th, 2008 06:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Business culture

I can do that, and I like doing that.

But I'm not sure how many _actually_ want that - my employers seem to value it on one hand, and slap it down on the other.
kal_357 From: kal_357 Date: February 7th, 2008 11:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Amen brother, and breathe... :)

Would it amuse you to know my Boss walked behnd my desk about halfway through that. \m/
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