Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Eureka! - Managers should be judged by OUTCOMES!

Today as a break from work in mid-afternoon, Annie and I decided to go to the gym for a 5k run and a swim. I needed to get away from the PC having spent too many hours in front of the screen.

As I was swimming I thought to myself I would not be able to do this in my previous life as a healthcare manager. I would have to be at the desk. That is what was expected by my bosses and the system I worked in.

As I swam I had one of those ‘Eureka’ moments realising that the best way to be judged about our effectiveness as a manager should be based on OUTCOME rather than any of the following;



  • The number of hours we work per day.

  • The time of the day we work.

  • The number of days we work per week.

I now realise now how crazy those measurement of our effectiveness are.

After 27 months of self employment the penny has suddenly dropped for me. My clients (customers) are only interested in OUTCOMES for their investment in me. They quite rightly have no interest in how many hours I work or when I work those hours. All they are concerned about is that I deliver what I have said I will do for the price we have agreed. It seems they trust me to do the number of hours it takes to do the job on time.

Many managers might suggest what I am saying is only possible because I am independent, freelance and self employed and I work mostly single-handed. I can hear many of my former colleagues muttering, ‘That sort of flexibility is just not possible in a big organisation – we cannot simply allow people to have that freedom of choice about when they work. That is anarchy.’

My answer to that type of statement is simple – Why can we not allow people to be trusted in big organisations because it is simply about trust?

We have to ask the leaders in our organisations WHY they will not allow managers and staff freedom of choice about the hours they work and why we cannot develop payment systems based solely on OUTCOMES.

A few years ago I would probably have thought it was pie in the sky that we can allow people to determine their own hours and allow them to be judged solely on outcomes. Now I would recommend it fully for ANY job with ‘Manager’ in the title.


The only thing that hours per week prove is that the person is at the desk for those hours – it has nothing whatsoever to do with effectiveness of the person.

I am probably in a minority among managers in the UK but who knows – maybe I will be surprised.

19 comments:

breakdown said...

I read somwher in a UK publication that in a pole of what employees wanted from their employers was the ability to choose when they worked. Working their 40 hours was not such an issue providing they could change their working pattern to suit a holiday bargain or take their kids to school. This was more important than getting a pay rise in most cases. In fact often, high wages are a substitute for losing a quality of life.
Many more employers could offer flexible working but choose not to. But some like the industry I was in is different. I needed to be there when my customers were there.
RAC | ICS

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Breakdown - Thanks for that – you are right of course that there are situations where staff have to ‘be there’ when customers are there. Having said that I think ALL jobs in the backroom for instance where there is no ‘direct’ customer contact gives managers the opportunity to TRUST their staff and let them determine their own hours to suit themselves. I strongly believe you get more out of staff by allowing them that freedom. Fir instance, last evening I was speaking to someone who had sat at her desk all day yesterday with nothing whatsoever to do. She asked her boss for some work but none was forthcoming. Lets be frank, what benefit was it to her or to the organisation by simply sitting in the office at the desk all day? I think this whole issue is about TRUST. We must learn to trust our staff – and isn’t it sad that we even have to make such a statement? Why the heck do we consider it innovative when we trust people?

Dan said...

Great post!

I'd be willing to even work 45 hours a week... if I could freely pick which 45 hours.

Your insight reminds me of Ricardo Semler's book "The Seven-Day Weekend." He basically argues that we've figured out how to read our office email on the weekends... so we should also figure out how to go see a movie on a Wed afternoon (or go to the gym).

And speaking of trust, you might enjoy an article I wrote a while back on that topic. It's titled The Program Manager's Dilemma, and it's available at http://www.dau.mil/pubs/dam/05_06_2004/war-mj04.pdf

David Wike said...

Even before reading Dan’s comment, I was thinking of the working arrangements at Semco; being part way through reading The Seven Day Weekend (actually I now think it would have been more sensible to read Semler’s first book, Maverick, first). When I say Semco’s working arrangements, I probably mean lack of, for the whole concept is that people make their own arrangements to suit their personal circumstances, work requirements etc.

Trevor, you say you would recommend flexibility for any job with ‘manager’ in the title. At Semco they have even extended it to the production lines, in that they gave the workforce the freedom to make their own arrangements. According to Semler, everyone just turned to the next person on the assembly line and asked when they wanted to work. Interestingly, they were able to reach a consensus without management ‘help’.

Semco isn’t the largest company in the world, but with more than 3000 employees, it is far from the smallest. A key to its success (in company with Tom Peters’ Excellent companies) is that it keeps its operating units small and allows them to be semi-autonomous. The NHS and many (most?) large companies have proved that you cannot organise on a grand scale, so why try to? Better to put corporate management efforts into developing a set of values that encourage and support sensible local decision making.

Having said all that, I suspect that those of us who have spent many years in conventional organisations would struggle to cope with the non-organised chaos that is Semco!

Trevor Gay said...

Great article Dan - I enjoyed it – well done again, your writing is superb.

I love the ‘trust then verify’ Reagan quote.

I think it is very sad when it is considered innovative and progressive in organisations when we introduce policies that trust staff – for example no manager signature on travel claim forms submitted by staff or allowing staff to work from home. In fact what a sad state we have reached as a society when we even have to debate whether we can trust our staff or not! I know you are in the camp of ‘trust first’ Dan and so am I.

From a Christian perspective I would also say our greatest leader of course never stops trusting us flawed and sinful mere humans.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi David

I personally agree with Semler that we could apply this rule to all staff. I think the reason I mentioned the word manager is that is far easier to apply it to managers. Managers are more ‘disposable.’ For instance we can't cope without front liners in the NHS like doctors, nurses and radiographers, but not many patients will notice any difference because a manager did not write that report before that deadline.

Front line staff are just as capable – in fact probably more capable of organising the work to be done without managers ‘interfering’ as I see it. Like you David in our long careers we have seen numerous examples of staff leading change and all this is really about is wining hearts and minds of senior people to the concept of trusting staff completely.

Brian said...

Yowsa! You've put the cat among the pigeons, Trevor. I feel that the real issue in organizations is trust. And trust needs to be earned. Many years ago, the concept of 'flextime' wwas introduced into organizations. It didn't work, mainly because it got bound up in rules and regulations. It wasn't based on trust.

So I think that managers should be evaluated on how much trust they develop withing their unit, as well as the outcomes they produce. I think there might just be a strong correlation between the two!

Happy New Year to you and Annie.

Talk soon...

Brian (Ward)

Trevor Gay said...

Moi? put the cat among the pigeon? – too right Brian – why change the habit of a lifetime?

Great to hear from you mate – Annie and I are looking forward to our chat with you and Judy later this month – pass on our love to Judy.

I think it is really sad that we even have to debate whether we can trust our staff. Of course we can and I love your idea of judging managers on how much trust they can develop in the organisation. It will never catch on – it is far too simple my friend :- )

tomjam said...

Couldn't agree with you more Trevor-results are all that matters in the end. I read Semler's Maverick book several years ago and it left me wondering why more organisations don't have the same approach.

Last night for reasons too boring to go into I was very late getting to bed and today mid-afternoon in the aftermath of a two-hour meeting (which was sceduled for an hour)I had a strong urge to go to sleep. Instead of course I ploughed through until hometime getting less and less effective in the process. Of course, if I worked in a truly enlightened organisation, they would have somewhere for me to get my head down for a half hour or so, thus enabling me to come back refreshed and put in a couple of hours of quality work. Ah, if only! One day!!

David Wike said...

Good to see that your eureka moment has stirred up a debate. The only real problem is that you appear to be preaching to the converted. I suspect that those who really need to take note i.e. the heads of organisations, are unlikely to be reading your blog! It would be interesting to know how many have read Excellence, Maverick or The Seven Day Weekend etc and thought, this isn’t for me/it would never work in my organisation.

I am absolutely convinced that any significant cultural change has to be completely believed in by the top man/woman and then sold to everyone else. And the message needs to be reinforced over and over again. It has to become a way of life, not a quick fix.

Trevor Gay said...

tomjam – I have been to many meetings in the NHS where I have felt like sleeping whether or not I had a good night sleep the night before. Seriously …you are spot on – an enlightened employer would have let you have a nap. Don’t give up hope – I am convinced things will have to change for those employers who still insist on the command and control system. YOU are the best judge of when you are most effective not your manager or any crazy supervisory system.

David – I accept that only ‘the converted’ are commenting but that in itself is encouraging. The famous anthropologist Margaret Mead said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Maybe it is not as bad as we think and we need to keep on reminding the dinosaurs they are wrong. As regards how many heads of organisations read the write books I can tell you that I once asked a very highly paid Executive in the NHS what he thought of Tom Peters thoughts on leadership and management. His reply was ‘Who is Tom Peters? – Is he that loud mouthed American? – At that point I gave up.

Dmitry Linkov said...

Hello Trevor)! It's been a while.

About the post - you are writing the right things, but I got a few thoughts on this.
First is that people are weak. And 40 hours working week is a factor of discipline for them.
Also it's a tradition - to come to work at 9 and to leave at 6. This is some kind a rule works more or less good.

Finally - self discipline is what is different between manager in a company and entrepreneur.

p.s.: best regards to Annie)

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Dmitry - good to hear from you and happy new year to you and Olga. Annie and I are fine and thanks for your kind thoughts.

The discipline and boundaries that have been traditionally set are fine and some people of course like to have those rigid rules. I believe most managers are understandably nervous when allowing people freedom that I propose but in my experience the more responsibility you can give people for their own destiny the better. People will always need to know the boundaries but within those boundaries just let them go and they will fly.

SURG said...

It's true - trust gets rewarded. When Touchwood was opened, lots if cynics assumed the comfy chairs would get ruined by yobs and vandals. Well they look OK to me. But, treat someone like a dog and they will bark like one. Treat people with respect (another word for trust) and you will get loyalty. It's not a hard concept to grasp - just hard to do.

I'm now working with voluntary organisations on a project. Very different from industry. I feel completely trusted. Whilst I'm contracted to do so many hours, Ive never filled in a time sheet or had expenses 'signed off'. I've never or would never fiddle my expenses. I put in more hours and effort than my contract dictates. I love the flexibility of doing them when I want. I had a Eureka moment whilst parked at Edgbaston reservoir at 2.00pm one afternoon having a rest. In industry, I would have been behind a desk trying hard to stay awake. My rest paid huge dividends. I've solved a problem that others have struggled with for months. In industry I would have been fired.

Why can I do this? Because I'm trusted and respected and I honour that respect by trying harder than I might otherwise. I also think harder rather than just (be seen to) work harder.

Changing industry - and worse still the public sector - will take a lot. Some sort of dam burst or crisis.

Now, lets think hard. What could that be?

PS love the blog. Not posted but read lots!

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Surg – thanks for your kind comments about Simplicity Blog – please tell your friends! You must be local :-)
I love the example of Touchwood – it is a great analogy.
I remember when I worked in the NHS we had a project to help develop a fairly run down area in Plymouth. For years there was vandalism of park benches that were erected by the council but when we got money to the community themselves and they arranged for the benches to be built where they wanted them the benches were never vandalised. This is really not rocket science – it is about trust and ownership.
I like your story about going out for a rest and finding the solutions to a problem. Why don’t senior managers learn that people will not perform when they are tired? I think we should allow every member of staff at least one hour of every day to do what the heck they want to do. Did you know Google employees are allowed 20% of their week (that is one day if they work a five day week) to do whatever they want. Google takes the view the staff are likely to do something interesting and bring it back to work thus enhancing the service offered – and who can say Google have got it wrong?!

Dick Field said...

Some principles I have applied in organizations to create trust, pride, productivity, and, most importantly, fun (the great sustainer of human labors) - even when conventions or customers compel some regularity in hours of operation:

Hire the best you can find, or . . . Cultivate those you inherit in your philosophy through
earnest, personalized dialog. Show 'em you love 'em.

Find a common enemy, an "us against them" scenario. It may be a competitor, the status quo, the dinosaurs elsewhere in the organization, the sheer boredom of what would otherwise exist in a stultifying enironment. This is the best team builder you can have - much more a motivator than "quality products", "doing good", or other such nebulous, depersonalized intangibles. Humans still relish struggle - heros are born there.

Always communicate where you are going as an organization so that the objective is out beyond "the end of the workday". Always communicate, period. This is the connecting tissue of the common bond.

Delegate all the responsibility for outcomes you can stomach. People love to be in charge and take ownership of even the smallest transactions or pieces of the whole. Entrepreneurship can be exercised at many levels.

Recognize (through communication and reward) the significance of every player.

As said by many, be liberal with comings and goings within the overall framework of the organization. Developed self-respect, and mutual respect, as products of all the foregoing will ensure the integrity of all in this flow.

Elevate self-deprecating humor to an art form in the workplace. It is hard for self-serving ego to stand up in the face of this.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Dick - I am currently reading a book about Ernest Shackleton the Antarctic Explorer. The book is called Shackleton’s Way and is reckoned to be a wonderful leadership book according to the great and good. Shackleton’s team members were interviewed as part of the process of writing the book and one quote which stuck in my mind was that Shackleton believed the greatest leadership tools are (in this order) – humour, generosity, intelligence, strength and compassion. Note Shackleton does not mention policies and procedures.

Happy New Year to you and yours

felix said...

I agree Trevor. Excuses, mere excuses. Most of corporate explanations to avoid flexibility are defensive tactics adressed to protect positions within the company's power structure.

At least if you work for yourself you will focus on yourself. A deep reflection, Trevor.

Trevor Gay said...

Thank you Amigo Felix :-)

As always you are 'on the ball' with your response. I wonder why managers almost literally 'fight' to hold on to their perceived position of 'power' when in reality we know it is not real. I once worked with someone who told me 'the best way to gain power is to let go of power - pretty much true I would say.

Take care my friend