Skeptek.com

Life at an Internet Startup by Keith Forsythe

Don’t work harder. Work different.

We’ve all been told by our bosses that we need to “work harder”.  The project is behind, the product is selling as predicted, to many bugs, etc…  and the solution presented by management is “work harder”.  Or if you are a manager, you may be fond of using this as direction to your team.  I’ve come to be very weary of the “work harder” solution.  Here’s why:

  • Manager’s often use the “work harder” solution as a fallback when they cannot or will not figure out what the real problem is.  It is simply easier for a manager to declare “work harder” rather than make difficult decsions on prioritizing work or changing what people are working on. 
  • Manager’s may use the “work harder” speach as motivation, but this has diminishing returns.  You can only use this solution so many times until your team is skeptic that the problem isn’t in execution, but in strategy.  And really, can’t a manager come up with something more original than “we gotta work harder!”?
  • I prefer to reserve the “work harder” solution for emergencies only.  Reserving this solution for times when more execution is the only solution to an immediate emergency helps ensures that the emergency is handled.

In summary, I believe there are times when “working harder” is an acceptable solution to a problem.  But managers, please be very frugal in how you use this tool.  Be sure that the problem will be solved with improved execution, and investigate the more likely solution that the planning or strategy is the real culprit.

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August 28, 2009 - Posted by | management

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