Focus On Output Not Time Present

Focus On Output Not Time Present

Focus On Output Not Time Present

Focus On Output Not Time Present

A former client of mine was a lifelong, public servant. After ten years as an analyst and program manager she was promoted to a director’s role. As a member of the senior leadership team, she played an impactful role on how policy was implemented across the state.

In this role she had 24 direct reports which included a leadership team of four. Managing a budget over $8 million annually, her responsibility was over 2% of the entire organization’s budget. This was a role with significant influence.

Unique to this role and all roles with state government was the measurement of success. The system, based on 1950’s factory logic, measured success by attendance. Even of its executive team. Success wasn’t measured by accomplishments, it was measured by the amount of time that your ass was in your seat, if you arrived on time, and didn’t leave early. This did have an obvious result in the end, goals would be achieved but there was never extra effort. But everyone was there to punch the clock in and out exactly on time.


The focus of leaders needs to measure outcomes not babysitting. An easy management metric is time measurement. Is the individual early to work and typically at their workstation? Do they not leave until their shift is over?

The model makes sense in specific jobs where being present is essential. Working a retail counter where you’re interacting with customers. Even a team-based model of working on a factory line, being present is essential.

However, most jobs are shifting to an asynchronous nature independent of time. Meetings and collaboration are scheduled in block times during the day releasing the confines of eight-hour long shackles. This gives the employee more freedom to work during their peak times.

Outcomes Not Time Spent

I always like to look at goals as if I were a small business owner or in a homeowner situation. As a case study let’s assume that you are hiring a contractor to install new carpet at your house. You settle on a price for the installation and schedule the work.

In one situation the contractor finishes in four hours and in another hypothetical situation they finish in 20-hours. The other assumption is that the quality is the same. Would you feel cheated if they finished quickly in the four hours? Would you want them to delay the work just so they could match their estimate?

You wouldn’t. It would be illogical to think that their speed of effort results in feeling cheated. In fact, you would feel happier the quicker they finished, it would lessen the impact they make to your house. So why is this different when this happens in the office? The situation changes to an office setting and we as managers expect employees to stick around and look busy even though they’re done with their work.

True Autonomy

One of the biggest drivers of work satisfaction is freedom of how to work and autonomy that is awarded. Never having to look over your shoulder. Never the monitoring of when you’re working or the constant instant message status monitoring when out of the office. Nit picking how you’re working drains the life out of a productive employee.

The individual also doesn’t get a chance to grow. To experiment with new methods of trying things out. Their work becomes very robotic and disinteresting.

To achieve mastery is takes time and mistakes. This process grows engagement and satisfaction. Allowing work in the employees preferred setting and time helps a person feel valuable and special to the organization.


Is It Even Possible To Focus On Anything Right Now?

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