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Measure Output, Not Hours June 4, 2009

Posted by Tim Rodgers in Management & leadership, Organizational dynamics.
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Yesterday I had a conversation with a new contact who made me think about a common fallacy in measuring the performance of team members. I believe just about every manager would agree that a person’s contribution to the business is essentially their net output, which is roughly their value-added minus their “cost,” whether literally in dollars or their subjective “negative impact” to the organization.

That may make sense in theory, but I think there’s another consideration that tends to bias our perceptions of value. It’s the number of hours people work, or appear to work: what time they arrive in the morning, what time they leave at night, and how active they are in using remote access tools during off hours (such as e-mail or IM). I know we’d like to believe that we prefer “quality over quantity,” but I suspect that most of us are aware of who’s in the office or on-line when we’re in the office or on-line, and it’s a short jump to associating hours-worked with contribution. They’re not necessarily correlated, and I think we need to be careful when making that association.

I’ll write later about a related topic: how I’ve managed under-utilized resources through stretch assignments and other techniques.

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