Firefighters

A good designer designs a building which never catches fire for its life. This goes unnoticed and designer never gets any reward or appreciation.

A poor designer designs a building which catches fire after a certain time period. Firefighters reach the spot on time, start working hard and bring the fire under control within 2 hours. Firefighters are appreciated and rewarded for saving “lives” even though the building is gutted.

This analogy can be extended to our daily life. Someone who is smart enough to manage his work and complete it before 5 pm is not appreciated and rewarded. Instead he is given more work because he still has “free” time. Hard worker is the one who works extra hours after office time.

The problem with this approach is that smart people soon identify this behavior and start working ‘harder’ than ‘smarter’ because it is more rewarding.

In my consulting to a large number of customers I have met only one who had banned the employees from working extra hours. If someone wanted to work late to finish his work, he or she had to provide the justification.

Identifying smarter people is a lot more difficult than identifying the ‘hard worker’. One simple way is to start treating everyone smart.

Task-based management can also help. A manager assigns a task (with some if/then instructions) to his subordinates and the deadline is not too short. If the task is completed before time, the manager lets him enjoy time saved.

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