Think about it.
The mindset of work is structured in a way that makes us want to put a lot of effort into doing as little as possible. It’s a defense mechanism that we all succumb to.
Well the alternative is the value of the work gets diluted.
If you have ever worked in a large consultancy (or any consultancy for that matter) you will understand this principle. In fact, it is so inherent that it is a part of the culture of most firms. Logically, there is no other way to operate in order to feed the machine’s many moving parts. Consider all the factors such as rent, salaries, equipment, marketing, supplies and human resources and how they drive the culture of work. Better usually acquiesces to faster which gives us the perception of cheaper and as a result is the catalyst to feed the machine.
Effort is heavily influenced by time.
The most important driver of project work is the deadline therefore we are conditioned to focus on deadlines and not much else. The deadline, in itself, has been the “constraint de jour” for hundreds of years and we abide by its almighty rule without thinking about it much at all.
What’s worse is it contains the word dead; aptly named.
What’s the pressure we feel as we approach the line? It feels like a point of no return and it is inherent to business practice. There has to be a line in the sand otherwise we would never get anything done. We are slaves to the line. It’s how we’re wired and it’s important that we recognize how the line in the sand is the constraint, right or wrong, which drives the bus as we work on a project.
The deadline forces our hand in another way.
We mentioned the necessity to keep the machine rolling and the resulting constraints are how we define value. The perception of value is the other significant factor that affects the outcome of most projects.
The amount of work we can do is driven by the deadline and the amount of work itself defines value.
Ask yourself these questions:
What’s valuable to your client in comparison to what is valuable to you?
Is your client getting the best from you for the value of work?
Is value perceived equally across the organization or project by project?
What drives the perception of value when you are considering a project?
Value, in financial terms, is derived by subtracting cost from the financial commitment your client is willing to make for you to meet their list of constraints.
In simple math; time = money.
So what happens when the value is not there? We look for ways to adjust the constraints to our advantage, right?
What happens when the recipient of your services doesn’t understand value the same way you do? We look for ways to adjust the constraints to our advantage, right?
I am by no means simply doing my work because I love it. I do, in fact, love the world of architecture and design but I also love my trips to France, my weekends with family and friends and my creature comforts so I have to resolve the limitations around the constraints of work or life will become much different than it is. It seems I have to bow down to the constraints of time (the deadline) and cost (value) and work as hard as I can to work as little as possible.
Am I stuck?
Over the past 18 months I have read articles by entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and small businesses write about things like freedom and opportunity to seek a path without constraints; the freedom to see what sticks. I applaud every one of them for their effort. I have a deep respect for their stick-to-it-ness, their effort, the free flow of ideas and the vast land of opportunity.
Sure, creature comforts are relative and there is certainly more satisfaction in life than trips to NYC or France (two of my favourite paves to go).
What about opportunity?
Opportunity has no line in the sand. It has no constraints and it can generate the best feelings that you have ever felt.
If you are like me and are employed then think about those times when you were given a chance to try something new without someone placing constraints on you. Has it ever happened? Sure it has. How did you feel?
Or, try this. You are changing employers. Think about the interview process, think about the discussions and think about how your world will change as a result of the change. How did that make you feel?
Seth Godin, the entrepreneur’s golden boy, was recently interviewed by another entrepreneur, my friend (at least I hope I can call him that) Srinivas Rao and the conversation covered a wide range of topics. We got a peek into Seth’s life as a young man and heard a bit about his upbringing which started to paint a very clear picture that he was, from a very early age, wired to be entrepreneurial. He went on to speak about his recent venture The Domino Project and brought up a very interesting point of view. I won’t go into the details (you can listen here – go to the 38;00 min mark if you don’t have time for the whole interview) but the notion was that he hired some young folks, paid them a salary and then found they were under performing even with awesome chance to work with Seth Godin and on such an auspicious project as Domino.
What he realized was that once people are paid for their work they will do as little as possible to get the job done.
I don’t want to steal Seth’s thunder so I won’t go into how he solved the problem but he did and because of that we were able to experience The Domino Project.
Seth eliminated the constraints completely from the project because he had the luxury to do so. He was being entrepreneurial and as a result he convinced his paid employees, like you and me, to see the value of the effort in a different way.
The sense that we can find value in the work we do by looking for opportunity to change the outcome can still live within the constraints of our work. Our work is not limited by effort if we consider exerting the right effort at the right time. The passion to do meaningful work, even in the simplest of tasks, changes the outcome normally for the better. Seeing opportunity changes how the game is played and the more we look for it the more it becomes the way we do things.
Opportunity makes people happy.
Happy people recognize opportunity sooner and more readily seek it out. The effort necessary to discover and build on opportunity is the residual benefit of great work.
Over to you:
Do you find yourself looking for ways to cut corners? Do you see the value in opportunity by looking for the right answers? What do you see as the constraints in your work that drive what you do? Can those constraints change?
Let ‘er rip in the comments.