Sunday, April 29, 2007

Workaholics in Consulting and Engineering

Really more about type-A personalities, or at least very driven people: An article in Fast Company on Boston Consulting group trying to get a grip on employees who work too many hours.
"A hero at BCG is not someone whose light is on at 10 at night," says Kermit King, the firm's head of recruiting for the Americas. "The emphasis should be on productivity per hour, and I think there's a point where productivity diminishes."

That's why the firm--which doesn't bill by the hour and explicitly states that hours don't figure in promotions--launched a program called the Red Zone three years ago to spot and tame chronic overworkers.

It's not quite working yet -- perhaps because the workload makes it impossible to succeed within the green zone. They have had a slight decrease in the percentage of employees who say their load is not manageable, though, up to 63% from 67%. (At one place I was salaried, 100% in my department said it was unmanageable. The hours we worked reflected this of course, which is one reason I charge by the hour now.)

A related post appears in the increasingly interesting 37signals blog, on development type A's: Don't Be a Hero. Their gist is that if you haven't finished a task in estimated time allowed, don't push on to do it in more time:

That’s where the concept of sunk cost gives us a guide on what to do. It doesn’t matter what you’ve already spent. That time and money is gone. It only matters whether spending what’s left is worth it or not. Business school 101, but one of the hardest lessons to internalize.
Unfortunately, the switching cost is often high for creatives and execution-driven folks. In morale if not attention to task measures. But in general I think their point is very good.

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