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We can categorize any work into three types: routine, project, and fire-fighting.
Routine work is mostly repetitive. Examples include cranking the same widget over and over on a factory floor, processing accounts receivable, and delivering the same executive training course over and over.
Project work has a goal that will take more than one step to achieve. It has a beginning, middle, and end. Examples include selecting a new vendor, launching a new offering, and preparing for the important board meeting.
Fire-fighting is urgent work that we didn’t see (or didn’t try to see) coming. Examples include responding to angry customer complaints, dealing with requests from the press, and handling a breakdown in a process or project.
We can define our work pie or preferred blend or work types: what percentage of time we want spend doing each type of work. Some of us are are more adrenaline addicts and want little routine or project work. Others of us prefer mostly project work. Some of us like a good blend of all three types.
Though there is no perfect blend, we can be out of step with our roles. When our roles demand a blend of work types different from our own, we suffer. And, as leaders, if our preferred blend is out of step with the needs of the company, we will tend to force the work to match our preferred ways. In this way, everyone else suffers, too.
Of course, we can make adjustments. We can measure and compare the preferences of people and the needs of their roles. We can also redesign roles and workflows, hire people with compatible preferred-work-type-blends, and watch to make sure our work preferences don’t derail the company.
In your corner,
PS: The measure and compare tool is called Task Quotient™. Contact me if you would like to explore this tool in more detail.
Today’s photo credit: various brennemans cc