Tuesday, September 4, 2007

From Wasting Time to Paying for It

The latest discussion at confused of calcutta (just in time for Labor Day on this side of the pond) involves JP Rangaswami taking issue with a recent Financial Times article:

In today’s print edition of the Financial Times, David Bolchover averred that The self-employed are too busy to go surfing; commenting on the TUC criticism of blocking access to social networking sites, he meanders through the graveyard of worker apathy and ends with the assertion that “you will not find the self-employed immersed on Facebook for hours. The perception of working is irrelevant to them. They are paid for being productive, not for turning up”.

I think he’s managed to miss the point, spectacularly, while coming very close to it.

I found that discussion particularly interesting, because it requires revisiting a topic that both JP and I have explored, which is the question of what constitutes “wasted” time when one is "on the job." JP's approach to this issue is to stress the need for an "outcomes-base view" of what one does "on the job," in which case it really does not matter whether or not one is self-employed. I acknowledge his point; but, as any of my regular readers should know by now, when you start talking about “outcomes,” you are basically anchoring the discussion in the world of nouns, which, as we both well know, is not the world of verbs. Where this is most important is in the service sector, where maintaining an ongoing engagement is as important as any of the “outcomes” of that engagement (if not more so). To some extent “turning up” (when the time is right, i.e. when needed) is the primary obligation of the service provider!

Thus, there is a deeper problem that arises from this whole shift from a production economy to a service economy. It is not so much a question of wasting time. It may not even be a question of “productivity,” if “production” is not the primary goal of the work. Rather, it is the need for a new model of compensation that is commensurate with both how services are rendered and with what service providers do during their “down time” in order to be better at rendering those services. Are the corporate bean-counters ready to get their heads around that question?

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