Cleanliness is Next to Irreplaceability…

Ask yourself are you Busy or Productive?

It was on a trip to Asia at the end of 2010 which I read Seth Godin’s book Linchpin and in fact discovered the passage where Seth was explaining the “culture of attendance” in the anchorage airport in Alaska.  Yes it does sound odd to travel through Alaska to head to Southeast Asia, however if you take into account the world being a sphere (instead of just a “flat” circle) and its tipped on its axis, it all strangely works out.  Though the point here isn’t meant to be the angle of the earth nor my destination at the time, it was the fact this was one of those epiphany moments that locks itself into your mind as to where you were when it hit.

In fact, have used Seth’s words in several posts to discuss and support the fact that the age of industrialization has left us with the baggage of “attendance” as you simply show up and you get paid no matter if you added value or not that day.  Your performance in this time period really doesn’t matter because you just have to be there in body as we even have Federal Wage and Hour laws which support this, whether you’re a bump on a log, or you invent the next best thing to slice bread, it’s all the same.

However how does this all work then, what is the difference between the two other then the rote aspects as I know people who show up, and appear to work hard all day long go,  home yet have accomplished nothing, nothing at all.  However they showed up worked hard, felt they contributed, yet in reality gave nothing as they simply busied themselves with “tasks”.  So the question is there really efficiency here by the person performing the task, as if one applies the concept of achievement to task it’s hard to say their day was anything other than “busied attendance”.

Well I found the answer to my question in a funny place, our house cleaner, yes snicker if you must however epiphanies find interesting ways of exposing themselves.  As we have a new one as my wife and I both work with busy schedules we have someone come in do the “heavy” cleaning every other week.  As for the past three years we’ve had a person/firm doing this however “just” haven’t been happy with their “results”.  As they would come in, work hard so it wasn’t as though they sat and drank coffee or anything, yet their work product well wasn’t what we expected.

In fairness they are good people and it was clear they wanted to do the right thing; my wife would discuss with them our general feelings and point out examples to them.  The results of this was they would promise to do better and sure enough when they came the next  time they would work hard, yet the same outcome resulted until my wife and I reached a point of frustration, simply thanking them  for their service yet sharing it would no longer be required.

Thus my wife took on the task of finding a new person/company to replace them and spent quite a bit of effort to do so and in the end did hire someone.  During this time I was away as I am typically for business and upon return was impressed with the work product and it was clear my wife had made a good choice and this might be the end of the story, however I was curious as what was different as they spent about the same time cleaning as the last and they worked hard too, so what gave?

After observing it was clear as the new company focused on innovation and adaptation rather than just performing the same rote activity over and over as if something needed a little extra cleaning this week it got it and something needed less it also got less, leveling out the total time spent.  As it was clear this person was focusing on the “task”, rather than the “attendance” as the prior person set their focus on the time they were going to leave rather than the task thus making all tasks “equal” yielding a subpar work effort.

As pointed out earlier, it takes them really no more time then the first as they are “adaptive” to the needs and environment.  So this is a clear example of what Godin attempts to make in his book “Linchpin” as if you want to make yourself indispensable, you need to trade in attendance for innovation in order to clean up…


About Joseph Campbell

As a strong believer in the fact that "people work for people", it has been a life driver to better to understand the complexities of the various aspects which drive efficiency within this axiom, especially the concepts of leadership. Supporting this, I have been fortunate enough to having experienced this as leader on a global basis over the last decade and half. During this time it has been clear there are three core drivers being Life, Leadership and Economics.
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