Thursday, November 17, 2020

The Price of Speed

"In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed" was the book that started me thinking about Slow Leadership. In it, Carl Honoré challenges the idea that working long hours may be bad for individuals, but still good for productivity and corporate success. This is what he says:
"Companies also pay a heavy price for imposing a long-hours culture. Productivity is notoriously hard to measure, but academics agree that overwork eventually hits the bottom line. It is common sense: we are less productive when we are tired, stressed, unhappy or unhealthy. According to the International Labor Organization, workers in Belgium, France and Norway are all more productive per hour than Americans. The British clock up more time on the job than do most Europeans, and have one of the continent's poorest rates of hourly productivity to show for it. Working less often means working better."
Quality issues are also hard to pin down. Once you go beyond limiting defects, adding quality to a product or service isn't an obvious route to better business. Costs rise and there's the risk higher quality won't translate directly into more sales or more loyal customers. If there seems to be greater mileage in cutting costs, maybe it's because quantifying costs is so much easier. That's why we unthinkingly equate productivity with producing more in less time and at lower cost, ignoring what it is we produce that way.

Cramming and cutting are the price we pay for speed and the search for numerical, quantitative ideals of productivity. You either cram more work into the same time (and yet more into those long, long hours); or you cut costs, resources and time for thinking, creating, rest or enjoyment. Your quantitative productivity increases. Your qualitative output falls. You produce more and more of what's less and less valuable. What craftsman was ever concerned with simply producing more? What producer of basic commodities has time to be concerned about craftsmanship?

In your life too, you have a choice. Do more and more in less and less time; or do less and value whatever you do more. Leaders have special responsibility. By setting the pace for your team, you either limit or enhance the quality of their work and their lives. Think about it. How do you want to be remembered? As the person who beat all output records and created a culture of overwork, stress, misery and frustration? Or as the one everyone wanted to work for, since doing so enriched their lives and brought them joy as well as success? The choice is yours.

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Francine said...

thank you for reminding us. I'm a proponent of slow: slow food (where the term originated); slow cities and slow living ... even if for now it is only an alternative somewhere in my mind!

8:28 PM  

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