Time is used to measure a lot of things in my professional world. Many people bill by the hour or the day. I have a daily consulting rate but I prefer a fixed fee linked to deliverables. In the e-learning field there is always talk about an “hour of courseware”, though no one has ever figured out how to measure it. Instead, we just merrily go along in this fantasy time zone as if we knew what we were measuring. After all, most people have bought into the notion of the industrial “person day”.
Michele Martin thinks it’s time to move away from this focus on time, and I agree.
What I find really interesting is that we finally have technology that makes it possible for us to do most work anytime, anywhere, yet we continue to stick with our same old paradigms of working in a particular location during certain hours. We also stick by our belief that time is the best measure of what we do, rather than results.
Shifting away from time and focusing on results is relatively easy for a consultant. However, I still have clients who want work described in days of effort, not results. Making this change for salaried employees would be a major workplace cultural shift and I’m not sure that it will ever happen. Salaries, working hours, and time & motion studies are part of the industrial economy’s DNA. Trying to change this would be difficult, if not impossible.
I think that a Results Oriented Work Environment (ROWE) is not really possible in a workplace that is built on industrial management models. ROWE may be possible in pre-or post industrial work but not in hierarchical organisations. You can see it in a film production, with major actors getting paid by the film, not by the hour. You also have ROWE in piece work, reminiscent of pre-industrial cottage industries. I cannot see ROWE where you have more than one or two levels of management, but that is the structure in most medium and large businesses, bureaucracies and non-profits. On the other hand, I’m sure a change to ROWE will come to many more fields of work as generations shift and time on task is seen as largely irrelevant.