Monday, January 7, 2008

Work hard at working smart

A former boss, to whom I was not popular, often said (not to me) 'work smart, not hard'. Maybe it is just the only thing we agree about.

Many workers work hard, very hard. Not only work hard, but work hard for long hours. Never mind if mindless chatter intersperse the hours. Aside from chatter, many workers often work hard because they do not know exactly what they are doing, or the best way to do it, hence the inability to respond to the tasks accordingly. Some equate long hours with working hard. Of course, putting in long hours is hard work. Mahirap yun ha? However, if one has the option of working hard or smart, which would he rather do?

I've been working most of my life now. Majority of the working years were spent in government. One general problem in the bureaucracy is the tendency of management to equate long hours with working hard. In local labor lingo, the government bureaucracy works 'arawan', per day. Private business on the other hand, work 'pakyawan'. The irony there is whenever bureaucrats were to have something fixed in their house or car, for example, they invariably would want 'pakyaw' job orders.

Those coming from the private sector would find work in the layered bureaucracy sluggish, tedious and circuitous. The bureaucratic process trumps efficiency. Productivity is still unquestionably the desired outcome but efficiency is neglected. The bureaucracy will complete a job in 2 months if it can be completed in 2 weeks. That is the law of government planning. For example, the government projects an activity can be completed in X days, the government will then make plans and targets to complete the activity in X weeks, and then actually finish it in X months. Same X, longer unit. So, the next time you hear of a government output delivered in 3 months, more likely it was planned to be completed in 3 weeks, and could actually have been completed in 3 days.

A CEO blogs that the basic rule for success is responsiveness. This morning at the flag ceremony, our big boss talked of further improving our work. For starters, the government should start the crackdown on unresponsive units. It is time to get the bureaucracy out of its inertia.

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