Tag Archives: Joy in Work

You’ve Got to Find What You Love

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

– Steve Jobs

Watch this great commencement speech by Steve Jobs at Stanford in 2005.

We lost a great person today, when Steve Jobs died at the age of 56. His words are just as important today: you have got to find what you love to do. Keep looking until you find it. It won’t necessarily be easy to do. But life is too short to waste merely getting by.

My father found what he loved and pursued that throughout his life. He also died young. They both died young, but they both had great lives because they took charge to make the most of their lives. By doing what they loved they made the world a better place for many others, and themselves. Take that message to heart and make your life the best it can be.

Related: Quotes from Steve JobsPeter ScholtesPositivity and Joy in WorkBuild an Environment Where Intrinsic Motivation FlourishesRemembering Bill Hunter

Respect People by Creating a Climate for Joy in Work

Respect for people sure sounds great. And most of us have plenty of experience with organizations that dis-respect people continuously (both employees and customers). So what does respect for people mean at the core? For me:

A system that lets people take joy in work and fixes root causes instead of finding people to blame.

A huge part of the disrespect shown by companies to employees is through direct action. But another huge part is forcing people to deal with horribly bad processes that just haven’t been fixed. Most TSA employees have to feel horrible about what they are being required to do. This will often then result in them lashing out in other ways (because they try to hide from those feelings [no-one wants to consciously go to work everyday knowing what they are doing is counter to their core beliefs] – but in doing so they just deflect the feelings into other places). Dealing with these bad processes drives employees crazy year after year.

For me creating a climate where people can take pride in what they do everyday is the key. It isn’t being “nice” to everyone. What matters is providing a workplace where intrinsic motivation flourishes. Eliminating bad practices (paying attention to HiPPO instead of the best idea, huge amounts of paperwork instead of productive action, inflexible and overly prescriptive policies, not trusting employees, providing managers that don’t know how to manage people, embarrassing employees in from of others…) is necessary but insufficient.

Beyond eliminating bad practices though we need to provide a climate where people can flourish. This requires providing meaningful work (people need to know how they contribute, how what they do fits into providing value). Providing managers that know how to manage people is a huge step in the right direction, but often the systems to promote people have little success at selecting those that will excel in this area.

Another practice to respect people, is to give them the training and resources to do what you ask them to do. It isn’t respectful to expect people to take heroic action to overcome the companies poor practices. I can go on and on, and do in my posts about respect for people.

Related: The Two Pillar of the Toyota Way: continuous improvement and respect for peopleHire People You Can Trust to Do Their Job
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Positivity and Joy in Work

John and Bill Hunter

After my father died, for years (at least 10), people I never had met before would emotionally share what a positive influence he had on their lives. He did great stuff helping organizations improve. But the majority of people were not telling me how much he helped the organization improve [there were also a bunch of engineers and statisticians 🙂 that were more impressed with his insights and expertise]. But most people talked about was how much happier they were because of the changes he helped them see they could make in their lives.

He helped them expect to take joy from work and so they did (and a big part in taking joy in work for most is helping others take joy in work – you don’t find many workplaces with 15 miserable people and one joyful person). Many had to leave their current organizations that were too broken for them to fix. But after they saw what they should expect they couldn’t just keep passing time without joy in work.

Now I am sure their were hundreds of people that never talked to me that never made any such change. But the number of people that did took what was a decent chance that I would continue working with the management ideas I absorbed from him (data based decision making, Deming, joy in work, respect for people…) and made it a very great one. Unfortunately I am nowhere near as affective as he was.

Creating organization that show respect for people in the workplace and give them tools to improve is far more powerful than most people understand. Most people get scared about “soft” “mushy” sounding ideas like “joy in work.” I have to say I sympathize with those people. But it is true.

To get “joy in work” it isn’t about eliminating annoyances. Fundamentally it is about taking pride in what you do and eliminating the practices in so many organizations that dehumanize people. And to create a system where the vast majority of people can have joy in work most of the time requires a deep understanding and application of modern management improvement practices (Deming, lean thinking, etc.).

The photo shows Dad, William Hunter, and me on the beach.

In response to A Breath of Lean Positivity – Paul Akers

Related: William G. Hunter AwardPeter ScholtesJoy in Work, Software Development

Create a System That Lets People Take Pride in Their Work

Wanna play work - comic

I believe I learned this from Peter Scholtes, though maybe I am remembering it wrong or explaining it wrong (so give him the credit and if I mess it up it is my fault). I believe there is a problem with using the term empowered. Using the term implies that it one person empowers another person. This is not the correct view. Instead we each play a role within a system. Yes there are constraints on your actions based on the role you are playing. Does a security guard empower the CEO to enter the building?

Some systems are setup with a great deal of micro managing. Then consultants look around and say you need to empower your employees to think. Which often results in mangers saying “you all are empowered” go forth and do good work. Saying that is meaningless. What matters is changing the system. The system needs to respect people. That is not increased by people using the word empowered. In fact it is decreased, I believe, due to the implied notion that one person “empowers” the other (what can be granted can be withdrawn).

I believe organizations should be designed so that decisions are made at the appropriate level. Systems should be designed to produce good results by allowing people to contribute. People should be trusted to do their job. They should not be micro-managed.

People deserve to have a system that is managed to allow them to most effectively do their job. They should have standard work instructions. Decisions should be based on an understanding of variation. Non-value added work should be eliminated (freeing people to do valuable work). Ideas should be judged based on the merit of the idea not the position of the person expressing the idea.

When discussing empowerment this topics come up, but the wrong term reinforces the wrong view of the situation. It is similar to the problem with “motivation.” What managers need to do is eliminate de-motivation – not to motivate. Manager’s don’t need to “empower” employees they need to fix the system to treat employees with respect and allow them to do their jobs well.

You don’t need to think about empowering people if you have a system that lets people take pride in what they do. If you think you need to empower staff, instead fix the system that requires you to think they are in need of empowerment.

Comic by Joe Sayers, Wanna play work?

Related: The Joy of WorkSigns You Have a Great Job … or NotPeople: Team Members or CostsRespect for People

Build an Environment Where Intrinsic Motivation Flourishes

50 years after Douglas McGregor’s classic, The Human Side of Enterprise, too many managers still have not learned that using extrinsic motivation is not an effective way to manage complex human systems (organizations). The issue is important to me because their is a huge amount of poor management based on this thinking (focused on how people need to be fixed/motivated) instead of fixing what management really needs to fix.

You can succeed as a manager, and progress in your career, by viewing your role as helping people do their jobs well. As McGregor shows workers want to do a good job. He termed managing with this understanding theory y; and theory x is the idea that people should be motivated with carrots and sticks because they are not going to do work otherwise. Organizations have often so systemically de-motivated people they seem to have lost that desire. What you need to focus on is not motivating them with cheap tricks. Instead focus on eliminating the factors that de-motivate them.

Often simplistic motivation is seen as a replacement for fixing management performance (improving the management systems…). Instead managers should focus on eliminating the sources of de-motivation in the workplace. If you need hints, Dilbert does a good job of showing you what management does that de-motivates.

To succeed as a manager assume people wish to do a good job. If employees are not performing some task well, the manager needs to figure out what is wrong with the system that leads to this outcome (not what is wrong with the employees). When a manager views the problem as one of motivating workers that puts the problem within the worker. They need to be changed. That is the wrong strategy, most of the time. Instead you will have much more success if you seek to improve the system to improve performance.

I believe there is often a burden to overcome. As people have their intrinsic motivation crushed time after time day after day, week after week, year after year they try to protect themselves by shutting off their hope to achieve intrinsic motivation at work. You may have to show you really are serious before they will open up again. You have to make real changes and do so consistently that shows respect for people. Intrinsic motivation is a strong force and a few earlier adopters will quickly come along in all but the most broken organizations. You can build on that success (and eliminat more and more de-motivation) to grow intrinsic motivation in more and more people.
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Restaurant Eliminates Tipping to Improve System Performance

Why Tip? by Paul Wachter

When he opened the Linkery [the broken link was removed], Porter said, he hoped his employees would become as emotionally invested in the venture as he was, sharing a sense of purpose and joy in their work.

Porter instead proposed a service fee of 18 percent, to be pooled and split roughly 3 to 1 between the restaurant’s front of the house and its kitchen.

Porter, like the anti-tippers of yore, was persuaded tipping itself was pernicious. “If you have a fixed gratuity, but people are still tipping, then you’re back to Square 1 in terms of the money dynamic,” he says.

The restaurant was already paying 65 percent of its employees’ health-insurance premiums, and Porter was working on a scheme to give long-term employees ownership stakes in the business.

But Chelsea Boyd told me that eliminating tipping had made her work as a waiter at the Linkery more meaningful than any other restaurant job she has had in the previous 10 years. “For the first time, I get to concentrate on the job, and I’m looking at the guests without seeing dollar signs or worried about what anyone else is making,” she says. Under the old system, waiters earned between $25 and $35 an hour, much of which was untaxed. “Now, waiters make about $25 an hour, which is fully taxed,” Boyd says.

Renee Lorion, a former waitress at the Linkery who now works in publishing in New York, liked the new anti-tipping policy too. “As servers, we all took a pay cut, but we knew it was for the general health of the restaurant,” she told me. “What made it work is that Jay was very transparent about the restaurant’s finances.”

Obviously, the kitchen appreciates the new policy. “Earning three or four extra bucks an hour makes a difference,” Matthew Somerville, a cook, says. “In most restaurants, there’s not a close relationship between the front and the kitchen. But here you don’t have that tension, where waiters are trying to accommodate customers’ special requests, while the cooks doing the extra work don’t see any of the tips.” Today, Porter’s employees appear almost as fervent in their opposition to tipping as their boss.

The single most important factor in determining the amount of a tip is the size of the bill. Diners generally tip the same percentage no matter the quality of the service and no matter the setting.

In his one concession to big tippers, Porter offers them the option of donating money to charity. The Linkery’s charity of the month is printed on the menu, and in two years more than $10,000 has been raised for various causes.

This is an interesting article discussing some of the psychological and systems thinking aspects of managing a system made up of people.

Related: Eliminating CommissionsLosses Covered Up to Protect BonusesRespect for People, Understanding PsychologyLosing Consumers’ TrustCompensation at Whole FoodsI wasted the best years of my life

Dr. Deming’s 15th Point

Guest post from John McConnell, Wysowl Pty Ltd

Dr. Deming opened his first Australian seminar in 1986 with the question, “What are we here to do”? After some discussion he answered his own question with, “To learn”, and “To have a good time”.

He repeated this opening at subsequent seminars.

The Fifteenth Point
Mr. Murray Mansfield of Melbourne has what I believe to be the only completely up to date version of Dr. Deming’s famous Obligations for Top Management. After a long discussion with Murray during his last Australian seminar, Dr. Deming agreed that there ought to be a fifteenth point. He took Murray’s notes turned to the page containing the fourteen points and at the foot of the page wrote:

15.     Have a good time!

Related: I Don’t KnowFind Joy and Success in Businessposts on respect for peopleDestroyed by Best EffortsLets Play WorkSeven (plus 2) Deadly Diseases of Western Management

Joy in Work – Software Development

The wonderful cartoon in this link illustrates the all too common despair in work. Software programmers are more likely to really enjoy what they do. There are many reasons for this not the least of which is that they have a fair amount of control over their careers. If they don’t like what they are asked to do, the tools they are asked to work with… they will (more than others) leave for another job. Some managers get frustrated that such people are not willing to put up with the normal bother everyone else seems willing to accept (programmers are often “unreasonable”). But I see an occupation that is more focused on joy in work than most. And creating joy in work is what managers should be worrying about – not getting troublemakers to fall into line.

Why I Program In Ruby (And Maybe Why You Shouldn’t):

Harmony and balance make you feel good. American Rubyists frequently take up all the points of Ruby’s power, expressiveness, and efficiency, but they don’t seem to register the point that Ruby was designed to make you feel good. Even Rubyists who want to explain why Ruby makes them feel good often fail to mention that it was expressly designed for that exact purpose.

Don’t program in Ruby because you want power or efficiency. Don’t program in Ruby because you think you “should”, either. Program in Ruby because you like it. And if you don’t like it, don’t program in it.

I enjoy programming using Ruby on Rails.

Related: Hiring Software Developersposts on improving software developmentDon’t ask employees to be passionate about the company!A Career in Computer ProgrammingIT Operations as a Competitive AdvantageReddit, a living example of how software coders thinkFocus on Customers and EmployeesSigns You Have a Great Job… or Not