Thursday, March 12, 2009

When Not to Do Your Job

In his book, The Future of Management, Gary Hamel asks this question: Do you spend 20% of your time on a project that has nothing to do with your day job? Do you allow your people to? If not…why not?

The implication here is that you should spend a significant portion of your time on some future looking endeavor, if only as a means to exercise your creativity. If you spend all of your time on your current job duties, you will not be ready for a future that is bearing down on you.

Alan Greenspan would schedule several hours every week, in the office, just to read…articles, books, reports, etc. He did this to escape his daily duties and to keep the flow of new ideas coming. When I read this, in Bob Woodward’s book Maestro, I immediately went to my calendar and scheduled every Friday from 2-5pm and called it, “Reading.”

For most of us, Friday late afternoons are light. We get a little tired, fewer people want to schedule meetings then, and we look forward to the weekend. We have these feelings even if we do willingly work some weekends.

In any event, I started blocking out this time, and I sat at my desk and read…articles, books, replayed recorded webinars I couldn’t attend during the week…and any other manor of self-education I could find.

At first people would walk by my desk and see me with my feet up, reading a book and thought I was slacking off. I would say, in no uncertain terms, that I was reading to better myself and to get new ideas for next week. I encouraged them to go do the same. Most people shrugged it off. Most people do not read books, I have discovered.

I also started encouraging my team to schedule time at work to read. And that if they did, I would not see it as a waste of time or as a means to escape work. I know they work hard, and I wanted them to spend some time thinking about new things we could try in the future. I am not sure we adhered to it as much as we should have, but when I read Hamel’s book, I was moved by the call for spending time on projects beyond our job duties.

I had not done that…spent time on projects outside of job area…and by and large my team had not either. I wish we would have and the next time I am on a team, I will get the team to decide that we should spend 20% of our time on projects beyond our job descriptions. What a great way to have variety at work and ready ourselves for a rapidly changing future.

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