I once read,
“If your presence doesn’t make an impact, then your absence doesn’t make a difference!”
50 years ago, Oldham and Hackman proposed the job characteristics model. It so resonates with people that it feels like common sense: Job satisfaction and impact from what you do day-in and day-out, is driven by five factors:
- Task significance: Does the work you do create meaning or impact?
- Task identity: Do you feel ownership (an emotional connection) in the work you’re doing?
- Autonomy: Do you have the freedom to make choices?
- Skill variety: Is the task monotonous?
- Feedback: Are you in a place where you can safely and easily get feedback and use it to improve?
If you think about your moments of flow or the pastimes and hobbies we choose, they have all or most of these elements. Conversely, if you think about the most boring day you’ve ever had, or the worst job you had to do, it’s likely that most of these were missing.
And yet, even though it’s easy to show that these five factors are critical in attracting and keeping skilled and talented workers, many organizations work overtime to eliminate them. “I’m just doing my job” is the antithesis of what works for workers.
Because Core Business (that I wrote about in Curve Benders) is built for perfect execution and hate variability. It works to automate as many steps as they can, and it forces humans to function within very specific boundaries.
Seth Godin in his blog recently wrote, it is better to have a three-hour Zoom call where everyone listens to the rules than risk having someone make a mistake, even one with no negative impact. Better to parcel out jobs to the cheapest available cog than depend on a linchpin to make a difference. And better to know in advance exactly what to expect.
The Core Business with its proven business model and predictable set of outcomes would rather settle for mediocre than suffer between moments of brilliance and occasional defects.
Godin suggests that the solution is not surrendering to the system. It’s to realize that in a highly dynamic and competitive marketplace, automating human performance is a shortcut to becoming a commodity and accelerating an organization’s irrelevance. If you can automate it, so can your competitors.
Instead, each of us has the opportunity if not the awesome responsibility to do work that is unexpected, generous and original. It won’t be perfect, the fastest, or the cheapest, but it will matter.
How are you making an impact with your presence? David Nour