This month we have a guest blog from Dr Tim Baker. Tim has been a past presenter at some of our client breakfasts and a strong supporter of our culture-fit recruitment process. Tim talks about Fake Work and the impact it may have on productivity. In his recently released book, Winning Teams: The Eight Characteristics of High Performing Teams, Tim discusses the eight characteristics of high performing teams and how to minimise Fake Work by focusing on a team purpose.

Eliminating Fake Work

We’re all familiar with fake news. What about fake work? Fake work is activity that is not directly or indirectly contributing to a business’s purpose. Mindless meetings. Copious emails. Pointless ‘i’ dotting and ‘t’ crossing. Busy work rather than productive work.

What is the percentage of work we do that’s fake? It’s hard to quantify. But it’s probably larger than we would like to think. I’d suggest that approximately one-third of what we do has no direct or indirect benefit to the purpose of the business. This percentage, of course, will vary, depending on the industry, workplace, and individual. But I think we can all agree that it’s way too high, regardless of what the number might be.

Just imagine for a moment if you could reduce fake work by 10% – regardless of what it might be – within a team. What difference would that make? Significant. Now just imagine that every employee and manager working in that organisation reduced their fake work by 10%. This would have a significant bearing on performance. What if every employee in the nation could reduce their fake work by 10%? What would that do for Australia’s economy? Our GDP would go through the roof. Any thought of a recession would be out of the question, regardless of the economic environment.

Why do people indulge in fake work? It’s probably reasonable to assume that most people want to do the right thing at work and be productive. So why is there so much fake work? I think the main reason is that people lose sight of the business’s purpose. Or perhaps they don’t know what the main purpose is?

In my latest book, Winning Teams: The Eight Characteristics of High Performing Teams, I describe one of these characteristics as creating purpose. If you look at any high-performing team, you’ll notice one obvious thing. And that is: There’s a very clear line of sight between what people do and the result. People are on purpose. How does this happen? Well, it’s certainly not accidental.

One of the positive things that you can do in your team is to create a purpose statement. Here are some well-known purpose statements:

Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. (Patagonia)

The Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online. (Amazon)

To ensure the ability of the earth to nurture life in all its diversity. (Greenpeace)

To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. (Facebook)

To organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. (Google)

In brief, a good purpose statement is:

  • inspirational
  • expressed in a single sentence
  • focused on one key driver
  • concentrated on the end-user and
  • created collaboratively.

Meaningful purpose statements are developed collaboratively – it will have much more impact than if it’s written by the manager. A team purpose statement that is collaborative means everyone in the team has skin in the game. And therefore, they will all be committed to that purpose. I discuss how to develop this in my book, Wining Teams – The Eight Characteristics of High Performing Teams.

Tim Baker

Photo by Leon on Unsplash