The second incarnation of my blog
I have been considering writing an article about mentors and how I never had one. It was to be a sulky piece about missing out on the opportunity to gain wisdom based on their experiences and subsequently blame them for my failings.
In hindsight, I probably did have the opportunity to have a mentor and didn’t realise it at the time. The man in question I will just call Boss and I may return to the topic of mentors another day but for now, here is an example of his leadership style. It came to mind this week when someone mentioned that they work 9 days in every 10 so not contact them on alternate Fridays.
A few years ago, Boss and the management team I was part of were tasked with coming up with a number of stretching business ideas. He wanted us to think big and unconventional (I’m desperately trying not to type thinking outside of the box), knowing that most of the ideas would never come to fruition but one nugget may exist in our list of slightly crazy brainstorms.
One particular idea that came from the sessions Boss was very passionate about, but knew it would require significant cultural change. This was a four day working week.
The theory was, if we were to work a couple of hours longer each day Monday to Thursday, achieve our sales targets during that time and ensure that clients received a first class service, then why not take every Friday off? Yes, every Friday but with pay and benefits based on a full five day week. The 9 to 5 would be a thing of the past.
It’s worth noting that the company already operated limited flexitime and had a belief that employees should be remunerated for all time worked, so the move to that model wasn’t completely out of the question. A 4 day week was something different but had obvious advantages. For example, Boss had young children he wanted to spend more time with, a number of engaging pastimes and he also loved his work; though knew the balance wasn’t always right. He wouldn’t have been alone there and the change could have reset that balance.
On reflection this was not a new idea, with Government workers in Utah in 2008 changing to working 4 days a week. The public enjoyed access to services in the early morning and into the evening, the staff gave positive feedback, yet normality resumed in 2011. Records show that the decision was made simply because there had been no financial saving. The city of Provo however decided to rebel and continue the approach to this day as it believes staff morale is higher and a better service is being offered to the public.
On the extreme scale, if John Maynard Keynes is to be believed, by 2030 we will all be working a 15 hour week due to improvements in productivity and technological advancement. He didn’t factor in that we like money and want more and more stuff but with most economic theories, it’s a little more complicated than that of course.
So why do we work 5 day weeks? Some say it came from Henry Ford having the idea that if he gave staff more time off, they would spend more money, including buying a nice (black) car. Others note that Saturday become a full day off to accommodate Jewish workers. I wonder if it’s just become the norm through trial and error and it seems to just work.
So in my past job, such a modification to the working week would have been an interesting experiment and I can’t honestly say whether the 4 day dream would have worked. I suspect that the demands from the sales team would have instigated a drift back to the norm over time.
Ultimately, few of the great ideas that came from the management sessions were progressed and those that were became watered down and therefore less effective than the original vision had hoped for. Despite having autonomy, being part of a large organisation meant that good ideas got lost in the communications ether. All the same, it was refreshing to be part of the ideas process.
We can all understand why businesses don’t take risks with off-the-wall ideas, I suspect mainly due to a fear of failure. I’m sure that Boss would be keen to stress that the fear or failure was actually the perfect reason to force the change through!
So it’s audience participation time…
What’s the most unusual decision that has been made at your place of work? Was it risky and ultimately, was it successful?
[Originally posted on LinkedIn]