I latch onto comic relief, courtesy of The Princess Bride (Scheinman & Reiner, 1987), in navigating this acutely personal topic of concern: clocking time and its influence on employee engagement and organizational culture. Clocking time is an age-old tool for measuring productivity and efficiency. I can imagine management luminary Frederick Taylor confidently strolling by with a stopwatch in hand, beaming with admiration at the effectiveness of a job well-done. And I echo that sentiment. There’s pride in doing a job; more so, doing a job well. However, the perfectionist in me grapples with the idea of just shipping a product juxtaposed to fine-tuning it until I feel it is done right — timely or not. Simultaneously, the draw of challenging work and the pursuit of mastery intoxicatingly call me on an exciting journey to personal growth — to do great work in less time for perfecting my craft. In which case, my dogged, perfectionistic focus transfers from the product to the process. (Seems a bit like an addiction, don’t you think?) Nonetheless, the freedom to authentically engage with a project and the call to time clock efficiency and subservience continue to war for my loyalty. Thus, my titular play on the memorable nuptial quote from The Princess Bride (Scheinman & Reiner, 1987): on the one hand, you have my heart, and on the other, I’m merely working for a wage. That is, do I place my pride in the ownership of doing a job well (on time and my terms) or do I place it in meeting a budgeted length of time to serve the bottom line (at the possible expense of authenticity and quality)? In the end, I doubt it is so cut and dry.
To clarify, “clocking time” in this discussion refers to the logging of all time involved for completing a task. It is not just clocking in upon arrival to work and clocking out at the end of the day. Specifically, it is the measuring of time to perform a task and striving to keep within company performance standards, which mark success.
My experiences with clocking time reflect a love-hate relationship. On the one hand, I love the increased mindfulness for how I use my time, as good stewardship of time it is part of maturation in any industry. As a graphic designer, creativity may often be considered a “black art” (Chase, 2008). And to a degree, implementing methodologies can assuage some client fears for wanting repeatable results (Chase, 2008). A company’s bottom line should always be in view, yet the art of art isn’t always so straight. The road between Point A and Point B might not be a straight lane but a winding route through hills and valleys with detours along the way. In such case, clocking time may afford insight into best practices for improving methodologies and spurring on creative inspiration while thinking “within the box” (e.g., boundaries that affirm effective, timely decision-making).
On the other hand, clocking time sometimes seems restrictive and oppressive. When elevating time at the behest of limiting cost, quality tends to get cut (Atkinson, 1999; Schenkelberg, 2017). Yes, here it is important to ship a product, perfection aside; and again, that is part of maturation. However, as I have experienced within creative spaces, subservience to the time clock may produce bitterness, disengagement, and subpar execution. Such angst manifests when the time allowed does not deliver the quality desired, and subsequently, the employee may be reprimanded for not successfully meeting the goal, or the employee may lack pride in his or her quality of work and consequently feel defeated or undermined by the company’s performance standards. This perception is not unfounded, as Taylor also encountered such “labor-management” conflicts even in the 1800s (Wren & Bedeian, 2009, p. 125).
Many contemporaries thought Taylor’s Scientific Management Theory was cold, though he was quite the opposite of his intentions (Wren & Bedeian, 2009). He defended laborers by believing it the responsibility of management to inspire and incentivize employees to the mutual benefit of all (Wren & Bedeian, 2009). His “first-class worker” exhibited initiative and excellence in meeting organizationally established performance standards (Wren & Bedeian, 2009, p. 129). And clocked time is arguably a viable performance standard. That said, I hope this post initiates conversation concerning the efficacy and best practices of clocking time for project management, measuring success, and positively impacting employee engagement.
Atkinson, R. (1999). Project management: Cost, time and quality, two best guesses and a phenomenon, its time to accept other success criteria. International Journal of Project Management, 17(6), 337-342.
Chase, M. (2008, September 04). Retrieved February 12, 2018, from http://www.lynda.com/Design-Documentaries-tutorials/Branding/685/38838-4.html
Parmar, B., Keevil, A., & Wicks, A. (2017). People and profits: The impact of corporate objectives on employees’ need satisfaction at work. Journal of Business Ethics, 1-21.
Scheinman, A. (Co-producer) & Reiner, R. (Co-producer and Director). (1987). The Princess Bride [Motion Picture]. United States: MGM Studios.
Schenkelberg, F. (2017, April 10). Introduction to the quality triangle [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@fmsReliability/introduction-to-the-quality-triangle-f7e771884caa
Wren, D. & Bedeian, A. (2009). The advent of scientific management. In The evolution of management thought. (pp. 121-155). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.