March 17, 2005


Humans Found to be Generally Unproductive
(Brice Dunwoodie, 3/16/05, CMSwire)

A recent survey conducted by Microsoft corp finds that workers average only three productive days per week and lays the blame on among other things, unproductive staff meetings.

69% of the 38,000 people surveyed considered meetings to be an unproductive use of time. A shocking finding indeed!

The Microsoft Office Personal Productivity Challenge (PPC), which drew responses from more than 38,000 people in 200 countries, rated workers' individual productivity based on their responses to 18 statements about work-related practices.

Survey participants revealed some interesting conclusions about the nature of productivity in their workplace, including these (U.S. findings are in parentheses):

* People work an average of 45 hours a week; they consider about 17 of those hours to be unproductive (U.S.: 45 hours a week; 16 hours are considered unproductive).

17? My, aren't they full of themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 17, 2005 4:40 PM

I was going to take the time to read the entire article, but . . . I'm busy working. Productively.

Posted by: John Resnick at March 17, 2005 5:40 PM

How many of those hours are spent in meetings listening to some management nitwit yammer on and are those hours considered productive? Next week I have an hour of "diversity training." That sure won't be productive.

Posted by: Governor Breck at March 17, 2005 7:14 PM

Following Shakespeare's advice re: attorneys would cut that meeting time by at least half.

Posted by: ghostcat at March 17, 2005 7:26 PM

John - I'm busy watching basketball. But I did get 2 productive hours in today.

Posted by: pj at March 17, 2005 8:52 PM

Back in the 60's there was an "engineers dictionary of business". Always wished I'd kept it, but, even in my senility, I always remembered; "I'm lonely, let's have a meeting", along with, the ever popular definition of an "expert", any guy more than 20 miles from his home office.

Posted by: Mike Daley at March 17, 2005 9:01 PM

Of those 17 unproductive hours, 14 are spent dealing with problems caused by faulty Microsoft programs...

Posted by: John at March 17, 2005 10:59 PM

I blame "empowerment". This is the worst idea ever thought up by professional management experts. The idea that you get managers "out of the way" of the people doing the job, and let them work in a spirit of consensus with other to solve problems. People are hierarchical beings, they need structure. Most of the unproductive time is spent answering the question "ok, what should I be doing now?". When everyone is the boss, there is no boss.

You don't have this problem in professional sports. You hire a coach and you give him the authority of life and death over the players. If he wins, you keep him. If not, you fire him and get a new coach. You keep doing that until you acheive the goal. Then you keep doing that.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at March 18, 2005 3:28 AM

Ah, the necessity of hierarchy. How orthodox.

Posted by: oj at March 18, 2005 7:48 AM


You are right. The purpose of us supervisory types is to give people assignments and then monitor the efficiency of how well they do them. It's very similar to the teaching function. In this self-esteem fixated world, it's often hard to actually get productivity without really intense supervision. Then, you can't say to people 'Shut up and get back to work' especially if they are from some class insulated from accountability in the workplace.

That's what I like when I telecommute. It takes me about 4 hours to do what I need to do. I keep the cellphone and the computer on if there's a question and I go to the movies or something.

Posted by: at March 18, 2005 9:14 AM

> Of those 17 unproductive hours, 14 are spent dealing with problems caused by faulty Microsoft programs...

Amen, brother!

Posted by: Guy T. at March 18, 2005 9:48 AM

the modern office is 90% wasted effort. managers tend to interfere with the productivity of those they manage. on the other hand people wil lmess around more than a car full of monkeys, given the chance. the best way to get people to work hard is to allow them to participate in the success of the company. hierarchies are for dictators.

Posted by: cjm at March 18, 2005 1:15 PM


One of the many reasons that a lot of companies love subcontractors. They work for you and you pay them for their work and when the work is done, you both move on. If the work is good, you give them more, if they suck you find someone else.

That's the nice thing about my ever-growing side business, Corgi Properties. I run it off my laptop keeping a file cabinet for hardcopies of stuff the government may want. When I need people to do stuff for me, I just make a phone call and hire someone on a pure transaction basis.

Posted by: bart at March 18, 2005 4:54 PM

Hierarchies have their problems, but trying to eliminate them is foolish. A boss who interferes with his subordinates execution of their jobs is not playing his role in the hierarchy. He should apportion the work, set expectations and let the subordinates do their work.

I've found that when managers leave too much up to their subordinates discretion, they turn into a herd of cats. Everyone tries to play everyone else's role. Everyone gets invited to every meeting. Everyone wants to take part in the decision process, but nobody wants to decide. It's the difference between the NFL and the NBA. The NBA is a cat's game.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at March 18, 2005 5:11 PM