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No time for timesheets

I've recently spent some time with a small IT Operations team. Earlier this week, the team leader reminded all the engineers to update their time-sheets.

This was met with all-too-familiar groans and protests.

Timesheets are a relic from the Industrial Age when you could easily identify a correlation between output and number of hours worked.

Let's go back to 1809 to watch factory worker Sally, seated at her station, making 60 buttons an hour. Working a shift of 12 hours with no lunch, she could predictably produce 720 buttons a day, or 4320 per week. Her output would be measured by a supervisor who scribbled the results on a clipboard.

Once a week, her performance would be compared to other workers output. If Sally produced significantly less than the required quota, this implied that either she wasn't at work, or had slacked off. She could expect to have her wages docked, or be beaten until her performance improved.

This was found to be a very effective form of management, and now, 200 years on, these practices are now referred to as Human Resources (HR).

In the 20th century, technology innovations such as clocking cards and access control systems automated a lot of the data collection activities. Managers introduced time-sheets to provide a more granular insight into workday activities.

You can now measure modern-day Sally (working at the Service Desk) on the number of calls she completes in an hour, and thus project how many calls she should field in a week.

If, for some reason, the number of incoming calls dropped, should Sally be beaten for non-performance?

Of course not! The most important metric for the Service Desk is customer satisfaction, and she should be measured (and rewarded) on her contribution to that figure.

Why, then, does she have to spend several hours a month completing a timesheet?

...

Maybe it's time to stop collecting useless information.

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