Why do I care what “work” is?
  • If your organization, teams, leadership and you operate off different assumptions of what work is, what you are paid for. Work is bound to be miserable…This is why we need to create a shared understanding of what your work is, what your getting paid for, what you are being evaluated against. Once this is established YOU will find satisfaction in your work.
If you ask 100 different people you will get 100 different answers. Just what is work?

Elliot Jaques “Requisite Organization” supplies an explanation of work by stating; As currently used, the term refers to three different things, all important, which need to be separated out from one another: That was tough WORK (my “effort”) doing my WORK (my tasks or assignments) they gave me to do at WORK (my place of work) today! (Jaques 1998)

In the context of a typical work day you can see how your “work” can be identified and defined in at least three different ways.

  1. Work can be Your effort
  2. Work can be Your tasks or assignments
  3. Work can be The place you do you work

With an unclear foundation of work, people operate off the culture, norms and expectations (whether implicit or explicit) of the organization who they are working with and their direct managers. To build a shared understanding from this point forward, work will be defined as;

Work (W): The exercise of discretion, judgment and decision making, within limits, in carrying out tasks: Driven by values, and bringing skilled knowledge into play (Jaques 1998).

So, is that work? Work is about using YOUR judgment to make the best decision possible at that time, within defined and known limits to complete a task; this is YOUR work. Work is not a routinized process or activity that you have done 1000’s of times…if that’s work, then YOU ARE NOT adding value.