Why Counting Hours is Holding You Back

While I was representing vendors, the common idea was that everyone hated fixed-prised deals. The most popular reason was that the customer had never managed to specify the scope well enough to give a competitive and cost-efficient offer. I can still imagine the reddish face of the sales director who would have wanted to offer a much lower price and cut down a few more stages from the plan. No one ever does that, right? It’s worth noting that while fixed-price contracts may have drawbacks, they can also provide benefits such as budget predictability for clients and incentives for vendors to deliver on time and within the agreed-upon scope.

Value Over Effort

I strongly feel that In today’s fast-paced work environment, the traditional notion of counting hours spent on tasks or projects gradually loses relevance. Instead, focusing on value and deliverables will and already has emerged as a more practical approach to measuring productivity and input. However, many individuals and organizations still struggle to break free from the ingrained habit of tracking hours. So why is it so difficult to give up on counting hours and emphasize the importance of shifting our mindset towards measuring value and deliverables?

Escaping the shackles of the hourly mindset

Counting hours has been the default method of measuring work for a long time. It’s a routine practice that provides a sense of control and structure and sometimes gives a false idea of productivity. As a leader or company owner, it can be challenging to let go of something that feels comfortable and known, even if there would be more accurate and efficient ways to evaluate productivity. And I know that it’s easier to sell hours. An hour is 60 minutes’ worth of work, which we can understand.

Embracing Value and Deliverables

“I have been so busy. I have worked over 80 hours this week.” I’ve been there. Pragging with my busyness and amount of hours used next to my computer. I would most likely to be screwed if someone had asked what value I was bringing to the company during my too-long days. I wouldn’t have known what to answer. Those were the days.

Today I brag about not being busy. Just a few weeks back I stated to someone that I have stopped even using the word busy. For me, the meaning of the word is my unability to control and prioritize my own work and calendar. And that is something I don’t want to do.

Society often associates long hours with hard work and dedication. The prevailing belief is that the more time you spend on a task, the more valuable your contribution is. This mindset emphasizes the effort exerted rather than the outcomes achieved. Breaking away from this perception and shifting towards valuing results and deliverables will be difficult

Overcoming Fear of Change

I hear someone saying that the most resistance to change comes from IT, which is supposed to be the home of constant change. It could be true. We in IT can sometimes be a bit challenging;-) Adopting a deliverables-focused approach requires change, and change can be intimidating. Shifting the focus to value and deliverables involves understanding the bigger picture, goals, and vision. Suddenly, a leader should redefine priorities, set clear objectives, and implement new evaluation methods. This transition may bring a sense of uncertainty and resistance, making it challenging to let go of the familiar way of measuring work.

Defining Success

There will be someone pointing out that, No, this won’t suit every work. I agree. There will most likely be many jobs where counting hours provides a simple and tangible metric for tracking work. On the other hand, there will also be jobs where evaluating value and deliverables requires clear definitions, measurable objectives, and transparent evaluation criteria would be a great benefit. That means leaders need to master skills to get the new model working. Without these elements, objectively measuring and comparing the value of different tasks or projects can be difficult, is making it easy to stick with the familiar hour-based approach.

Liberating yourself from the limitations of hourly measurement

The culture plays a significant role in shaping individual behaviors and practices. Suppose an organization primarily focuses on hours worked rather than outcomes delivered. In that case, it pushes quickly towards a culture that reinforces the importance of time spent rather than the value generated, and you can start to see the results as a lack of ownership and urgency. Overcoming such ingrained cultural norms requires a huge collective effort and a willingness to challenge the status quo. From everyone! There was a LInkedIn post from Susanna Aho recently showing a “nice picture”. If half of your time at work you’ll think what the heck I’m supposed to do here, I could claim that your organization is not necessarily ready to abandon the familiar hour-based approach.

Why Deliverables Are the New Black

Ok, I have been preaching about the idea. Would I have the needed leadership skills and competence to make it work today? I’m not sure, but I know I have people working with me who would be happy to join their forces to make it work if we decide to go for it. It will be challenging to stop counting hours as a measure of productivity, but the benefits of shifting towards valuing deliverables and outcomes are undeniable. By redefining success and embracing a results-oriented mindset, individuals and organizations can enhance efficiency, increase accountability, and achieve greater success.
Breaking free from the hourly trap forces us to have a shift in mindset, clear goal-setting, effective communication, and a commitment to continuous improvement.

Would you embrace the change and take the first step towards measuring what truly matters – the value and impact of your work?