'Fake work' points up disconnect between companies, workers

Diane Stafford
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

Strategy. Vision. Goals. Mission. Those are just words unless workers know how their jobs apply and what to do to make lofty words reality.

Otherwise, workers at all levels spend too much time on "fake work."

They churn out reports that no one reads, go to training that isn't put to use, attend meetings with aimless agendas, or send e-mails to co-workers who don't need to read them.

Brent D. Peterson, an organizational effectiveness expert with The Work Itself Group, knows "fake work" and how it hurts organizations.

His research, combined with results from Gallup and FranklinCovey surveys, give scary insight into employee involvement in corporate strategy:

* 73 percent say they don't know their company's goals.

* 70 percent say they know the goals but don't know what to do in support.

* 81 percent say they don't have a strong commitment to the goals.

"People are working hard but they don't feel like they make a difference," said Peterson, whose book, "Fake Work," is due out in January.

At an executive briefing last week at American Century Investments, he told of a banking company that brought him in for training. Employees knew customer service was a corporate goal, but Peterson found a disconnect.

A worker said he was assigned to deliver toilet paper to the branches once a week. Some branches would run out before his next delivery -- clearly, not good customer service.

His once-a-week delivery order threw an organizational roadblock in the way of customer service.

Peterson said many organizations, plagued with lack of trust or good relationships along the management chain, build those roadblocks.

"Fake work" happens when employees lack the trust or confidence to challenge work rules, procedures or policies that make no sense.

That matters, he said, because companies with the least fake work have a direct correlation to the best shareholder value.

"It's impossible to work in organizations and not do some fake work," he conceded. "Just try to align specific tasks -- real work -- to the strategy."





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