Tom "Bald Dog" Varjan's PSF (Professional Service Firm) Barking Board

Welcome to my blog. Here we discuss all aspects of running a successful consulting firm. Mainly we’re searching for the answer to the ultimate consulting firm question: How can we deliver more value for higher fees using less of our time, money and effort? If you like this concept, then I invite you to start reading. You may find something valuable.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Why Real Talents Hate Tracking Their Working Hours...

Over at the VeraSage Institute we've been discussing the stupidity of internal time tracking for associates on an almost non-stop basis. Internal time tracking is one factor that turns consulting and other professional knowledge firms into manufacturing plants, churning out "one size fits all" type solutions, thus screwing up their own profit margins and bit by bit turning the industry into a commodity.

Then the other day I was working with a Vancouver-based firm exactly on this time sheet elimination project. The managing partner has bought into the
time sheet-less concept but he was concerned about the other people's reaction.

Before we went into the room to meet the troops, I asked him to make a note on each person's comments regarding time sheets.

Then we went in and I asked associates to express their views for or against time sheets and tracking effort time.

I've always known that most people are fear- and scarcity-driven, but this was amazing.

The main reason why the rebels rebelled against the elimination of time sheets is because they fear that they may do some work and, since they can't account for the time and effort, they wouldn't get paid for that piece of work. To me this was strange because they were on annual salaries plus bonuses, depending how the firm as a whole was doing.

When the groups session ended, the managing partner and I sat down and I asked the partner to evaluate each associates performance. What emerged was profound but not exactly surprising.

There was a direct correlation between loving time sheets and low performance. peak performers were jumping with joy at the notion of eliminating time sheets. The no-hopers insisted on keeping time sheets.

The partner looked at me rather surprised. Then it hit me... Holy sausage, man!

If you haven't read The Flow from Dr. Mihaly
Csikszentmihalyi, then read it now. Here's the essence. This is how Csikszentmihalyi defines the state of Flow:

"Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."

Can you imagine to interrupt "Flow work" every 6 minutes to fill in your time sheet and account for your time and effort? If Newton, Einstein and other great inventors had been forced to account for their times, we would would still be living in caves.

Now let's look at the Flow diagram and see what's happening here.
  • Apathy: Low skill low challenge
  • Boredom: High skill low challenge
  • Anxiety, stress, fear: Low skill high challenge
  • Flow: High skill high challenge
Who are the people who insist on keeping time sheets? People in the Apathy and Boredom areas. David Maister calls these people cruisers and losers.

And who are the people who hate time sheets? Yes, the people who operate in the Flow. David rightfully calls them dynamos. They are the people who have excellence in their DNA's and do their best work every time they touch something because they learnt this behaviour from their parents. They don't need time sheets and micromanaging. They are naturally conscientious of their work, and are proud and inspired to do great work.

And what about the anxiety part: In my experience, this area is shared between dynamos as they're stepping up to the next level of performance but haven't yet mastered all the newly needed skills, and cruisers and losers who are anxious about to be found out.

Back to this partner. When he realised how much time and effort it takes to "manage" low performers, after assessing their contribution to the firm, the decided to offer them a better opportunity somewhere else.

Then I asked him what had blinded him to these people's poor performance so far. he said: The time sheets. These people have put in plenty of time and - seem to have [my comment] - exerted large amount of effort to do their work.

I think they exerted large amount of effort to cover up their low performance. So, here it is again. Get rid of internal time tracking for your people, and you automatically weed out the ones who you can do without without any negative effects.

And the time sheet-less culture will attract more people who like working in the "Flow." And who are the people who like operating in the "Flow?" They are the real talents. These are the people who were born on this planet to do what they do. Let them do it, and let them bring joy and profit to your clients and your firm.


  • At Sunday, 29 July 2007 at 00:34:00 GMT-7, Anonymous Wolf Gábor said…

    What is the psychological profile of a top-performing coach or consultant?

    I never really gave much thought into it until a client had me take the Facet5 test that measures ecxactly that:

    It turns out that top perfoming people have similar psychological profiles, e.g. if you profile top performing sales people and you want to hire another top performer, a key element is to look at the psychological profile of the new applicant. Instead of asking useless questions like "what are your biggest strengths" you're much better off just profiling job applicants with a test.

    Looks like Tom found such an important piece of the profile: top performing coaches are bad at repetitive tasks, while people who are good at those, are simply incapable of working in creative jobs.

  • At Sunday, 29 July 2007 at 06:28:00 GMT-7, Blogger Bald Dog said…

    Hello Gabor,

    For assessment I love The Gallup Organisation's Strengthsfinder programme ( Having tried many of the other profilers, I think Strengthsfinder is better.

    If you're interested, I can email you a sample Strengthsfinder report (on me), so you can see the details how the programme pulls together your top five talent themes.

    In the meantime, have a great vacation.

  • At Thursday, 1 March 2012 at 09:15:00 GMT-8, Anonymous Ross said…

    We built Crisply for "Real Talents". Check it out: Would love to know what you think.


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