Seinfeld explains the great big fat work lie

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There’s a cult of work as pure activity in this country.

Politicians talk about welfare claimants “languishing on the dole”  when they should get a job and become like the “hard working families”
It’s when I realise that I am apparently one of the “hard working families” that I realise just how much this is all complete….


Nevermind people languishing on the dole, what about people languishing at work?
I’m not talking about my sheer laziness.
Ignoring the scurrying and running, all the frills and accessories of being a busy worker, these hard working families are also languishing, just at work, covering it up by doing loads of pseudo-work.

Most people I see at work are busy people, like this…


Always on the go, constantly harrassed by deadlines and deliverables. But what if you couldn’t see their scurrying around, what if you could see them shorn of busy work and instead could only see the actual value they were creating for the end customer?

Would they look a bit like this instead?


I think they would.

I actually do look like this at work.

I opted out of looking busy a long while ago.

It hasn’t left me any the worse, I think a lot better. I am perhaps financially poorer than I could have been, but that’s countered by the knowledge that by doing less and pretending less, a larger proportion of what I am doing isn’t complete waste.

Now, you can’t achieve anything without hard work


But can you identify work just by looking at it?

Is a busy bee a hard worker just because they are busy, or are they just spinning plates?

Is work…

…what you’re told to do by your boss?

…what your job description says?

…what you do between arriving and leaving your place of work?

Elaine, tell me, what are these?

Riiight. So how did we get like this?
What are the systemic conditions that make us mistake activity for actual valuable work?

Here they are. In the bleedin triangle….


This is the bog standard diagram idiots draw for me when explaining anything.

Plans? Oh they cascade from a top, through a middle, to a bottom.
Where’s the strategic policy making? The pointy end.
The operational front line? The flat bit.


Where is the work in this?

EVERYWHERE! From pointy end to flat bit, its work all the way down. What else would be happening? These people are busy!

Work is there, because hierachy is there. It produces the work. The very design of the organisation ensures that there is work to do, with no relevance or referral to the outside world.


[refer to triangle diagram for location of Up]

If you don’t believe me, point to the customer in this diagram. They are not there. Nobody is, except in relation to who they are managed by.

It’s hard to counter this, to show the flaw in it, when there isn’t anything to compare it to.

Except there is! What about this?


This is a diagram of how work might be designed around the customer.Everything starts with the customer, what their needs are, the problem they need solving. They might want help looking after their children, they might need a burger and fries. Regardless, that is where it all starts.

Where does it end? With their problem solved!

The organisational activity needed to help solve their problem, that’s the core work. What the purpose of the organisation is, expressed in activity that is purely of value because it has to happen to help the customer.

And if the people doing this core work need any help to do it, or to do it better, then they pull in help and support as and when needed. That’s the support work.

That’s it. All the work, all defined by what is needed to help the customer. Everything else? Not work. Waste to be got rid of.


Yes Kramer, mind blown.

It seems so obvious. Too obvious for some.

“I’ll hit this out the park, watch this bozo…”

“What about policy? What about innovation? This is all fine and well for purely operational concerns, but what about strategic identity?”

This is the mark of the hard working bumble bee, referring to what already exists and says “what about, what about, what about“.

Audit, performance management, inspection, reporting, plans and policy. These things are features of triangles and the hierarchy they represent . They are not things a customer needs.

Try and explain this to someone with a triangle mindset and see how easy it is…

The great big fat work lie depends on the triangle.
The triangle depends on the people who believe the big fat work lie.

People won’t thank you for pointing it out either.

But doesn’t matter, cos tea tastes better when you’re right….


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1 Response to Seinfeld explains the great big fat work lie

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