Are You Doing What’s Important?

All organisations are full of work, stuff that needs to get done.

That work is divided into two nice neat categories:

1. Customer work

Work done for customers (for the sake of argument people who pay).

That type of work includes:

  • Capturing order details
  • X-raying broken arms
  • Cleaning hotel rooms

Sometimes we call it front line work.

2.  Support work

The second type of work is work done to support the work that’s done for customers (that trips of the tongue nicely).

That type of work includes:

  • Following HR policies
  • Data security checks
  • Providing management information

Sometimes we call it administration.

Which type of work is the important work?

How often do we:

  • Stop processing an order because we have to get data security clearance
  • Have queues in X-ray departments because the technicians are busy complying with an HR policy
  • Slow down room cleaning because the maid is busy with a check sheet for management information

Which type of work is most important?  And which type of work are you busy with?

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  1. Hi James,
    Great questions and many of us get caught up with the doing of stuff. Stuff that stops us doing the work that matters, that helps, that protects, that delivers…..

    Funny though….if you ask support people if their work matters, helps, protects or delivers….then they would probably answer Yes. And, in many cases it does.

    Do we then need to be explicit in stating which type of work is the most important to help people prioritise?


  2. Hello James

    After 25 years of business experience many of those working in different companies and industries I am clear that the needs of the Tops always take priority over everything else including the customer.

    Given that the Tops actually do no productive work – work that directly creates value for the customer – they get addicted to management. A less fancy and the original word for this was administrations. Pushing policies and rules around the place. And ensuring that these policies and rules were being followed.

    I have a question, do the Tops ever meet a flesh and blood customer and serve that customer? Or do the Tops spend their whole lives doing what a great friend called “Management through Excel”?


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