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So that's where my week went

The City has implemented this new financial management practice called performance based budgeting. A couple of well-dressed, generality-mouthing consultants from out of town sold the City Council on this some time ago, and it is slowly being implemented. Performance based budgeting breaks down your department into "responsibility centers" (mine is Technical Services), each with their own mission statement and tasks. Then you determine the inputs for each task, assign costs, determine the outputs and derive metrics by which you can grade your performance on these tasks.

This came out of manufacturing, where inputs and outputs are easily measured. I worked in the IT shop of a mid-sized manufacturer for four plus years; performance based budgeting is just another iteration of 'manage by measuring everything' model that is currently in vogue. This is not the easiest thing to make fit in government, and even harder to fit into IT. Knowledge work is hard to quantify. I was not surprised to find that the consultants did their pilot with Public Works; their tasks are things like snow removal, with metrics like lane-miles plowed and tons of salt/sand applied.

I'm telling you this because one of the inputs into these tasks is labor. To determine how much labor you are putting into a task, you must keep track of your time. We have now implemented a weekly timesheet that captures all of these elements. There are something like a hundred different categories to sort your time into. By far this isn't the worst time-keeping regime I've worked under. At a past job I had to track my time in five minute increments. There was a code in the timekeeping system for time spent using the timekeeping system.

Anyway, some things become surprisingly apparent when you actually track them and write them down. One of those things is how much time I spend goofing off (about 30 min. a day -- cleverly buried in "General Office / Admin Functions"). I spend an hour a day reading emails and responding to phone messages. I knew that I spent a lot of time in meetings, but I wasn't prepared to find out that it was 17 hours last week. Compare that with the 7 hours that I got to spend working on the network, and that may explain my current affection for the H.L.Mencken quote "Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats." Last week wasn't much better with 15.25 hours of meetings. At least I got to spend 10.5 hours with my network.

The lesson in all of this: don't get promoted. The people that are happiest with their jobs are the ones who get to do and not manage.

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