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AHN Byung-Wook

Work SMART, Not Hard

AHN Byung-Wook

Mar. 26, 2010

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SMART is probably the most widely used word today in media and businesses. In the industrialization age of the 20 th century, one only had to work HARD, as instructed. But in the 21 st century just working hard is not enough. It is necessary to work creatively and smart to meet ever-changing customer needs. Indeed, a new paradigm shift is under way in which Korean companies that have enjoyed rapid, intensive growth during the past 50 years need to rely more on brainpower to compete.

To find out how to work better, let's break down the word SMART, letter by letter. To start with, there is "S(pace) Management." All the office space at a company should be designed to enhance creative thinking and smooth execution, as well as successful teamwork and collaboration. Uniqlo, a Japanese casual wear firm, removed personal desks to better perform project work and removed chairs in meeting rooms for prompt decision-making. IDEO, a design consultancy, and Google also practice work innovation, as they have an office space designed to respect privacy and thus to maximize creativity and work concentration.

The second is "(M)ethod Management," which refers to the innovating work methods. Points to consider here is pursuing the "essence of work," restructuring of work, and timing and risk management. Duties that interfere with given work and habitual work that has non value-added should be removed, simple repeated works should be reduced in an efficient manner, and the work method itself needs to be changed, taking into account the essence of work.

The third is "(A)cquaintance Management." Advanced companies effectively attain and manage opinions and ideas of interested parties within and outside the company. IBM holds an annual "Innovation Jam," gathering together employees, client companies and contract companies across the world to brainstorm ideas for IBM management. TREMOR.com, a word of mouth marketing organization developed by Procter & Gamble, has about 288,000 volunteer agents that purse public relations activities.

The fourth is "(R)esult Management." The performance of an employee in corporations is evaluated by results , not time spent . This is because outstanding individual performance leads to high corporate performance. It is thus necessary for companies to operate a system that enables employees to challenge without fear of failure, discuss ideas freely and execute them. A representative example is Results Only Work Environment ( ROWE ) at BestBuy. Under the ROWE, employees can work when and where they like, as long as they get the job done. At BestBuy, a team that adopted this system enjoyed 41% higher productivity than others without the system, while job changes were reduced by one-ninth.

The fifth is "(T)ime Management." This is about using allotted work time as efficiently as possible to create high value added. It creates a condition for efficient balance between work and play by reducing chronic overtime work. For that, companies need to allocate a proper amount of work to employees and provide sufficient time for rest, while employees should maximize their work efficiency by getting rid of time-wasting habits. HP and IBM stimulate creativity by promoting a four-day work, or allowing employees to work half time for three months per year. Korean companies, including telecom giant and top steelmaker POSCO, also are aggressively working to raise work efficiency by banning overtime work or shortening reports i.e. to single-page reports.

As previously mentioned, Work Smart initiatives of advanced companies do not mean working less but working creatively and raising value added. It is crucial that companies adopt Work Smart systems to secure core talent and to raise motivation of employees. There are imperatives to corporate competitiveness. As for core new-generation employees, preoccupied with their individual lifestyle in particular, it is necessary to adopt Work Smart initiatives to enhance efficiency and maximize individual performances, which can ultimately produce their natural absorption into an organization.

Meanwhile, companies should accurately analyze their corporate culture for a Work Smart initiative to successfully take root and spread. Based on theirs findings, they can decide a high priority such as a weak area or part of the operations that needs rapid promotion in the company's growth stage rather than pursue all the five areas mentioned above simultaneously. In addition, the workforce needs to genuinely accept the Work Smart initiative because both the employee and the company should be confident that Work Smart is a path to development.

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