Mittwoch, 16. Februar 2011

The Power of Sharing

My occupation with work patterns let me to think about the productivity and the relation the work purposes.
Here you find a simple model that helps to explain productivity in terms of various work patterns. It shows the "Power of Sharing" something that was anticipated by Reinhard as comments to the post on work patterns .  

The model & formulae:

                    p = o + r*s

p    =    productivity
o    =    working on own agenda
l     =    learning / staying on top of things
s    =    support others / sharing
r    =    reach of sharing

o + l + s = 100%

The total productivity of a single employee is given by his own productivity and by the productivity shared by others that is creating productivity for the respective employee. Or to look at it from a different angle: the efforts working on own agenda contribute to own productivity, while sharing contributes to other employees producitivity. A very critical parameter is "r" the reach in sharing, it gives with how many other employees shared efforts create value.

Within the simple model there is no effect of the "stay on top/learning" part towards the productivity, which is based on the observation that there is none primerally; however the effectiveness of sharing is in my opinion heavily depending on the ability to see the bigger picture and to put ones own work in context of others, so one way of modifying the model is to replace in the formula "s" by "sqr(l*s)" (sqr = squareroot, in the scenarios below the parameters have been chosen that both formulaes match.

The focussed scenario
This is the traditional way of working, the employee is mainly focused on working off the own agenda, "unproductive" efforts in learning & sharing is luxury, only allowed / done.
Nevertheless as in this scenario sharing has been done to help others, quite a good reach (2) governs this scenario.

The whip scenario
While nothing else has changed, employees were supposed to do knowledge sharing on top of all the other activities. This scenario is usually supported by activity-based KPIs. As this scenario has the connotation of overtime, it yields often a cloudy atmosphere. That could - for a limited time - could be tolerated for the sake of higher Productivity. However - although more efforts are put into the sharing part - Productivity does not jump up. This is due to the effect of the considerably reduced Reach (r=0.5). Employees are measured on activity, the database is flooded with material that are not re-usable and / or is of poor quality.

The free learning scenario
While Working on own agenda is heavily reduced, the employee is "not working, but more chatting", the Productivity suprisingly stays the same. The horror scenario for all managers that all this sharing, learning and networking is corrupting Productivity, does not hold. Why is this? Because with a comfortable Reach (r=2), the Sharing is enhancing strongly the Productivity of others (or own productivity via contribution of others). With keeping the same Productivity one might look at the scenario, as if learning efforts were for free.

Knowledge culture scenario
What if then in a next step, we create a knowledge culture, we get better at sharing, we organize work for re-use, etc.? The Sharing will create even more Productivity, as it creates value with more employees (respectively you are leveraging on a broader network for re-use). The effect is visible in the model by a higher Reach (r=6). Productivity jumps up (while the Learning is still for free).

A simple model, showing nicely some effects of work patterns on the productivity.


ps1: Luis Suarez was shaking in his comment the work patterns by questioning that email is a way of working adding ones own productivity ("email is someone else's to-do list, not own agenda"). Unless you would be able to work off several to-do lists of others (I don't think that's you picture of email, Luis), it only emphasises the results. At the best you work off one other agenda with email, then collectively we stay with the some productivity on "own agenda" (although corrupting the terminology, if you sum up all "own agendas"), if email is a waste, then the productivity factor on working of the own agenda is less then one, even more emphasizing the Power of Sharing

ps2: the "l" learning in the formula - that is not a mistake, the perspective is that learning is not having a direct effect on productivity (simple model). see below also.
The indirect effect is not - yet - in the model, one modification would be replacing "s"
by "squareroot(s*l)" in the formula.
proposed modification to avoid s=100% catastrophe:
A replace "s" with "squareroot(s*l)", meaning this productivity appears when you combine you learning / seeing the bigger picture and share then by creating context, this would save you extreme scenario, resulting in p=0, which is for me a sensible scenario, when you don't produce anything on your own (working on own agenda), what would you be able to share that is creating value (not taking into account "knowledge speculation" (parallel to trading speculation at stock exchange). However this modification alone breaks with the same argument, productivity without working on own agenda (but less drastically, with a reach of 2, one would end with p=100%)

B additionally to the A modification, have the side condition "o > s", meaning your extreme case is forbidden (that is of course a rather clumsy way of argumentation), so the real argumentation is that in order to share something, one needs to produce something (which is working on own agenda)


  1. Hej,

    fluctuation has to be considered...
    If knowledge sharing worked, the effect is not as problematic as when the leaving team member worked only on own agenda....

    p = o + r*s - f*1/(r*s) - f * o * 1000


  2. @Reinhard:
    Very inspiring (too much to put into a comment)



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