Thursday, December 29, 2011

Making Progress, Meaningless Work

"Making progress on meaningless work doesn't boost engagement; people must feel that they are contributing to something they value. " - Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer

Progress on meaningless work - what a seemingly counter intuitive concept. By well-acknowledged definition, progress always means moving forward, moving towards an end goal, moving towards something better. But what if that progress is in something that has no meaning. Is it progress?

To use an example in my own life, if I complete the review of reams of documents which mean nothing outside the small circle of company I am in, have I really made any progress? Or have I just completed a task which more than likely will be filed away in a memory stick as part of an electronic archive in some years? Yes, I have checked items off my "to do" list, but have I really contributed anything in a meaningful way?

Yes, I agree with the hypothesis that such progress doesn't boost engagement of anyone; but I think the more fundamental question is "Does it represent true progress?"

As an employee, I want to be spending my time on things that matter, that make a difference or improve something. The same is true for me as a human as well, I suppose: I want to spend my time on things that are meaningful and involve progress (although often these are things of the heart: my cheese making, though I'm becoming more skilled at it, is hardly going to change the world). And even as a Christian, I want to make progress and be more obedient in the things that Christ desires, not in things which are trappings of the world or the mores and preferences of people.

Money cannot be a substitute for meaning; progress on the meaningless cannot be substitute for effort that makes an impact.

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