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Posts Tagged ‘work

I recall playing a childhood game where we would cock a pretend gun to someone’s head and ask, “Your money or your life?”

That was just a game. I had to ask myself that question yesterday because I had to decide between taking a well-paying consultancy gig or taking care of my health.

As chipper as I have tried to be about the last week since being diagnosed with a kidney stone, I have been in considerable pain. While I am better now, I still cannot stand up straight or walk properly without punishing myself.

I was ready to bite the bullet and do a consulting gig today which required a quick trip overseas. Just the thought of all the months of planning, preparation, and effort was enough to push me to go. But deep down I knew that I was being stupid.

When I had an office, one of my walls was covered with a spiral of my son’s photos to remind me why I did what I did. The photo above is one that I took in 2010.

The photos reminded me to do what I can (and even push myself to do what I think I cannot) to ensure my son has the education that he deserves, not just the schooling he is provided. To do that, I must change the mindsets and behaviours of teachers and educators of all kinds and at all levels.

That mission has not changed. But now that I am at home more, I have a more immediate mission of being there for my family. So the question of money or life was easy to answer. I am glad I chose life.

T minus zero normally means “out of time” or it marks the launch of a projectile.

5 seconds by lecates, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  lecates 

Today is the start of my identity sans NIE labels. No professor, no lecturer (I hate that term!), no appointment holder, no leader or manager. No unnecessary baggage either.

But I will still be doing some of those things over the next few months as I provide consulting work for various institutes: pedagogy workshops, change management experiences, strategic planning, ETC. ETC not as in et cetera, but as in Education and Technology Consultant.

I am looking forward to a more focused, relaxed, and rewarding work life. If I take one of the full time positions I have been offered, my blog readers will be among the first to know.

I have been reading the opinion articles in local rags and social media about whether kids with promising talent should work as soon as possible or stay in school.

Conventional wisdom, particularly in a place like Singapore, favours schooling because paper qualifications seem to be what employers recruit and reward. But that tide is changing, particularly in fields that do not require specific professional qualifications, where drive, experience, and attitude are more important.

I do not see why we have to think along the traditional lines of either starting/continuing work or furthering one’s schooling/education. Why not both?

After some basic schooling, much of what needs to be learnt is done on the job (OTJ). Some OTJ training and development is provided at the workplace, sometimes a vendor provides it. Sometimes the worker signs up for Coursera, sometimes s/he takes a night class.

Then there are those who take courses online, face-to-face, or a combination, but also work part-time, are apprentices, or have internships in their fields of interest.

We have workers who realize that they must be learners and we have learners who are working on the side.

These days you can have your cake and eat it too. You can start with a culinary diploma, set up a cake shop, and learn more trade skills from pastry chefs on YouTube. You can also start with one job, wish to dabble in some frosting, switch careers, and get the necessary qualifications one way or other.

There are many permutations and combinations for how a person becomes a pastry chef. Or anything else for that matter. Open your eyes and ears and ask around. The exceptions are becoming the rule. There is no one size or method that fits all.

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Hot off my YouTube subscription line is this video from RSAnimate about reimagining work with current technology.

Short version: It is about undoing the industrial productivity mindset and adopting one based on trust and technological affordances.

The thing I like most about this video is the observation that most still feel the need to go to work (a place) when the work can come to us (the tasks). If as information workers we take the latter half seriously, we can walk the talk of “anytime, anywhere”.

This tweet popped up on my Twitter stream earlier this week.

Talk about overkill.

I wonder if the same person would like to monitor personal email for evidence of work too. After all, if staff should not be shopping at work, they should not be working during their personal time.

Such black and white dichotomies of thinking and acting are not just outdated, they are also harmful. They show a lack of understanding, currency, and concern. This could lead to an erosion of trust and morale.

Why enact policy when there can be guidelines? Why impose technical monitoring when there can be social systems of checks and measures?

I have been inundated with administrative work since returning from leave.

4 by mag3737, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  mag3737 

When I paused for breath, I realized that there were at least four patterns of work.

  1. Doing the same things the same (old) way. This type of work is getting hard to find if you deal with knowledge work.
  2. Doing different things the same way. This either a response to meaningless change or resisting change.
  3. Doing the same things differently. This could be a sign of innovation or a lack of communication.
  4. Doing different things differently. If you add constant sense-making, communicating, and cooperating or collaborating, then that is knowledge work.

On a seemingly unrelated note, here is my second Monday CeL-Ed video. I shot it while I was on leave. It is a fifth pattern of work. It is not distinct from play.

Video source

Some might argue that I am doing the same thing (interviewing) a bit differently or a different thing (working) differently (while at play). That is why it is a pattern of its own.

By the way, the videos so far have been shot with webcams on my iMac (the first video) or on my Macbook Air (this video). They were trimmed in QuickTime with the minimum of editing.

Mies-ian: Less is more... more or less by janmikeuy, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  janmikeuy 

I concluded my series of reflections in 2012 with 360 work reviews at CeL.

Why bother to do more work when the minimum is all that is required?

In our 360 work review process, there is the extra Google Form, individual e-portfolios, a team review after individual reviews, as well as the extra collective time and effort to do all this.

At this point, I should add that I try to meet my staff in their teams for informal lunch meetings. I meet a different team each work day as part of my socializing, monitoring, and review processes.

Our HR department does not require us to submit the form they prepared. The process is not part of my staff’s annual appraisal nor is it tied to promotion or salary increments.

Why do more when less is required?

Asking why I would rather put in effort in the seemingly informal work reviews is like asking why one should do frequent formative assessment in the face of summative assessment.

The analogy is apt because the processes are more transparent in the regular work reviews and formative assessment. The purpose for these is timely feedback.

The processes in appraisals and summative assessment are much less transparent. The purpose for these is often sorting.

One process builds trust and actually improves performance. The other can create distrust and unhealthy competition. No prizes for guessing which does what and why I do more when less is required.

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