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Staying on the critical path

The critical path is the most direct route that can be plotted from an employee’s work to the consumer. Staying on the path influences profitability and value. You have to know your company’s goals and connect to them by reducing costs, increasing revenue or increasing value. The closer you work to the critical path, the more value you have as a worker.

This is one of the best business books I’ve read.
The critical path is a theme throughout How to be a Star at Work: Nine Breakthrough Strategies You Need to Succeed by Robert E. Kelley. Kelley is a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s business school. The book is the culmination of 10 years of research.

Let me give you two examples
Yesterday a colleague from another university asked if she should have an editor copy edit every contraction out of an article, which is what the author, a university expert wanted. Would that work add value? I can’t imagine it would. It reminds me of a quote about perspective, looking at the big picture. “Workers who dig a hole, burrow down and get more and more fascinated by less and less are the workers who never break out of the ‘average’ worker rank. For too many people, ten years of work experience is merely the first year’s experience repeated ten times…there is no leap to the perspective ability.”

Several of us attended a one-day writing workshop in June. We asked the presenter if we could photocopy her handouts to share. She considered that outreach and granted permission. Rather than simply pass on these writing tips, we held a lunch and learn to explain what we learned at the seminar plus pass on the handouts. Was that on the critical path? I think so because it hopefully provided inspiration, fresh perspective, some quick-start ideas for writing.

After reading this book, I now ask: Is this work on the critical path? Is it of value to my organization? Does it cut costs or increase revenue in some way? Will customers benefit?

That’s working for the well-being of your organization, being true to your employer or maybe it’s volunteer work. I call that civility because you’re working for the good of the community and being brutally honest about your work.

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Comments

I like this! It is so applicable to what we are trying to do in 4-H and also in Operation: Military Kids. Lynette - you've got to keep writing this blog even after you retire!

What if your boss is the one who inhibits you from taking the most direct route that can be plotted from an employee’s work to the consumer? It is an incredibly frustrating and demeaning position in which to be.

Some of the answer is in the strategy of ‘followership’ (see http://www.extension.iastate.edu/mt/civility/2009/08/check_your_ego_at_the_door_to.html). The employee should try to persuade the leader through conversion rather than intimidation.

In the section on self-management, another of the nine strategies, Kelley talks about facilitator managers and dictator managers, noting it’s difficult to be a star performer with the latter but he gives some tips. You need to read the book….and I’d say assess whether the situation points toward actively looking for a different job.

"...assess whether the situation points toward actively looking for a different job."

I'm nearing that point, as are others in the organization. I will read the book first...while I update my resume.