Thursday, July 02, 2009

Perceived Utility Factor

Why do we do the work we do? The answer is simple, isn't it? What we are doing is useful to somebody or for something.

1. Everybody is always doing some thing or the other. (I'm busy now, later man!)
2. These things are useful. (Aw, come on! Why would I do it otherwise?)
3. Why isn't the world a better place than it is? (Wait a minute, I didn't say anything about the world, did I?)

The simple answer was wrong, 2 is a lie. Not all work is useful; some lines of work can even be called destructive!...and damping forces (intrinsic inefficiency) are always in operation. But assuming that you are not evil and are not satisfied by the answers Just for a living/I don't care/Because I have to, why do you do it?

We do things because of their Utility Factor - we think it is/will be useful for somebody or for something. The Perceived Utility Factor (PUF) of what you do gives you a sense of significance and purpose; it puffs your ego up, so to say.

The higher the PUF, the happier you are.
So they tell you how every job has its own dignity and also how important what you are doing is (remember TPS reports!), and you are happy... to have made a difference but...

There exists a RUF (Real Utility Factor) as well! No matter how significant you think your work is (and by extension, you), ultimately it is worth only so much in the real world! The RUF can be a real motivation dampener! Reality, reality go away/Little Johnny wants to work.

The disparity between the RUF and the PUF is what leads to dissatisfaction.

The RUF will always be significantly smaller than the PUF. And that is the answer to why the world is not already a better place! :)

- Thomas Jay Cubb

1. The dual measure for this is the Futility Index (Thanks to my friend Ashish Chaterji for putting this succinctly). There are two variants for this as well - Real and Perceived. Frustration is caused when the Perceived Futility Index exceeds or equals the Real Futility Index.

2. Satisfaction is a number! It is directly proportional to the ratio of the RUF to the PUF
The Satisfaction Index, SI = k* (RUF/PUF)
Employers need to ensure that SI never approaches k (that RUF/PUF always less than 1) because otherwise the employee will lose motivation. Sometimes they do this through promotions :)!

More on these later.

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