Monday, May 13, 2013

What does it mean to give 110%

What does it mean to give 110%
by Bryan J. Neva, Sr.

On jet aircraft the military rates the engines at 80% of their maximum peak power to preserve longevity. It is often referred to as continuous or rated power.  Full military power is actually 110% of the rated power of 80% which is 88% of maximum peak power.  Otherwise they'll run an extremely high risk of damage to the jet engine.

The Army applies this principle of sustained effort to their soldiers as well.  They know they can't push their soldiers at 110% for long periods of time without permanent damage.  Wars can only be sustained with fresh troops.  The candle that burns twice as bright only burns half as long.  Giving 110% has often been misinterpreted as giving more than the maximum when in fact all they are doing is operating at 88% of the maximum peak power. 

When applied to people you should think in terms of a person's sustainable output versus their maximum output.  Maximum output is ALL that a person is capable of producing without regard for how long they can keep it up.  Think of it as a marathon runner as opposed to a sprinter: the marathon runner can run 26 miles at a reasonable pace while the sprinter can only run short distances at a very fast pace.

I once worked for a company that figured out it was cheaper to have their employees consistently work over-time rather than hire more people.  If you work 40 hours in a week, then that comes out to be 2080 working hours in a year.  Now subtract 10 paid holidays a year (80 hours) and 2 to 4 weeks of vacation every year (80 to 160 hours) and your now down to 1920 to 1840 working hours a year.

While working for them, I would typically HAVE TO work close to 3000 hours a year, which came out to be 50 to 60 hours a week.  Sure I earned a lot of money, but eventually I got burned out and my mental and physical health really suffered.  After years of that I finally came to realize that all the money in the world won't do you a bit of good if you don't live to enjoy it.  Eventually, I quit and found a less stressful job.

The lesson here is that good employers are more concerned with the sustainable, long-term efforts of their employees rather than their unsustainable, short-term efforts.  Numerous academic studies have confirmed that any attempt to conistently work more than 40 hours in a week reduces productivity.  If you keep asking your employees to give 110% or more, eventually you'll run the risk of permanent damage just like a jet engine.

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