Tag Archives: solving problems

Assumptions About Work

“I would assume most companies have real problems to solve, so what do you mean, if you want your team to feel high levels of job satisfaction, you give them a real problem?” I asked.

Pablo thought for a moment. “Sometimes, companies engage in contrived exercises. To build a team, they take a group to a local ropes course, or a game of tug-of-war over a mud pit. Those exercises provide only temporary relief, short-lived when the team returns to work. The work itself has to be satisfying.”

“What leads a company astray?” I wanted to know.

“Oh, that’s not so hard to understand,” Pablo replied. “First, I think we have misconceptions about why people work. And, then we base our managerial systems on those misconceptions. It’s a flywheel that eats itself.”


“Some companies think people work only because they have to, only in exchange for meager compensation to put food on their table. Or, more substantial compensation so they can buy a boat. They believe employees are simply self-centered and have no inherent need to work. That our labor system exists only as a commodity. It’s a scarcity mentality.”

“As opposed to?” I said.

“People have an inherent need to work. People have an inherent need to contribute, to their own self-independence, and also to the positive social systems in which we live. Look at the number of hours in a work week. It has been coming down over time, but in the US is currently settled at around 40 hours. People need a substantial, material amount of sustained work, where they can contribute their full capability to solving problems and making decisions. Managerial systems based on this understanding are much different than those based on greed.”

No Real Work Experience

From the Ask Tom mailbag

I am interviewing a lot of college hires that possess limited if any relevant work experience. While I am very comfortable interviewing candidates with experience, I find it very difficult to translate the Hiring Talent approach to those without any real experience in the field I am interviewing for. In some cases there is barely a internship to ask questions about.

They have work experience, they just didn’t get paid for it. Work is comprised of these two things –

  • Making decisions
  • Solving problems

Here is the sequence –
Look at the typical task assignments in the open role.

  1. Identify the Level of Work.
  2. Identify the critical role requirements, keying in on decision making and problem solving.
  3. Create questions based on the critical role requirements.

“Tell me about a time when” – this could be a student project, coursework, volunteer work, extracurricular activities, a hobby, a contest.
Let’s say the critical role requirement is to create and maintain work schedules for seven people on a project team where the duration of the project is thirty days.

  • Tell me about a time when you had to maintain some sort of written schedule on a project?
  • What was the project?
  • What was the purpose of project?
  • How long did the project last?
  • What did you have to schedule (people, project elements)?
  • How many elements (people, materials) did you have to schedule?
  • What information did you have to gather before you entered elements into the schedule?
  • After you created the initial schedule, did it ever change? How often?
  • Before you changed the schedule, what information did you have to gather?
  • Were your schedule changes ever challenged? How did you resolve the situation?

I am listening for decisions they made and problems they solved. And I don’t care if it was a pageant for the school choir or volunteer work at a hospital.