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Worker Productivity During The Last Hour

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The telecommunications industry often talks about the “last mile problem.” But just about every industry has a process and productivity issue that might be called “the last hour problem.”

If you’re building a enormous nationwide telephone system, the “last mile problem” refers to the fact that the most expensive and difficult part of the network are the endpoints. These bits of infrastructure only service a handful of people and are often in remote locations. Putting in these “last miles” is incredibly costly, perhaps much more so than high-density areas near the core of the overall system.

An article by Forbes further explains this problem:

A majority of the population in developing economies live in rural areas often accessible only by poor quality road infrastructure. Furthermore, geographical isolation or limited access to relevant information disconnects populations in many developing countries from any business value chain. The consequence—which can affect both urban and rural populations—is that products providing essential value either do not reach the intended customers or are more expensive or lower quality than the standard products that are accessible by other populations.

Likewise, there’s a very old joke about computer programming by Tom Cargill of Bell Labs.

The first 90% of the code accounts for the first 90% of the development time. The remaining 10% of the code accounts for the other 90% of the development time.

So what is the Last Hour Problem? It’s that the most time-consuming, nerve-wracking, expensive, and painful hour of almost any project is the final hour.

employee satisfaction during the last hour

© Flickr user stars alive

In fact, the last hour is rarely actually an hour! Have you ever found yourself on a project where the math works out as:

5  hours of writing + 1 hour of editing = 10 hours of work

Or even if it isn’t two separate portions of the same task. You’re rolling along on something, making great progress, maybe even ahead of schedule, and suddenly you feel like you hit a wall. You can’t make any progress forward even though you can see the end just around the corner.

There are two main reasons why the last hour is the worst hour of all. First, the farther we get into a project, the more we become a perfectionist.  We start to see the possibility of the final result, and we keep tweaking and tweaking and tweaking. The second issue is simply fatigue. After staring at the same material for a long period of time, we start to make mistakes more easily. These errors become harder and harder to detect, which is especially difficult considering the rising problem of perfectionism.

Another potential problem is fear. That plays into becoming a perfectionist, but if we fear that our work isn’t good enough, we’re going to put off finishing as a way to put off disappointing whoever the project is due to. But, there’s nothing about extending a project that makes it better.

The solution to all of these problems is smarter process design. If you have other people in your organization, divide up duties to avoid perfectionism and fatigue. If you are working alone, adjust your schedule so that you take breaks and switch to new projects. Wherever possible, define your standards and your expectations before you begin. That way, you are more likely to be on time and on budget with your projects.

Watch out for that last hour! If you’re not careful, it can keep you up all night.

For more tips on how to maximize your projects from start to finish, don’t hesitate to contact the business development consultants at AccelaWork. We’d love to help you retain efficiency until the end!

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