Sunday, March 27, 2005

North Carolina Solitaire Crackdown

Click here for AmazonFrom North Carolina comes a report that a State Senator wants to erase all game applications from state workers' computers. His belief: that preventing government employees from playing Solitaire and Minesweeper will recoup millions of dollars worth of productivity for the state.

...The solitaire crackdown here, though perhaps rare in its specificity, is part of a behind-the-scenes battle over personal time that's affecting not just unionized state workers in North Carolina, but sales reps in Washington and phone-bank workers in San Francisco. It goes straight to the issue of distractions from long days at the office and, more fundamentally, how much of their employees' time and concentration employers can reasonably expect to own...

This effort is, itself, a giant waste of time. It makes about as much sense as teaching Mandarin Chinese to Jessica Simpson.

If you've got bored, unmotivated and/or unsupervised employees, then I can guarantee they'll find ways to waste time.

Game installation: Are you going to search all employees as they arrive each day to ensure they don't bring in game discs? My guess is you can run solitaire off a floppy or CD if so inclined.

Convergence devices: Are you going to search all employees as they arrive each day to ensure they're not carrying in a PSP? New, personal entertainment devices like Sony's PSP -- a combo game-player/DVD -- will make it even harder to regulate game-playing activities.

Invented games: Should the state install security cameras and the personnel necessary to monitor them in order to ensure no one is goofing off? Remember the ESPN commercial where cube workers were using a nerf ball and an empty bookshelf to play "baseball"? And bouncing the ball from the floor to the second shelf was a "double"?

...the IRS has shown that over 50% of the time an IRS employee goes on a computer, he or she also hooks up to the Internet to shop, gamble or play games...

Perhaps this speaks to IRS management: I find it difficult to believe that the average Fortune 1000 organization routinely has 50% of their employees shopping, gambling or game-playing whenever they hook up to the Internet.

Scott Kirwin, founder of the the IT Professionals Association of America, pins the tail on the donkey:

"Managers, and in this case politicians, don't know how to effectively utilize the people they're in charge of... You have to ask yourself, if someone is so bored that playing solitaire is stimulating, then the problem is not with the game, it's with the job."

Exactly. Where is management in this equation? Have they not adequate tasked their employees? Motivated them? Supervised their work or verified their deliverables?

If I were Senator Allran, I'd worry less about which time-wasting technologies were installed on state computers... and a little more about a management philosophy that seems to encourage the wasting of time.

Is that a spreadsheet on your screen — or solitaire?

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