Utilization refers to the amount of time spent doing actual work during working hours. A high level of utilization means no slack, few breaks and a constant sense of urgency.

Managers believe it is their job to aim for a high level of utilization. To have people work as much as possible. “We are paying people for their time and we want our money’s worth”

Thinking that high utilization leads to good results is the most destructive misunderstanding still prevalent in work life.


This misunderstanding is based on the false assumption that working hard is always the best way to get results. The truth, however, is much simpler than that. Instead of focusing on hard work we should focus on finding the easiest, quickest and simplest way of reaching the desired outcome.

We should focus on results, not utilization.

What makes focusing on utilization so bad? It leads to multitasking, increases overhead, kills creativity, hinders problem solving, overloads and stresses employees and prevents continuous improvement.

Optimizing utilization is a remnant of Taylorism. Taylor was trying to improve the efficiency of workers in the Industrial Era. His ideas and principles, although very effective at the time, do not directly apply to our growing number of knowledge workers. The nature of work has changed and the governing principles must change with it.

If you notice yourself trying to stay busy, or having discussions on whether everyone has enough work, stop. Take break. And when you come back, keep your eyes on the results.