I am lucky to know many hard-working, dedicated, well-meaning people who like their jobs, greatly enjoy what they do, and care a great deal to do good work. Yet, the idea of different people of what it means to do good work can vary tremendously.
There is a career-driven definition of doing good work. Good work is work that gets the person to the next step of their desired career path. It usually translates into doing what the boss wants to get done, exactly the way the boss wants it done. Occasionally it means doing the things that get noticed by the decision makers, and little or nothing else.
Particular definition of ‘doing good work’ in this case can vary slowly over time, as bosses, their opinions, and the person’s understanding of bosses’ opinions change.
Another approach to defining what it means to do a good job is a craftsman’s definition. Technical quality of individual’s work is measured against expectations set by an independently defined standard, unconnected to the organization.
In this scenario, what it means to do good work can vary quickly or slowly, depending on the chosen base standard and its rate of change. Unfortunately, the changes in the standard can, and is likely to, inspire changes that are unconnected to the practical needs.
Finally, there is a value-driven definition to doing a good job. Is the work being done gets the organization the most benefit toward its vision and goals? Then it’s excellent work. The trouble with attempting to do good work by this definition is that organization's true vision and goals are often not known to many workers. Honest and comprehensive communication of the organization's vision and goals are very hard, and rare in large organizations.
Good job under value-driven definition can and does change, as goals change, or perhaps goal perception changes. It can be very frustrating, though, when goals, or available information about goals, change frequently and in contradicting ways.
What is your idea of what it means to be 'doing good work'? Is it different from your bosses’, or your organizations? Have you changed your understanding of what it means to do a good job in your career?