Time Bandits – Managing Corporate Time - Part 1
“Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity” – La Bruyere
Time stands still for no person and no corporation. You either use it or lose it but you can never get it back – it is gone as surely as if a time bandit held a gun to your corporate door and took it.
Finding enough time to accomplish everything that is required is a common complaint. Many respond to the challenge by working longer hours (we’ve all heard the old joke about “only” working half days, meaning of course 12 hours per day). But I’ve found it is difficult to find an entire organization of skilled, dedicated, and motivated employees who are willing to work only longer and longer hours.
Then there’s that common phrase about ‘working smarter”. I’ve never really figured out what that means. I’ve yet to encounter an employee or owner who races out each and every morning planning on working supidier.
One of the primary Time Bandits is simply wasting time. Some of the chief time wasters in an organization are:
1. Managing the past. 75% of the charts used in management meetings show data on past performance, rather than suggesting actions for the future. Too often, we analyze the past in the inaccurate belief that we can fully understand it. But in truth, we cannot extract profit now from events which are over. We claim we will learn from past mistakes and successes but that would be true only if we understood all the variables. Often, we attribute success or failure to variables which are not significant.
2. Perpetual motion. Management consultant Peter Drucker points out that nearly 80% of everything we do in our offices is dictated by habit, not need; by policy and process, not effectiveness.
a. Who uses the work that this process actually produces?
b. What would happen if we eliminated this process for a day, a week, a month?
c. What value does this function add to the job of keeping customers satisfied?
If you can’t find positive answers to these, that policy and process is a sure candidate for elimination.
3. Waiting for Ideal Conditions. Do your methods include waiting for a really good chunk of time before tackling a big job? Or waiting until two or three of your best people will be available? When do you think such a miracle will occur?! Look at what you are juggling right now, you must accept the reality now that it won’t. Ever. Instead. Put responsibility where it belongs – at the level where the work actually happens. Show your people how to break that task down into small, digestible bits and tackle the most meaningful/risky one first. This is also how you reduce risk.
4. Meetings – a time bandit masquerading as good communication. Here are some guidelines to answer the question, “to meet, or not to meet.”
a. You don’t need a meeting:
i. When a phone call will cover the subject
ii. When there is not enough time to prepare
iii. When key people can’t attend
iv. When it won’t produce the desired result or set the course of action needed.
b. You do need a meeting to:
i. Clarify goals
ii. Get oral reports
iii. Analyze problems
iv. Consider answers
v. Train and/or teach
vi. RECONCILE CONFLICT
vii. Discuss information essential to others
viii. Obtain reaction when speedy response if vital
ix. Fulfill legal obligations
The necessary (and I stress necessary) alternative to meetings is to create within your companies an atmosphere of openness and informality. The things that make organizations run faster, better, and more profitable are:
1. The absolute absence of bureaucracy
2. The ability of people to use their mouths instead of meetings and memos
3. The mindset to make decisions in minutes when the competition might take months.
5. Perfectionism – this often grows out of an unwillingness to compromise or setting unrealistic expectations. An interesting dichotomy is that it can also stem as much from fear of failure as it can a fear of success. Tinkering with decisions, actions, or results until they’re perfect can rob your organization of hundreds of hours, and thousands of dollars each year. Adopt a corporate culture that strives for excellence, not perfection.
6. Ineffective delegation – Delegation is both an art and a science, and an absolute necessity.
a. Delegation is NOT:
iii. Ego gratification
b. Good delegation IS:
i. Giving responsibility
ii. Granting authority
iii. Requiring accountability
c. To effectively delegate, you must:
i. Analyze the task to be done
ii. Decide how much to delegate
iii. Plan the delegation
iv. Select the right person (the most important element)
v. Invest time with that person
vi. Follow-up, inspect what you expect