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« Time Bandits – Managing Corporate Time - Part 1 | Main | Time Bandits – Managing Corporate Time - Part 3 »

Time Bandits – Managing Corporate Time - Part 2

“Yesterday is a canceled check; tomorrow is a promissory note; today is the only cash you have – so spend it wisely”  -  Kay Lyons

Another proven way to “find time” in your organization is simply to do things right the first time – and if there is a problem, solve it quickly, simply, and as completely as possible – as low in the organization as is possible. The other rule of thumb is: if you don’t have time to do things right, don’t do them – at least for the moment.  Make the time to do it right.

I have developed what I call The Conlin Order of Magnitude Rule (or COM) for dealing with organizational problems.

Whenever a problem occurs, some person’s time is required to solve it.  If it isn’t solved on the first try, it will take an order of magnitude MORE time to solve it on the second, and an order of magnitude again to try solving it on the third try.   

Here is an example to illustrate.  Suppose a sales rep or driver discovers some problem at a retail account.  Solving it on the spot might take 10 minutes, but if they don’t solve it, it will them require 100 man-minutes to solve.  And so on, and so on

            Level 1 problem: 10 man-minutes

            Level 2 problem: 100 man-minutes

            Level 3 problem: 1,000 man-minutes

            Level 4 problem: 10,000 man-minutes

Why is this?  As the problem works its way up the organization, more and more people become involved.  Each time facts have to be re-explained and discussed over and over again.  All of this requires great amounts of non-productive, wasted time.  And to make matter worse, the odds of the problem NOT being solved increase as more and more individuals become involved.

It is like the comic strip character Pogo, whose most famous quote is: “We have met the enemy, and he is us!  Think about your organization.  I can guarantee you have had at least one simply problem that grew until it involved half the sales force, or all of the warehouse. 

And at each level, as more people became involved, responsibility became more diluted and it continue until ONE person finally makes the critical decision to solve the problem.  Isn’t it ironic that this is the same level where it all began – with one person.

Don’t believe COM?  In your next management meeting chronicle the most recent simple problem that turned into a train wreck.  On your white board put a hash mark each time any employee in any way discusses the problem; it could be formal or it could be a conversation in the hall.  Even if the employee is just listening, it is still consuming those minutes that could be put to better use.  And put a hash mark each time the employee discusses it, so a single employee could have many, many hash marks.  Add them all up and I think you will find that COM is a pretty fair approximation of reality.

Build an organization where people at the lowest levels are empowered to make decisions and are held accountable for these decisions.  And remember that when you are performing a post-mortem on any problem or issue; always focus on WHY rather than  WHO.  This helps tremendously in truly identifying the reason for the problem and keeps the focus on solving the problem in the future rather than assigning blame for some past act.  And if all of the whys lead back to the same who, a change may be in order.


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