Make allowances to budget time
WHEN the Rolling Stones belted out the lyrics of 'Time is on my side' in 1964 - their first Top 10 hit in America - little did they know they were giving out management advice. While the management meaning in this song is far from its relationship advice, it focuses attention towards time. Contrary to the way the Stones conveyed it, time isn't unending; it's actually just the opposite - a limited resource.
One of the companies that I coach brought forward a complex challenge to resolve in their upcoming executive team coaching session. They identified the need to explore simultaneously employee engagement, the staff being overworked, multi-tasking, working with less resources, and continued aggressive growth. The perfect synchronisation of these topics was to drive employee engagement by reducing the time worked while enhancing collective output. Easy, right?
To do this you need to focus on creating surplus value: being able to extract more from your existing asset base, without increasing input, to be in a position to produce surplus value. As a criterion of profitability, value is the accumulated difference between returns and costs, obviously, reflecting the connection between profitability and productivity.
Surplus value happens when you decou- ple your company's output growth from the payroll and other input values, which brings us back to time is on your side. This doesn't mean that you can sit back and wait for value to be created.
It means that time is the overlooked area where surplus value is created. When you use your time correctly, which almost every com- pany doesn't, you're actually able to create more time. What would you do if you had more hours in the day? Your company could produce more results or you could even give some of the time back to your employees.
When I walked into the coaching session, I asked the leaders, "Do you have a time budget?" I knew the answer, it's the same as yours probably is, "No!" But hearing those words, the concept of a time budget caught their interest. Time is one of your finite, yet measurable assets. It should be treated with the same discipline that money is.
A time budget brings clarity to how long it takes to conduct any and every activity and how each type of employee should be spending their time. At its core is a price list clarifying how long every activity takes and how much each cost. When you put your time budget in place, you're able to identify what's wasting time and know specifically where you should focus to create more time. Both of these will result in creating surplus value.
It's hard to understand how a company can function without a time budget. It's also hard to imagine that companies require approval for a D500 travel expense and let any employee call a meeting at any time inviting five, even ten, employees to spend an hour in the meeting. The cost of the meeting far exceeds the travel expense, yet no approval or consideration is given to it as an expense. This is way time either destroys or creates surplus value. I've never heard a company say they have too many employees for what their plans require. Actually, the argument is just the opposite, we need more employees. So, why is it that time consumption is unmeasured and unmonitored?
If you have a time budget, all of a sudden you'll become conscious of how you use time.
To highlight how these executives were spending their time, I had each one conduct a calendar analysis were they reviewed their work day-by-day for the past 60 days, and then add in recurring quarterly and annual activities, to determine how they spend every minute. The analysis looks at time by activity type, situation and communication channel.
These executives were shocked when they finished to realise that the overwhelming majority of their time was spent managing operational activities and projects. Yet a mere 15 per cent was spent developing and motivating people and reviewing performance against goals. The balance of our day-long coaching session was spent on shifting how they are spending their time in order to reduce and leverage what they're doing.
I wonder, "How are you spending your time?" The calendar analysis activity is a great way to understand objectively how you use time. When you use it better, output will outgrow the input, making you more competitive compared with your competitors. Time, time, time is on your side - yes it is.