July 24, 2014

Time: The ultimate currency

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How do you measure effectiveness and efficiency?  Odds are, you have mountains of reports sent your way, or that you generate yourself, showing all sorts of permutations of cost.  Budgets, performance vs. budget, unit cost, production costs, support ratios, hourly costs, deliverable cost, run time, burn rates, overheads…..the volume of data thrown your way is probably overwhelming.

We’re all expected to generate, read, comment on and present reports based on these reports.  Often, for no reason other than inertia.  What no one measures very well, or seems to be too interested in knowing, is not how much we spend in terms of dollars – but how much we spend in terms of time.

What is your most important resource?  You can resort to the cliche and say that people are your most important resource.  You might be a realist who goes to the bottom line and says that financial capital is most important.  Perhaps you are partial to knowledge management and believe that it is your organization’s intellectual capital that is most important.  Many others say that it is culture.

Fact is, you can always hire more people, make more money, invest in education and training and develop new management styles.  The one thing no one, anywhere, at any point in history has ever been able to do is make more Time.

Time is the ultimate measure of what is valuable.  Why aren’t so many much-needed projects undertaken?  Often, it is lack of funding as the stated reason.  The real reason, however, is a lack of time.  Consider this:  if you had unlimited time, could you find a way to get the funding?  Would you be able to buy and sell more, at a higher profit, to make your pet project feasible?  Would you, eventually, wear down the bean counter who won’t release your funds because he or she doesn’t see the value?

How about at home?  Do you wish there was more time for you kids, your hobbies, your chores?  I’ll bet that you do.  We’re all scrounging for more time.  We lose sleep, overburden ourselves and run ragged trying to do the impossible.  Not necessarily because there isn’t enough money or know-how or patience.  The problem, usually, is that there just isn’t enough time.

Since time is so rare and, therefore, valuable, perhaps we should measure our own worth, and each other’s, not by how many dollars we are able to save, but by our ability to save each other time.  We are enamored of billionaires and their deal-making savvy, however, we pay little attention to those with expertise in saving time.  Quite honestly, I have no idea why that is.

It has been known for decades what makes for efficient meetings:  agendas, planned time frames, prompt attendance, etc. – and yet, those things are very rare.  Lean thinking isn’t the norm, it is a difficult-to-understand and far-from-the-norm method for organizing and managing both personal and organizational activities.  In most places, it won’t even be attempted as long as the cash flow remains positive.  Saving time is, simply, an afterthought.

Saving time is at the root of all improvement efforts – personal and professional, individual or organizational.  If you save time, you reduce cost and increase productivity, in theory.  You also gain a more relaxed state of mind that is fundamentally necessary for lateral thinking and innovation.

Time is the most precious element we have.  It’s time we do more to protect it.

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  • http://www.gembatales.com Mark R Hamel

    Hi David,

    Excellent point.

    In the end, we often say we can do anything with the requisite time and money. Stephen Covey talks about the notion of the compass and the watch. The compass should rule – meaning that we work on/do the stuff that really matters, not just trying to cram more into each and every second and bowing to the stuff that’s urgent, but not really all that important.

    • http://www.myflexiblepencil.com David M. Kasprzak

      Hi again, Mark!

      One of the things that makes the urgent/importnt divide so difficult is that it is subject to perception. I think it’s a rare person who, when completely overburdened, would say, “I’m really, really busy working on al lthis unimportant, non-urgent stuff!” The key is knowing what’s important and what’s not. Unfortunately, we often don’t find out until the even has passed.

      They key? I think working in groups provides some mitigation against that. If you have someone able to step outside the process, you get a little bit of perspective on what’s important/urgent and what’s not. Groupthink still occurs, however, and it’s important to guard against that, too. All of which points to the need for ratatopnal assignments, as much as possible, and standards and staff development that focus on measurement and critical thinking.

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