Wednesday, April 19, 2020

Time: The Most Important Business Necessity

Organizations—and people—are always trying to do things in less time. This might be admirable if they used the time saved for important matters like relaxing, thinking, enjoying life or paying attention to friends and family. Unfortunately, they don't. They save time on the work they're doing to allow them to do yet more work. It's a spiral with no end.

Time is an essential ingredient for success. How you use—or abuse —the time you have often determines the outcome of an enterprise. Spending more time, or spending it more wisely, always enhances results. Doing something in a rush is rarely a recipe for doing it well.

Nearly every significant innovation is brought about by laziness; by people finding ways to expend less effort on whatever they need to do. Lazy people are extremely creative in avoiding unnecessary work. Instead of rushing around, filling every moment with activity, employees should be encouraged to find ways to "do more with less" by tapping into their natural laziness—then rewarded by being allowed to slack off. Letting them "waste time" in this way will guarantee an outburst of creativity.

Organizations or teams should be ready to throw away the first attempt to produce any product or service. The only usefulness of this first try is to teach them how to do it properly. Using their newly acquired understanding from the first attempt, they can now produce a second version that will be smarter all round. That's the one they should give to the customers. The time needed to "waste" the first attempt should be factored into every schedule. Failure to do so accounts for the frequency customers are offered half-completed products or services, which have to be redesigned later, after they've failed in the market and alienated consumers.

The customers almost never knows exactly what she wants until she gets your product or service and sees it isn't right. This initial disappointment helps her work out what she really wants from your organization. You need to allow time to cope with this and help her reach a clear understanding you can act on. If you rush, she'll be stuck at the moment of disappointment. That's what she'll tell her friends: how your product or service looked good initially, but wasn't really up to what she needed—and how you weren't willing or able to put it right in time.

Every significant project, in any organization, will be late, over budget or riddled with defects, blockages and unexpected mistakes—probably all of these. The more people rush at the last moment, or add extra members to the team who have no idea what's gone on before, the more mistakes, setbacks and snafus they'll create. Initial project time scales and budgets should be treated as no more than guesses fueled by over-optimism and ignorance. Whatever the deadline and estimated cost, mentally double it. Then don't get excited until you've passed that figure. Life is uncertain and Murphy's Law is found everywhere.

The essential tools for leaders and managers are these: introspection, inspiration, personal understanding, thoughtfulness and care. You can't use any of them in a hurry. Ignoring such essentials produces the mindless, automatic, dogmatic actions we see all around—people jumping from the frying-pan into the fire because they've been taught doing anything, however ill-conceived, is more likely to be applauded than sitting down and thinking the problem through. Lack of time makes people careless. Lack of time coupled with pressure from outside makes them act stupidly. Lack of time, constant pressure and inflated egos produce morons, CEOs and politicians.

Individuals are not interchangeable. Half as many people working twice as hard don't get the same result. It takes time to amass experience and understanding. Cut staffing, let that experience walk out of the door, overwork those who remain and what you'll get is exactly what you deserve. Under pressure, people produce quantity (because that's what's typically measured) and to hell with quality or innovation. The audit mentality that pervades business today should be treated as what it is: a serious mental defect, requiring long periods of rest in a darkened room.

Time is not money. Money is money. Time is what it takes to do a job properly, however much money you throw at it. Saving (i.e. cutting) time doesn't save money. It may appear to save some immediate costs. But when you consider the project or business as a whole, skimping on time virtually always adds to the cost in the long term: through reworking, forced redesign, increased defects, added wastage, loss of customers, loss of talented employees and and diminished innovation and competitiveness.

Time is precious, non-replaceable and always slipping through your fingers. Money, in comparison, is cheap and plentiful. Cutting time to produce money is crushing flawless diamonds to make sandpaper.

P.S. A small milestone. This is the 100th posting on this site.

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Rabbit said...

Wow. I think this is your most concise, hard-hitting post yet. It flows. It touches a nerve (or several).

Excellent way to mark the 100th post of your blog. Keep it up!

1:41 PM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks, my friend.

3:28 PM  

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