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Manage Time, Not Change
December 1, 2015
One of the biggest factors in any change process is time….we spend a lot of time planning, discussing and then executing change but often fail to consider the cost of this process. Equally so, we have detailed plans, budgets, policies and controls of all our expenditure, yet, an organisation’s time goes largely unmanaged and unmeasured. An article in the Harvard Business review (2014) highlighted many of the things we see in organisations navigating their way through the myriad of changes currently besetting the social care sector.
See if these apply to you:
Companies are awash in e-communications. As the incremental cost of one-to-one and one-to-many communications has declined, the number of interactions has radically multiplied. Many executives now receive some 200 e-mails a day—more than 30,000 a year.
Meeting time has skyrocketed. Executives are also attending more meetings. That’s partly because the cost of organising them has dropped and partly because it’s far easier than in the past for attendees to take part via telephone, videoconferencing, screen sharing, and the like. On average, senior executives devote more than two days every week to meetings involving three or more co-workers, and 15% of an organisation’s collective time is spent in meetings.
Real collaboration is limited. Although the number of one-to-one and one-to-many interactions has risen dramatically over the past two decades, up to 80% of the interactions took place within departments, not between businesses or across functions. As for the interactions that did extend beyond an individual unit, analysis of their content suggested that many of them involved the wrong people or took place for the wrong reason—that is, they were primarily for sharing information rather than gathering input or brainstorming alternatives. In short, more time spent interacting has not produced significantly more collaboration outside organisational silos.
Dysfunctional meeting behaviour is on the rise. At many organisations, participants routinely send e-mails during meetings, take calls and are engaged on their smartphones. Furthermore, people commonly double-book meetings and decide later which one they would actually attend. Dysfunctional behaviours like these create a vicious circle: Parallel processing and double booking limit the effectiveness of meeting time, so the organisation sets up more meetings to get the work done. Those meetings prompt more dysfunctional behaviour, and so on.
Formal controls are rare. At most companies no real costs are associated with requesting co-workers’ time. If you want a meeting, you merely send out a meeting request or find and fill an opening in the person’s calendar. If you identify a problem in need of fixing, you convene a task force to study it and, most likely, launch an initiative to address it. Such demands on the organisation’s time typically undergo no review and require no formal approval.
There are few consequences. In a recent Bain survey, senior executives rated more than half the meetings they attended as “ineffective” or “very ineffective.” Yet few organisations have established mechanisms for assessing the productivity of individual gatherings, not to mention clear penalties for unproductive sessions or rewards for particularly valuable ones.
Meetings and collaborations are really important and most organisations have some of the above problems, to some degree or another. What is important is to recognise when and where it is happening and actively try to manage it better as time is money. You shouldn’t waste either.